At times during this election season, the political differences between the two parties has seemed overwhelming. This is especially true on global warming, where a recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that political affiliations are still a major determinant of how Americans view climate change — despite a recent streak of 16 consecutive months of record-setting global temperatures. But as we gear up for the third and final debate between the candidates for the U.S. presidency, we can be glad that virtually all Americans agree on at least one thing: solar power is the future.
According to the Pew survey, fully 89% of Americans support expanding the use of solar power, with only 9% opposed — the most agreement on any source of energy polled! Increased solar is supported by a whopping 97% of the most liberal Democrats and even 83% of the most conservative Republicans, making it an issue that spans the political spectrum like no other. And even if Donald Trump isn’t a big fan of solar (yet), other Republicans are being encouraged to take solar-friendly positions by centrist clean energy super-PACs as well as activist groups like the Green Tea Party.
A big reason for solar’s widespread popularity across political lines is money. Not the kind of big donations and shadowy backroom deals that we often think of when ‘money’ and ‘politics’ come to mind, but the money that homeowners, businesses, and utilities are saving by using solar instead of old-fashioned fossil fuels. Solar costs have plummeted over the past decade, with median residential solar installation costs falling by more than 50% in the U.S. Thanks to these low costs, solar is the fastest-growing source of new power generation worldwide, and it’s hard to argue with that kind of success.
Another reason that Americans and politicians of all stripes support solar despite disagreeing on the environment is that the solar industry has been one of the biggest job creators in America in recent years. According to the most recent annual data, solar industry jobs have more than doubled since 2010 to over 209,000 today — growth that is twelve times the rate that jobs are being added in the rest of the economy. These jobs are found in every single state across America, and it’s creating the kind of political constituency that no politician can ignore, regardless of party affiliation.
At the end of the day, the best news of all is that Americans don’t just support solar in the abstract — they’re either going solar themselves or at least considering it in ever-growing numbers. This year, the U.S. solar industry passed the 1 million mark in residential solar installations, and growth is coming from more regions of the country than ever before. According to the Pew survey, 40% of Americans have seriously considered going solar in the past year, including more than half of homeowners in Western states. And, underscoring further how solar is not tied to politics, another recent study indicates that Republican-leaning areas of California are even more likely to see homeowners going solar than Democrat-leaning areas!
Ultimately, our political parties will also need to come together to agree on the reality of climate change in order to move the country forward to meet our targets under the Paris Agreement. But even if we can’t quite agree on the problem, the good news is that Americans overwhelmingly agree that solar is going to be a big part of the solution.