Solar power flexed its muscle last month. The August awe-inspiring solar eclipse reminded us how often we take the sun’s consistent energy for granted and how this energy source can reliably keep the lights on, especially as the U.S. grapples with extreme weather events like Hurricane Harvey and Irma. Night birds chirped and crickets hummed as a profound sudden darkness came and went along the immediate path of the recent eclipse.
The moment of darkness shined a light on just how predictable the sun is. The sun rises every morning. And unlike unplanned traditional power plant outages that happen far more often than an eclipse, we knew years in advance that the sun was going to take a break. Annually, traditional power plants experience unexpected power outages 9,000 times as often as last week’s eclipse.
It’s time for policymakers to embrace solar as a massive opportunity. Not just because it offers homeowners savings, freedom and control over their energy. Or because it’s a local job-creator. But with today’s advanced energy technology, it offers some of the safest, most reliable power available.
As a former utility regulator in Maryland, my job was to ensure all consumers had access to safe, reliable and affordable energy. Over the years, technology and consumer-centric financing options for rooftop solar have driven down costs and expanded access to solar.
And it’s not just solar homeowners who benefit from more affordable access. Solar consumers share their extra clean power with their neighbors. By sharing power locally, solar consumers help reduce the need for utilities to build expensive, outdated power plants, or to replace the old substations, poles and wires that we all pay for.
Look no further than our military to confirm solar’s reliability and affordability. The Department of Defense is making significant clean energy investments “for the primary purpose of security, resilience and ensuring its missions are successful.” In fact, the Department of Defense committed to purchase 3 gigawatts of clean energy at its bases by 2025, the equivalent power from approximately six coal plants.
And now we have another tool in our resiliency tool belt: solar plus storage. With rooftop solar plus home battery systems, homeowners can tap into backup power when there’s an emergency or an extreme weather event. It’s making reliable solar power even more dependable.
Consumers can count on a built-in backup battery to power their homes’ most critical functions, like refrigerators and key appliances. Batteries also allow customers to use their solar power when it can benefit their neighbors and our energy system most. Policymakers in California, Massachusetts, New York and Hawaii are already tapping into this solution and providing pathways to get more solar plus home batteries online.
With an estimated 70 percent of energy infrastructure nearing the end of its useful life, utilities are planning to spend billions of dollars to add power and delivery capacity — while our actual electricity demand is flat. Before burdening customers with these costs, let’s put all the options on the table.
It’s time to eclipse the outdated energy of our past. For the sake of reliability, savings, clean air and a little more freedom, let’s look to solar power.
Anne Hoskins is the chief policy officer for Sunrun, the largest dedicated residential solar, storage and energy services company in the United States.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.