Five takeaways from this year’s Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas

Solar panels. 

David Goehring, flickr. 

Hundreds of people interested in the future of clean energy gathered in Las Vegas recently to join discussions and hear thoughts from President Obama as part the 8th annual Clean Energy Summit hosted by Senator Harry Reid.

With the theme of “Powering Progress,” leaders from the business and government sector talked about the progress made in clean energy development, as well as the work that still needs to be done to ensure our nation is truly on a path to a sustainable energy future.  

While topics ranged from clean energy investments to climate change, there were key highlights that should continue shaping the dialogue around clean energy into the future.

Five points that rose above all others at the summit:

  1. Clean energy is happening.
    Every three minutes, another home or business in America goes solar. At a national level, solar had a record-breaking year, making up 36 percent of new electric generating capacity. With added wind capacity and geothermal expanding, our nation is poised to continue breaking renewable energy records.
  2. Clean energy is more affordable and accessible.
    The summit was sprinkled with statistics and examples of how clean energy is more affordable than ever. For instance, the price for solar panels fell by as much as 10 percent in the last year, and countless loan and subsidy programs are expanding for American homeowners and businesses.
  3. The clean energy community is setting goals to achieve even more.
    Cities and states are setting goals that will ensure America is transitioning to cleaner energy sources. Former mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, cited that the city hopes to be completely off coal by 2025, and President Obama’s Clean Power Plan hopes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by 2022.
  4. The environment will play a key role in future clean energy projects.
    Several speakers mentioned mitigating renewable energy’s impact on the surrounding land. Amy Ericson, President and CEO of Alstom Inc., stated that we should treat the environment as a “precious resource.” This aligns with what The Wilderness Society has long been calling for—smarter planning for clean energy that safeguard our wildlands.
  5. Obama said it himself: public lands will play a key role. 

    "Over the past six years, the federal government has approved 34 commercial-scale solar projects and the transmission infrastructure that goes with them on public lands across the West. We approved one new project just today in California that will ultimately power another 100,000-plus homes. And right here in Las Vegas, we’ve cut the time it takes to permit solar projects in half."

    Solar projects are new to public lands, and the Department of Interior is making progress to ensure projects are sited in areas that minimize risk on wildlife and wildlands. On the day of the summit, the Blythe Mesa Solar Power Project was approved on already disturbed land in California for example. Other remarks from Congresswoman Dina Titus confirmed the need for responsible renewable energy development on public lands. Furthermore, all work on public lands is shifting to protect wildlands.

The conversation around clean energy must continue as leaders head back to their homes and businesses. President Obama will continue to traverse the country talking about his clean energy and climate plans, with his next big stop being in Alaska in the coming week.

The Wilderness Society will continue pushing the Obama administration to focus on adopting policies to ensure ‘smart from the start’ clean energy occurs today and will continue into the next administration and beyond.