Climate Cafe Speaker John Rogers Offers Hope through New Technology Advancements

John Rogers, a Senior Energy Analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, visited Andover this past Friday to speak at PA Sustainability Coalition’s (PASC) Climate Cafe. With engineering expertise, Rogers focused on the various technologies that drive renewable energy in more accessible and efficient manners. Rogers also shared his perspective on current political and economic aspects of climate issues. During a time where people are often reminded of the climate’s degression, Rogers offered some hope on recent environmental progress. 

“In 2020, renewable energy beat coal power for the first time in history, providing 20 percent of our electricity; they were equal with nuclear power. So you put nuclear and renewable energy together, and that’s more than 40 percent of our electricity supplier. It is really important for people to understand what’s going on. My kids are growing up and have grown up in this world where it is normal for them to see solar panels on a roof, at school, or at home. Or that it is normal to see a wind turbine on the side of the road as we drive to church on Sundays. It is abnormal to see incandescent bulbs that we used for 140 years, which we figured out that maybe they weren’t a great way to go,” said Rogers. 

Recent technological advancements include off-shore wind energy through the conversion of nautical wind to electricity using wind turbines. However, due to the expensive cost and difficult installment, such technology has not yet been widely implemented, according to Rogers. 

“We only have seven [offshore wind turbines]. These five were built five years ago, and there are two that went in last year off of Virginia. That’s all we’ve got. This turbine company says a single spin of the blades will generate enough electricity to power a home in New York for a day and a half. I did my own calculations, and if it’s at full power, it will take under 5 seconds to 4.75 seconds to generate enough electricity to power our house. That’s not to say you should install an offshore wind turbine in your house, which is a technically questionable way to do it. This is a portable technology, it’s just incredible,” said Rogers. 

Politics also play a deciding role in climate issues. Oftentimes, climate issue solutions present legal ramifications which require long and arduous efforts to overcome, if possible to overcome at all. Though, more states are reciprocating the call for sustainable energy by supporting technological companies and scientific research. 

“[Tax credits] have been in place for a lot of energy technologies and subsidies of some sort or another. But these technologies, their tax wind have been so successful, driving for wind, solar, and other renewable energies. So tax credits are a piece of what the government can and has been doing. Another piece is investing in innovation, investing in basic science, driving research, and loan guarantees and things that help us really push the boundaries on those technologies,” said Rogers. 

According to Rogers, research shows that energy usage can be 80 to 90 percent renewable by 2035 if progress on solutions for climate issues persist. Shreya Bajaj ’23 expressed appreciation for the numerous renewable resources that have appeared in recent years. 

“My biggest takeaway is that regardless of how things look on the lawmaker’s side, we do have several options and solutions to our non-renewable energy problem. There are a lot of technologies like solar, wind, even hydropower, and geothermal—a proliferation of all these sources that we can use,” said Bajaj. 

Alice Fan ’23, co-president of PASC and organizer of the climate cafe, expressed her vision for the Andover community. Currently, 75 percent of Andover’s electricity is provided by a combined solar project in Oxford, MA. Moreover, the roof of the Snyder Center, one of Andover’s athletic buildings, is covered with solar panels to supplement campus electricity. Fan hopes to further advocate for sustainability at Andover through communal and individual efforts. 

“I envision Andover to talk about it more; I envision Andover to participate and engage in the work which is really important. It’s also incredibly intersectional, intersecting with racial justice work and gender equality. For people to understand those connections and intersections is really important and also understanding that climate change is happening now. It’s not [going to] happen in 100 or 200 years, that people are feeling the effects now and people in Andover feel the effects now. So really spreading that message is something that we want to push on,” said Fan.  

In accordance with Fan, Rogers agreed that climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed now. While Rogers warned of global warming’s dire consequences, he also explained the tools and technology that are currently available to make environmental improvements.  

“I’ll finish by saying climate change is serious, and there’s no denying that but so are the solutions that we have available to us. And so I want to leave tonight with the impression that the technology, anytime we’re ready, anytime we have all those other pieces come together, is there and ready, willing, and seeing what we can do. So, let’s do this,” said Rogers.