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Ten Years After The Solar-Powered Movie ‘Inception’, How Is Hollywood Adopting Clean Energy?


A decade ago, Leonardo DiCaprio starred in the Academy Award-winning movie Inception. Inception thrilled audiences all around the world, but amid all the talking points, one central element was largely left out.

The movie was the first-ever big-budget movie shot with solar power. If we had been nearly as concerned about renewable energy in 2010 as we are in 2022, this would probably have been the most important talking point of all.

Over the last decade, solar power generation and innovation have grown exponentially. We now live in a world where more people are choosing to supplement their energy needs with solar or, in some cases, replace it.

According to Shea Sueda, an American environmentalist and CEO of Clean Skies Technologies, “The renewable energy sector is exploding. As high inflation is affecting everything including utility rates, the momentum behind solar is becoming increasingly bullish. This is because solar energy is the cheapest energy of all time and hedges against inflation, beyond the fact that it is an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. If the gospel of solar energy is to be spread faster, there is no greater pulpit than Hollywood.”

As CEO of the solar consultancy and sales company Clean Skies Technologies, Shea Sueda focuses on transitioning homeowners, businesses, and entire industries from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Solar accounted for 60% of the increase in global renewable capacity in 2021. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) record, the record will be beaten again in 2022 in nations that have relied on fossil fuels from Russia. If the Russia-Ukraine War has served any beneficial purpose, it is provoking more interest in renewable energy.

More solar-powered movies?

Since filming Inception in 2010, several production companies have experimented with powering aspects of their production with solar power. However, in 2013, Actor Jason Bateman went a step further when he allegedly relied entirely on solar power when he directed and produced the film Bad Words. Bateman’s groundbreaking effort proved once and for all that powering an entire set with renewable energy is possible, but that did little to convince the bigger studios to try it out.

What would be the effect if big industry players like Marvel or DC make a similar move? The effect would undoubtedly be more significant but, understandably, it would take quite a bit of investment in renewable energy to power any of their big-budget movies.

The cost of solar panels and a renewable energy plant has always been the most quoted reason for Hollywood’s slow adoption of renewable energy but in 2022, that reason is losing credibility by the minute.

“One of my most important duties is to help people understand that the transition to renewable energy is much easier and much more cost-effective than what most people assume.” Shea Sueda explains, “Over the last few years, Clean Skies Technologies has been able to move thousands of domestic energy consumers to solar power. These home and business owners are now saving 20-50% immediately off their energy bills. We provide zero-down ownership programs, allowing home and business owners to replace their high and rising utility bills with a lower solar bill that never goes up. Because of our zero-down options for homes and businesses, our clients can save money from day one while still being able to own the system, increasing the value of the property.”

He continued, “Bigger commercial industries like Hollywood are a bit harder to convince, because of the existence of bureaucracy and long-standing rigid systems. However, they should understand that while renewable energy plants would stand for decades with minimal servicing, fossil fuel generation systems would always require significant recurrent investment in raw materials like coal and gas. Switching to renewable energy isn’t just good for the environment, it is far better for the bottom line in the long run.”

Certain big studios seem to have gotten the memo, as studios are increasingly installing solar roofs to offset their energy consumption. For the last decade, Warner Bros. Studios has maintained a 600-kilowatt solar roof that generates about 1.15 million kilowatts of renewable energy annually. However, there is still a need for renewable energy solutions for out-of-studio locations.

A recipe for change

In 2010, the director of Inception, Christopher Nolan, was criticized for making the movie more expensive than it needed to be by relying on solar power. However, the landscape has since changed in the last 12 years. As adoption rates and general acceptance of renewable energy have grown, we have also seen a remarkable price fall. The falling cost of solar is coinciding with the rising cost of traditional energy, which is why it is not only cheaper than traditional energy, but it is hedging against rampant inflation.

Movie studios are very protective of their bottom line, preventing them from going all out in creating solar capabilities. However, the current realities are a grave sign to them that renewables are the only reasonable future for the industry.

When we throw the rising cost of gas and persisting inflation into the mix, the picture looks grim for the big production studios. Sueda’s prediction is even grimmer; “Energy rates are going to double every 10-15 years on average. Once transitioned to solar, the monthly cost of solar doesn’t go up. It stays at the rate you fix it when you acquire the system.’’

“The commercial and domestic energy consumers that don’t prepare for the future’s rising energy prices and are scared off by solar’s total investment amount would spend much more over the next 10-15 years on their energy expenses if they don’t act now. This year’s gas prices are only a taste of what is to come. Industries like Hollywood need to switch to long-term thinking and lead the way in the green revolution.”

Sueda’s firm has devoted time and resources to educating major players in different industries and domestic energy consumers about the possibility of a future devoid of fossil fuels and the impact that would have on the future of our planet. As one of the fastest-growing solar companies in the nation, Clean Skies Technologies is devoted to helping all energy users, big or small, make the switch.

The issue of renewable energy is something that Hollywood has consistently talked about but has not been heavily adopted as an industry. Hollywood A-listers like Julia Roberts and Orlando Bloom, amongst others, have taken very public stances on the subject and switched their domestic consumption to renewable power. However, there is still much to be done on an industry-wide level. Who knows, another award-winning solar-powered movie from one of the big studios might do the trick.



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