More than 3 million people die each year from outdoor air pollution around the world, according to the World Health Organization. They also say that by 2050 it will increase to 6.6 million if we do not change our energy usage.
This is why transitioning to renewable energy is more important than ever. A new study in Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, says that the U.S. alone could save up to 52,000 people per year by switching to solar PV. A team from Michigan Technological University came up with the number of people affected by coal, pushing this energy problem into reality.
Realizing that pollution affects us all equally and in mass numbers could speed up the country’s transition to clean energy. We can less easily ignore the problem when the number of people affected is glaring us directly in the face.
Solar saves cash
Not only will transitioning to solar save lives, but it saves the U.S. money. According to Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis, Solar PV starts at about $46/mWh, and coal at $60/mWh. However, no social or environmental costs were taken into account when the cost of coal was calculated. If they added these costs, the price of coal would quickly rise. So by transiting to renewable energy, we would be saving $14 per MWh and over 52,000 lives.
Solar is the cheaper option, and it keeps getting cheaper. The same energy analysis study revealed that solar became 85% cheaper in the past 7 years, as of 2016. This means solar has only become cheaper and more accessible with another half of a year under its belt.
And solar makes cash
Solar PV obviously saves the country money, as previously explained. But according to the study conducted by MTU, it can actually make the country money. They found that the US could potentially make $2.5 million for each life saved when swapping coal for solar PV. So by switching over to renewables, you save lives, money, and now apparently make money. With all of these incredible benefits, this switch should be a no-brainer.
However, the country is still failing to transition to cleaner energy. According to a recent NPR article, “In a world where carbon emissions are not taxed, coal is a very inexpensive…way to generate electricity”. Even though coal takes the lives of over 50,000 Americans a year, we still mine coal for to save money. But if the cost of coal included the lives taken and the environmental damage it has created, the price of coal would go up exponentially. It would become more expensive than any other form of energy available.
With both the health and economic benefits of solar, the U.S. should start to transition away from coal. Now that there is an actual number of lives on the line, the country has a more vivid picture of how coal really does affect our communities. But by moving towards a future that runs on clean energy, we can save money and thousands of lives along the way.