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Seizing the clean energy revolution: shooting for 50 percent clean energy by 2030

By Scott Peters

Our economy is undergoing a rapid transition, with decisive leaps in technology happening every day. Front and center in the changing economy of this decade is a fundamental shift in the way we power our world. The transition to a clean energy economy is happening right now.

To seize the opportunity to provide a cleaner, better environment and create the jobs of the future, my colleagues and I have put forward a bold goal for America: get at least half of our energy from carbon-free sources by the year 2030.

The old approach to energy has not worked. It has given us dirty air, dirty water, and a planet that just had its hottest year on record. It has given us a methane leak that spewed the equivalent of more than a half-a-million cars' annual emissions into the southern California atmosphere.

For too long we have heard that we have to choose between a prosperous economy and a clean environment, implying that we can't have both. That is a false choice we cannot afford.

The path to reducing emissions and spurring economic growth has always been innovation. President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan and adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement embraced this principle.

Solar energy has now reached cost parity with coal and natural gas in many regions of the country. It is projected to be cheaper than fossil fuels in most places by 2017. This means new high-quality jobs and lower energy bills for hardworking families. It will also bring cleaner air and a chance to mitigate climate change.

The only choice we have to make is whether the U.S. will follow the lead of states like California and entrepreneurs in the private sector who are welcoming the clean energy revolution.

Our military leaders, driven by a desire to boost combat effectiveness, have also made significant investments in alternative energy technologies. They want safer, less expensive sources of power that are not subject to shifts in the oil market and dependent on foreign sources. They also want to save on the resources it takes to transport large amounts of fuel across the battlefield, which is costly and dangerous.

Last year, I joined Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at Naval Base Coronado to announce the largest purchase ever of renewable energy by a federal entity. The U.S. Navy purchased enough solar power from Sempra Energy to supply half of its installations on the west coast, including all seven in my home district in San Diego. Much like the military's early investment in the Internet, advances in renewable energy by our military can lead to significant advancements upon which the private sector can build.

To support our military's mission of diversifying their fuel supply, I put forward the Department of Defense Energy Security Act, which would centralize DOD energy research and invest in energy security. However, with the exception of extending renewable energy tax credits, Congress has been idle or tried to set us back in the race toward a clean energy future; many Members of Congress still flat out deny the science of climate change, while others are beholden to special interests.

The good news is more and more of my colleagues now realize climate change is not partisan. Investing in renewable energy is a smart approach.

To get Congress back in the game, my colleagues and I have introduced a resolution calling for more than 50 percent clean electricity in the U.S. by 2030. To meet this goal we would triple renewable energy capacity and get a portion from carbon-free sources like advanced nuclear energy. "50 by 30" is a necessary and pragmatic goal for our entire nation. We must seize the clean energy revolution for the unprecedented economic opportunity it is. The U.S. Navy and California set the same objective. Just last year, the city of San Diego set a goal twice as high, aiming for 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

California's leadership on this isn't just because of our year-round sunshine—it is the result of investing in innovation and following the market. States with lower renewable targets, like Utah, and ones with less sunshine, like New York, are generating increasing amounts of their energy from solar.

The clean energy revolution is here, and every day more and more people are joining. A national objective of 50 by 30 will take full advantage of the opportunity in front of us and give our children a better chance at a future with cleaner air, cleaner water, and economic prosperity.

Congressman Scott Peters represents the 52nd District (which includes San Diego) in the House of Representatives and is the Chair of the House Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition's Climate Task Force. This column originally appeared in The Hill (www.thehill.com).