The State of the Union: Renewing the call for renewables

The State of the Union: Renewing the call for renewables

The president urged more action on renewables in the State of the Union, but an important piece of technology wasn’t part of his focus.

In this week’s State of the Union address, President Obama once again called for more action on renewables. This is not surprising, since energy independence – and green energy, in particular – has become a standard check box on the State of the Union speech template, along with the economy, education and terrorism.

In addition to a call to increase the nation’s transportation fleet running on natural gas, utilities should take note of two points the president made: tax policies that would encourage “fuels of the future” and “set(ting) new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.” The main target here continues to be coal.

A number of factors have combined to reduce our country’s reliance on coal-fired electricity generation and spur the growth of greener energy in a relatively short time. Renewable Portfolio Standards enacted by a majority of states, along with reductions in the cost of solar equipment, new natural gas supplies and EPA standards on coal-fired plant emissions, have had a hand in changing the dynamic of our country’s electricity generation mix.

According to figures from the EIA, more than half of our electricity was generated by coal in 2000; in 2012 it was only 37%. During the same time period, electricity from natural gas has almost doubled (16% to 30%), and renewables have increased 25% (from generating 9% of our electricity to 12%).

While access to new shale natural gas reserves can be thanked for the majority of this shift, renewable energy is on the rise, and for residential solar, it could be faster than many anticipate. With falling prices and new funding mechanisms, residential solar is moving toward the mainstream. As the president noted, every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar.

But an even more promising strategy to further the rapid implementation of renewables such as solar would be to solve the reliability issue. And that is best addressed by energy storage. I wish the president had promoted increased investment in new battery technologies that allow for extended energy storage.

In addition, new battery technology could help with many other issues, like reducing dissipation or loss through transmission, stabilizing generation, providing reserves for extreme weather events like we’ve experienced with the polar vortex, and reducing costs to homeowners who can buy and store energy during off-peak hours.

The president could better realize his dream of a more energy independent country that is also less reliant on coal if he helps focus investment in both renewables and storage.


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Posted on

January 30, 2014

About the Author

Jim Lyza

Jim Lyza

Jim is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insights

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Laila Waggoner

VP Client Engagement

Laila leads our client engagement process, overseeing activities from both a strategic and a tactical level to ensure our work generates desired results – and clients’ satisfaction. She brings 25+ years of marketing leadership experience to her client relationships, with particular expertise in the homebuilding and remodeling industries as well as member-driven organizations, such as the Vinyl Siding Institute and Plastics Pipe Institute. Before joining Shelton Group, she led strategic marketing teams for Owens Corning’s insulation business.

Matt Brass

VP Creative

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

Courtnay Hamachek

VP Operations

Courtnay oversees our day-to-day operations to keep us running smoothly and support our growth. She establishes project management systems and processes to help our teams anticipate bottlenecks, prevent process issues, and keep projects on time and on target. Courtnay has built extensive experience over 25 years in all aspects of marketing, from account services and project management to design and production.

Mike Beamer

VP Business Development

Mike joined our team to help provide strategic vision and foster our agency’s growth by overseeing new business leads and managing agency marketing and website content. He arrived in Knoxville steeped in energy efficiency and renewables – he previously led client service for an agency division in Boston dedicated to marketing communications strategy and branding for B2B and B2C clients in that space.