You're 5 Minutes (And A Few Clicks) Away From Majorly Reducing Your Environmental Impact
Welcome to Planet for All—a series that will empower you to change our world. This week, we’re teaming up with sustainable thought leaders to unpack five of the biggest threats to our environment and pinpoint an accessible, meaningful, and heart-driven action that we can all take to make a huge difference. Today, we’re exploring the limitless potential of renewable energy with Kiran Bhatraju.
Kiran Bhatraju's company wouldn't have been possible six years ago. Arcadia Power, an online marketplace that makes it easier for consumers to find and fund alternative energy projects, is a testament to the fact that renewables are less expensive and more accessible than ever.
"We want to show that it’s convenient to make choices based on your values," he says. "People assume that [buying into renewables] is complicated, or they live in an apartment so there's nothing they can do, but there absolutely is something they can do."
The future of renewable energy through Kiran's eyes.
The price of wind and solar continues to dip as more renewable farms and storage options pop up on the market. According to a recent report by Bloomberg, coal and gas are facing a "mounting threat to their position in the world’s electricity-generation mix," and the latest forecasts say renewable energy will be less expensive than coal in as little as two years.
U.S. energy providers are betting on a renewable future in some pretty unlikely places. The East Kentucky Power Cooperative, a historically huge coal industry, has constructed a solar farm in coal country as Georgetown, Texas, a Republican-led town, now runs entirely on renewables. These commitments are a sign that many of us, regardless of ideology or political stance, can agree that switching over to renewables just makes sense.
And it's not just cities and major corporations that are driving this renewable renaissance. "For the longest time, huge companies were driving the market—Fortune 500 companies that had teams dedicated to this stuff. Now, we’re trying to make it simpler for people in homes or apartments to make these purchases," explains Bhatraju, hopeful that Arcadia's online platform will help people who don’t have time or know-how to look through clean energy options and choose one that will save them the most money and emissions. No matter where you live in the United States, Arcadia make it possible to source at least 50 percent of your energy from a wind plant with just a few clicks. Since its founding in 2014, the company has connected 100,000 customers to renewables and averted over 320,000 tons of CO2 emissions—the equivalent of taking 68,685 cars off the road for a year.
Arcadia predicts that it will soon be even easier to quickly switch over to renewable energy, thanks to a burgeoning community solar market. These large-scale solar farms are privately managed by community members and put energy back into the local grid. States that have community solar legislation in place, such as Colorado, Massachusetts, and New York, place tariffs on the service so that those who sign onto the farm can lock in a fixed electric bill price for 20 years.
"To me, that’s the future of renewables in the U.S.," says Bhatraju. "When you can get all the efficiencies of building a large, centrally located product and you can give customers the ability to connect that to rate, it’s huge." These projects are usually installed on unused land like abandoned lots, superfund sites, or capped landfills, so they can help clean up communities while creating new jobs.
How you can become a renewable energy advocate.
Lesson learned: You don't need to install solar panels on your home (though that's easier and cheaper than ever too) to opt in to renewables. If you live in one of the 16 states that have a community solar policy in place, look into what it takes to support a new project. And if you don't, consider writing to your legislator to say that community solar is something that you want to see come to your neighborhood. "Every citizen can go to their elected official and prove demand," Bhatraju encourages. (If you need a little refresher on how to make sure your voice is heard, check this out.)
Today, head to Arcadia's site to browse renewable offerings in your area and invest in a clean energy future.
In doing so, the greenhouse gases you'd save would be the equivalent of planting 155 trees every year. PSA to our neighbors in New York City: A new community solar farm is in the works in the Bronx, and The Earth Day Initiative, an NYC-based nonprofit that plans events and fundraisers celebrating the planet, has teamed up with Arcadia to make it super easy to sign onto this month.
A cleaner future is on the horizon, and we can all be a part of it.
Learn all about renewable energy with this awesome documentary, and stay tuned for more Planet for All inspiration on mbg this week. In the meantime, catch up on one of the biggest environmental threats of our time here.