The idea of communities, cities, states, or countries being powered by 100% renewable energy used to be perceived as fantasy. Enter the Go 100% Renewable Energy Project, which aims to perpetuate the clean energy movement by creating a revolutionary online platform that showcases real-time 100% renewable energy progress. So far, the project has mapped 8 countries, 59 Cities, and 61 Regions/States, representing more than 62 million people who have set, reached, or surpassed official 100% renewable targets in at least one sector (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling). Discover what’s driving the shift to 100% RE, the common trends emerging, and learn more about the Go 100% project with Founding Director of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute Diane Moss!
Give me an overview of the Go 100% Renewable Energy Project.
The Go 100% Renewable Energy Project is a first of its kind online platform on www.go100percent.org that provides a range of educational tools and aims to build momentum by showing how 100% renewable energy targets and solutions are already underway around the world. As the website’s motto says, it demonstrates that 100% renewable energy is not just a fantasy for someday, but a reality for today.
It’s one of my favorite projects, as it has had significant impact. It is viewed by thousands of visitors a month from every continent and has helped catalyze many locations to commit to 100% renewable energy. Now, numerous sister campaigns have popped up, and it’s become a go-to source for media, researchers, government officials, and grassroots citizens. Plus, it’s been all volunteer for our team so far, so we’re excited to make it even more effective as we grow.
Where did the inspiration for the project come from?
It was born out of our realization that seeing is believing. It was also born of being tired of hearing that 100% renewable energy could never happen, that we’d always be dependent to some extent on conventional energy sources. This was the prevailing mainstream “wisdom” when we started out, which has been falling by the wayside, in part because of the work we do. It was always crystal clear to us that the days are necessarily numbered for non-renewable energy sources because, by definition, they can only deplete over time… and meanwhile, these sources have been causing multiple major global crises. We also knew of an increasing number of locations around the world that were proving that 100% renewable energy was not just possible, but becoming business-as-usual, at least in the electricity and heating sectors, with several committed to transportation solutions as well. Who better to prove wrong those naysayers who were insisting it couldn’t be done than by those actually doing it.
The cornerstone of the project is the first comprehensive interactive map of 100% renewable energy projects around the world that demonstrate exactly this principle. So far, we’ve mapped 8 countries, 59 Cities, and 61 Regions/States representing more than 62 million people who have set, reached, or surpassed official 100% renewable targets in at least one sector (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling). The project has also begun to map several utilities, institutions, campaigns, as well as businesses, which is a rapidly growing group.
Why are all these people going 100% renewable?
There is no cookie-cutter answer, but there are some notable patterns. First and foremost, nearly all appear to be motivated by economic factors, such as saving on fuel costs, creating jobs, and attracting investment in their communities. Secondly, many are also aiming to improve the environment and/or to do their part to combat climate change. And lastly, all early adopters are driven by strong leadership that sees opportunities where others might fear challenges. This leadership often starts from the bottom-up by concerned citizens who find champions in their government and the business sector, but sometimes it starts from the top-down. At the end of the day, success usually entails engagement and organized effort on every level, with multiple stakeholders working together.
Are there any trends in how countries, states, cities, and communities are going towards their 100% renewable targets?
Similarly, there is no one formula fits all for how frontrunners are going about reaching the 100% renewable targets, but there are trends and best practices emerging. These include, among others, setting official 100% renewable targets with milestones along the way, developing comprehensive implementation plans, cutting red tape, prioritizing efficiency, and institutionalizing policies that allow as many stakeholders as possible to engage and profit.
As Founding Director of Renewables 100 Policy Institute, what does your job entail?
As a lean, largely volunteer organization, we all roll up our sleeves, problem solve and work together to do what needs doing. We have a strong team ethic. If one of us is capable of getting something done, you’ll never hear anyone say “I’m not doing it because it’s not my job.”
That said, we certainly have our individual strengths and compliment each other’s’ expertise. For example, I’m often called the team’s “task master” because I’m detail oriented and tend to make sure everyone is on track in getting our goals accomplished. That sounds humorless, but part of being the task master is keeping everyone, including me, laughing and enjoying the process. I also contribute much of our writing, case study research, policy analysis and administration. I work in close partnership with my fellow founder, Angelina Galiteva, who brings enormous expertise in many areas, including her extensive background in the utility, grid operations, and solar development sectors and in international climate and energy work. Likewise, we work in tight tandem with our Media and Outreach Director Matthias Bank, who is an expert in audio-visuals, digital media, and PR, as well as being a native of Germany, where he was engaged in renewable energy advancement for decades and where a significant amount of our work has been focused.
No two days are alike, and my work is highly varied. The other day, for example, I brainstormed with state officials on an event partnership in the works, helped allies in rural South America and Africa with their requests to develop programs to expand local renewables, and completed the more mundane job of filing our annual tax returns. One thing about being in a small, innovative organization that is in demand is that there is always a lot to do and a variety of new challenges to take on.
What are some of the challenges you face?
One of our biggest challenges is fundraising. This is true for any non-profit, of course, but all the more so for the maverick types like us who catalyze new movements. Another challenge in our current work is keeping the growing 100% renewable energy movement intellectually grounded in fact and best practices.
How did you get interested in renewable energy policy and consulting/advocacy?
I came from a family of politically active environmental stewards, so I could not help but absorb their values. I also had an educational background and lifelong interest in policy. And like many people, I have been deeply concerned about the various crises that have been intensifying as a result of dependence on conventional energy and the impact on people, especially the most vulnerable, and on future generations.
My “aha” moment came, though, when I spent several months in Germany in 2005 and 2006 and saw how accepted and ubiquitous renewables were becoming. Even among conservatives. These old guys from local hunting clubs and the rich establishment developers in my husband’s home region loved to lecture me about clean energy, what good financial sense it makes, and that the problem in America is that people aren’t willing to pay a high enough price for energy. From younger generations, who grew up as energy activists, I would hear stories that these older folks had not always been thinking so progressively. I had the privilege of meeting the architects of the policies that spurred this mental shift, like Herman Scheer, who would become the intellectual founding father of Renewables 100. I would also hear from younger activists that my home state of California was their inspiration 20 years ago, but now the tables had turned. I vowed that when I returned home to, I would do what I could to help. It seemed ludicrous that a nation with the solar intensity of Alaska would be running circles around a sunny state like California on solar panel installation – and be doing it for less cost.
What sparks your passion?
What keeps me going are the people I meet and the changes my team and I have been able to help bring about. When we see a city like San Diego (which Renewables 100 got to commit to 100% renewable energy back in 2013) turn that pledge into a bipartisan mandate, or when we see grid operators we work with transform from skeptics to champions of renewables, or when we big non-profits that were once sympathetic but unwilling to join, now actively campaigning for 100% renewable energy targets. It gives me so much hope and ignites my passion when organizations like UNESCO partner with us (in this case, to craft official declarations calling for 100% renewable energy.)
I was taught by my mother that when I am a guest, I must leave a place better than I found it. As a guest on our planet, I try to follow her credo.
Do you have advice for women (especially younger women) trying to go into your line of work?
- Make your first priority to be of service. I got started by using four words: How can I help? I truly had no idea how life changing those words would be. If you ask that question of people who are doing good work, if you mean it, and if you stick with it, you may be amazed where life takes you and what you are able to accomplish. I certainly was.
- Learn all you can about the field from as many angles as possible. Dig deep. Stay curious. Think critically. Go visit projects and people doing the work in various sectors and ask questions. Absorb the wisdom of those who came before you and who know more than you do, and give credit where credit is due. Then figure out where the gaps are, and figure out how to fill one.
- Take this advice from several local frontrunner leaders on 100% renewable energy: There are two kinds of leaders – the ones who think of all the reasons to fear and slow down the process and the ones who commit to going 100% renewable and figure it out along the way. Be the second kind.
- Remember that change is messy and at times frustrating, even heartbreaking. This is all the more true of big changes. Read up on history, if you need a reminder. Develop patience, a good sense of humor, and a commitment to an essential effort that may or may not bear the most fruit in your own lifetime.
- Know that if you are passionate about renewable energy, there is a niche for you, depending on your interests and talents. The energy transition is a massive and multi-layered transformation that humankind is undertaking, and there are so many ways to participate. The process needs good scientists, policymakers, creative communicators, entrepreneurs, teachers, manufacturers, construction workers, administrators, economists, finance experts, activists, just to name a few fields. It’s really everybody’s job, including yours.
What’s next for you?
I call the time we are in right now the change over from the 100% renewable energy debate “1.0,” which was all about determining if it was possible, to “2.0,” which is about the more complex questions of how, when, and who will lead and profit. The 1.0 debate is not completely over, of course, but now that there’s finally a mainstream and growing grassroots movement with dozens of non-profits on board that can take it on and push for 100% renewable targets, our organization can focus more of our attention on those nitty gritty 2.0 questions. Stay tuned!
Diane Moss is a Founding Director for Renewables 100 Policy Institute and the Owner of dima Communications & Strategic Partnerships (a sustainability-related consulting service). Her writing on renewable energy issues has been widely published, including in the Wall Street Journal, Today’s Facility Manager, and Cleantechnica. In the past, she was a Campaign Consultant for the Friends of the Earth, a Policy Advisor for the World Future Council, and an Environmental Deputy for Congresswoman Jane Harman‘s Office. She studied at Harvard University, as well as New York University, and completed a political science thesis program in Paris.
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