## Unveiling the Hidden Value of Wind and Solar: A Revolution Beyond Subsidies

And so the shift to renewables is not just a change in how we power our world but a matter of life and death: the health of our bodies as well as the health of the planet. This is our story. Over the past thirty years, the politics of climate change has overshadowed the story of energy. But beneath the headlines, in industrial parks and sleepy backwaters, there has been another, richer and more complex story emerging. It is the story of how the US energy system has become deeply entangled – for better or worse – with the public’s health. And it is the story of how wind and solar power have become essential to maintaining both of them.

### The Silent Killers: The Impact of FOSSIL FUELS

The price tag for fossil fuels, the foundation of our modern civilization, is not just a devastating kilowatt hour or gasoline mile; it is the world’s prematurely deceased, already sick, and soon-to-be sickened and dying. The hidden air pollution produced by fossil fuel combustion – particulate matter and ozone – is etching its way into our lungs and our early graves. And the indirect health consequences of environmental degradation caused by fossil fuel-driven climate change are as menacing as the ozone hole, albeit less visible: a darkening sky of socioeconomic destruction.

### Wind and Solar: The Unsung Heroes of Public Health

New studies by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California are showing that, in addition to producing electricity for power plants and homes, wind and solar are also valuable forms of pollution control. Because they replace burning fossil fuels, wind and solar power work like a pollution filter, creating broad economic benefits similar to traditional pollution control measures. The health and climate impacts of the wind and solar developments in the US have accrued more than $100 in benefits for every Megawatt-hour of electricity produced, totalling a quarter-trillion dollars of benefits during the first four years of these projects. These extraordinary cost-benefit ratios are greater than the total subsidies received by a factor of more than 100 per cent. In other words, these renewable energy projects are valuable and destructive, despite any subsidies.

### Deciphering the Economics of Avoiding Damage

This basic analysis is supported by a sophisticated regression that translated reduced fossil fuel dependence into hard dollars. Informational justice, which put a price on the social cost of carbon – and on the health effects of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from fossil fuel combustion – were integrated into analyses, which made clean energy more attractive to consumers. This simple analysis, which translates complex, regional energy dynamics into meaningful action, made possible by new metrics, allows readers to understand why shifting to renewable energy is so important.

### Regional Transformations: A Closer Look

And here is a primer on the analysis itself. The US was divided into 11 regions, in which wind and solar shares were assessed. And in any subregion for which the renewable input was less than 3 per cent, the study carefully estimated how the increase in wind and solar deployments had averted food-fired electricity generation. They laid out renewable energy production beside a counterfactual in which coal and natural gas dominated to show how this aversion avoided environmental damages – and health damages.

### The Ripple Effect of Choosing Renewables

What this means is that the transition to wind and solar creates these types of benefits beyond the fence line of fossil fuel power plants. Since the economic valuation of climate and health improvements are captured in the benefit from reductions in fossil fuel use, the economic gains go directly to the public at large, rather than to the entity that owns or operates renewable facilities per se. Fundamentally, the transition to renewables signals a different era that has implications for society at large, not just industrial firms. The benefits of wind and solar energy extend beyond the payback of electricity generation.

### Unearthing FOSSIL Facts

At this point, it’s helpful to consider the importance of fossil fuels in this story. Fossil fuels – which are formed from decayed biological material – come in the form of coal, oil and natural gas. For centuries, these forms of energy have fuelled humanity’s rise to the top of the food chain. Although fossil fuels are high-energy, they are far from benign. Aside from their air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions problems, the creation and use of fossil fuels is an enormous contributor to global climate change. The shift toward renewable energy technologies such Dystopian future, or as wind and solar is not simply an economic and technological transition. It is a fundamental transition to more sustainable and healthy ways of generating energy.

## In Conclusion: The Path Forward

This is also the story of how wind and solar energy can grow to represent something beyond the provision of power. They can become symbols of health and environmental regeneration. What we have just described is a roadmap for the future, a future where the merits of clean air, good health and a stable climate start to push beyond the cost/subsidy binary and become clear determinants of energy policy. The transition to renewables becomes a story of human ingenuity and the triumph of the human spirit, where our relationship with the planet can be restored into harmony.

May 30, 2024
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