Have we done enough?
If I’m being honest, 2020 was full of self-doubt. My office’s decision to make in-person work optional beginning in March coupled with extended stay-at-home orders left me with a lot of extra time to ponder. Was I doing enough? Not only did this question come up personally (was I helping friends and family as much as I could?), but professionally I was feeling a little deflated at the state of the renewables industry and the environment in general.
Yes, with most of the world under some type of COVID-19 restriction, carbon emissions dropped 7% in 2020 — the largest decline on record, and likely attributed to a decrease in transportation activity. But unfortunate side effects emerged elsewhere — plastic bag bans were temporarily halted (in my county, too) and disposable takeout containers piled up as we transitioned to a touchless and single-use existence. Not to mention that many pro-environment activities were halted for a while, like solar installations, as everyone deter mined what was safe. Meanwhile, people were depending on consistent energy at home more than ever, and we relied on our fossil fuel staples to meet the need.
But then the pieces fell into place. We became comfortable with our new normal. Solar installations resumed — and dominated. Solar accounted for 43% of all new electricity generating capacity added through September 2020 — more than any other energy source.
It’s because of those initial worries — needing dependable power at home and supporting the economy — that solar and storage thrived in 2020. More renewable requirements are being looped into economic recovery plans (thank you for the two-year ITC extension!), and installation numbers are far exceeding the doomsday predictions from the beginning of the pandemic. We likely ended 2020 with 43% annual growth in the U.S. solar market.
I’m feeling better in 2021 than where I was one year ago. There’s a lot to look forward to, in solar and beyond. We explore a lot of these hopes in this issue of Solar Power World. Enjoy our look at what’s trending now and our predictions for the future.
Are we doing enough? I think we’re doing our best, considering, and it’s way better than we thought. Thank you for your hard work in 2020 and for idling my global climate anxieties just a little longer.
Editor in Chief