Solar power is shining

Exciting to see that California has become the first US state to require solar panels on almost all new homes.

It’s a great idea and it’s wonderful to see solar technology becoming a mainstream energy source. The push for renewables is wonderful to see as they have such obvious benefits – they don’t increase our carbon footprint or exacerbate global warming, like burning fossil fuels.

I’m often in California for business meetings or visiting our Virgin Hyperloop campus in LA and seeing what they’re getting up to. The sun is often shining down on us (and I’m lathering on the sun cream) and it’s no wonder that the Golden State is the nation’s largest solar market.

California has long been a trendsetter in its clean-energy goals and hopefully the new plans will provide a blueprint for other states to follow. It’s innovative solutions like these that will help fight climate change, but it also puts more power in the hands of consumers who can rely less on the power grid and more on their own panels. The move will not only help cut greenhouse-gas emissions from home energy use, but will also have the potential to save homeowners big sums on their energy bills over time.

Solar really does represents a huge opportunity. In a single hour, the amount of power from the sun that strikes the Earth is more than the entire world consumes in an year – a truly staggering fact to try and get your head around.

The potential for more renewable energy demand across the world is massive, and it can be a great chance for businesses to get ahead of the curve. The growth of the renewables sector is surging, it has huge potential for job creation and investors are on the lookout for great opportunities – of which there are many. And we can all benefit from the positive environmental, social and economic impacts of sustainability.

That’s why, over the years, we’ve been supporting many great start-ups and projects committed to scaling use of abundant renewable sources. In Jamaica, we purchased the BMR wind farm in August 2016. In addition to running the country’s largest private-sector renewable energy project, at the end of last year, BMR acquired a 5MW solar park in Guatemala. We also invested in M-Kopa, which is focused on solar power in East and primarily Kenya, helping families gain access to energy using solar technology at affordable prices. And we’ve long been fans of SolarAid and their brilliant social enterprise, Sunny Money, who provide access to solar lights in some of the most remote regions of Malawi, Uganda and Zambia.

Necker Island went solar powered back in 2015 and was the demo island for the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Island Energy Program, which along with the Clinton Climate Initiative, is helping 13 island Caribbean countries transition to renewables.

Remarkably, the solar installation that powers the majority of the Island survived the brunt of Hurricane Irma – which just goes to show how it can reduce countries’ vulnerability to major storms. Individual minigrids are likely to continue working even if the grid is knocked out. Relying on renewables also protects many isolated island economies from spikes in fossil fuel prices, which can huge financial burdens on many of the local people.

It’s heartening to see California stepping up and acting as the catalyst for change. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to think of a world powered by renewable energy and it is fast becoming necessary.


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