For decades, America has anticipated the transformational impact of clean energy technologies. As the federal government and industry made long-term investments to support those technologies, some critics became impatient, claiming a clean energy future would “always be five years away.” Today, the clean energy future has arrived.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the Revolution Now report, highlighting four transformational technologies: land-based wind power, silicon photovoltaic (PV) solar modules, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and electric vehicles (EVs). That study and its 2014 update showed how dramatic reductions in cost are driving a surge in consumer, industrial, and commercial adoption for these clean energy technologies—as well as yearly progress.
In addition to presenting the continued progress made over the last year in these areas, this year’s update goes further. Two separate sections now cover large, central, utility-scale PV plants and smaller, rooftop, distributed PV systems to highlight how both have achieved significant deployment nationwide, and have done so through different innovations, such as easier access to capital for utility-scale PV and reductions of non-hardware costs and third-party ownership for distributed PV.
Along with these core technologies, this update briefly introduces three additional technologies on the cusp of wider deployment and cost reduction in the coming years: smart building systems, fuel-efficient freight trucks, and vehicle lightweighting.
Today, clean energy technologies are providing real-world solutions—not only do they reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change, but they also drive a domestic energy economy with technologies that are increasingly cost-competitive with existing conventional technologies, even without accounting for the climate benefits. Clean energy manufacturing and installations have also become major opportunities for American workers in the 21st century.
Even though we are seeing the results of the enormous progress these technologies have achieved, there is still more that can be accomplished. DOE’s recent Quadrennial Technology Review identified hundreds of clean energy research and innovation opportunities in our homes, businesses, cars and trucks, and in the power sector, that with sustained investment will provide real-world solutions to our energy challenges.
With the continued progress of the core technologies in this report, and more innovations on the horizon, the clean energy revolution is clearly transforming the way we produce and use energy.