Great News! Solar Investment Now Surpasses Fossil Fuels Globally

Despite the ongoing propaganda and legal campaigns by oil, gas, and coal corporations and their puppet politicians, the “smart money” is now going to investments in solar energy.

This is great news for the climate and those of us living on our beautiful blue planet.

As noted in a recent report: “Investment in clean energy will extend its lead over spending on fossil fuels in 2023, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Thursday, with solar projects expected to outpace outlays on oil production for the first time. ‘This crowns solar as a true energy superpower. It is emerging as the biggest tool we have for rapid decarbonization of the entire economy,’ Dave Jones, head of data insights at energy think tank Ember, said in a statement.”

Indeed, contrary to the fossil fuel industry’s widespread denunciation of solar power as insufficient to meet energy needs, the actual numbers are eye-popping. As noted by U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association: “The U.S. installed 20.2 gigawatts (GWdc) of solar PV capacity in 2022 to reach 142.3 GWdc of total installed capacity, enough to power 25 million American homes. Solar accounted for 50% of all new electricity-generating capacity added in the U.S. in 2022, the largest annual share in the industry’s history and the fourth consecutive year that solar was the top technology with new electric capacity installations.”

To put that in perspective, the two remaining Colstrip coal-fired power plants can produce about 740 megawatts each. A megawatt is a million watts — but a gigawatt is a billion watts — a thousand times more and enough to power 750,000 homes.

Even better, not only is solar being installed industrially, the number of new solar panels installed by homeowners is equally impressive with residential solar installations hitting nearly 6 Gigawatts and accounting for 40% growth over 2021.

Of course this will all be news to the troglodytes and their increasingly discredited denial of climate change and the part fossil fuels play in the ongoing climate-fueled crises. Despite politicians remaining captive to fossil fuel mega-corporations, the New York Independent System Operator just reported the state generated a new record of combined residential and commercial output of “3,300 megawatts of electricity between noon and 1 p.m. on May 18” — enough to power 2.7-3.4 million homes. Of that, the “behind-the-meter solar, which is generated and used on-site, accounted for 3,200 megawatts.”

Not only does the “distributed power” of residential and commercial on-site generation avoid the ever-rising rates utility companies can and do charge, it vastly enhances national security. Unlike centralized generation and transmission, which is highly vulnerable to disruption, on-site generation is far more secure. After Russia destroyed centralized generation facilities and transmission lines, Ukrainian hospitals with their own solar panels were still able to operate.

Not coincidentally to solar’s astounding ascent, Hoboken, New Jersey, is suing ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Phillips 66 — as well as the American Petroleum Institute — for racketeering, saying major oil and gas companies and their chief lobbying group have “conspired to deceive the world for decades.” This week the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the defendants’ attempt to quash the suit, dealing another set-back to the industry’s effort to kill climate lawsuits.

This is all great news — but it’s really no surprise to those of us with solar panels who enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of clean on-site energy production every day. The challenge now is to get our politicians to reject the fossil fuel industry’s lies, pull their heads out of the coal pile and bore hole, and start supporting direct investment in a clean solar energy future for our state, nation and planet.


George Ochenski is a columnist for the Daily Montanan, where this essay originally appeared.