This Friday marked the Autumnal Equinox in Texas, meaning we experienced almost exactly the same amount of daylight as darkness. Then, starting on Saturday, the winter moon began to dominate the sky. In honor of this last day of twelve or more hours of sunlight until June, we should celebrate the sun’s power through bigger commitments to solar energy in our communities.
It might seem counterintuitive -- why should we turn to solar as the days grow shorter? And can we really go big on renewable energy, at a time when our national leaders seem stuck on the fossil fuels of the past?
I argue that we can and must. This equinox comes at the exact moment when we should take on these challenges and lean into renewable energy for brighter days ahead. Just as the days will be shorter for the time being, later to grow longer and sunnier once again, the odds for progress on renewable energy, at least nationally, might feel shorter given the present state of affairs in Washington DC. But, that does not mean we should just put our heads down and wait for brighter days ahead. Instead, we should take this opportunity to make progress where we can on the local level.
So it’s clear, we stand at an important tipping point for clean energy. We’ve seen a 43-fold expansion of solar power in this country over the past decade, largely thanks to city and state-level policies that encourage and support solar development. In the Trump era, state and local governments will need to continue leading the way to advance renewable energy sources, since it’s clear that the federal government will not. When it comes to solar, in particular, we should be asking our cities to shine.
Cities are already poised as ideal leaders in the transition to solar energy, since they are natural centers of electricity demand and have the rooftops and infrastructure needed for building solar panels. In terms of policy, many are able to make their own decisions about where their energy comes from, and municipal governments can best craft locally tailored policies to help residents make the switch. Cities get to reap economic rewards from their solar energy investments, too. Solar power creates local jobs that can’t be outsourced from the community, and can benefit customer and government pocketbooks in the long-term.
San Antonio, for example, was an early leader in the solar movement and today ranks 8th in the nation for solar installed within city limits. But according to Google's Project Sunroof, San Antonio has the fourth best potential in the nation, so we can do far more. San Antonio and CPS Energy should set a bold new goal to get solar on every rooftop in the city.
So, on this autumnal equinox, take a moment to thank the mayors and city councils who have already stepped up to bat and made strong commitments to solar energy for their communities. Here in Texas, Georgetown already stands out with a commitment to 100% renewable energy . Now, it’s time to call on the rest of Texas, like San Antonio, to follow and help ensure a liveable climate and healthier communities for the future, one city at a time.
 “Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Toward a Clean Energy Future.” Gideon Weissman, Frontier Group; Rob Sargent and Bret Fanshaw, Environment America Research & Policy Center. 2017. Frontiergroup.org.