ORIGINAL REPORTING: Is 100% renewable energy the best goal to cut power sector emissions?
Is 100% renewable energy the best goal to cut power sector emissions? A new literature review says keeping some nuclear and CCS on the system could be more cost-effective
Herman K. Trabish, March 20, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: There is a consensus emerging that it is urgent to plan seriously for 80% renewables now and consider the last 20% of the power mix as that planning turns into reality.
A research review commissioned by the Energy Innovation Reform Project(EIRP) examines the best route to “deep decarbonization” -- nearly zero greenhouse gas emissions -- of the power sector by mid-century. It argues 100% renewables is not the best way to get there. The review assumes that an 80% to 100% cut in carbon emissions from the electric utility sector is necessary to limit global climate change to 2°C this century and argues the literature shows eliminating the last 10% to 30% of emissions needed for deep decarbonization is more cost-effective with a diverse energy mix. In addition to increases in wind and solar, energy storage, and demand response, it would include nuclear power, fossil fuel generation with carbon capture and storage (CCS), biomass, hydropower, and geothermal energy…
On the other hand, Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson’s Solutions Project offers state and national roadmaps to 100% renewables by 2050. Jacobson called the EIRP study “highly misleading” because nuclear and CCS will not necessarily reduce the costs of decarbonization. “The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found they may not be needed to get deep decarbonization and that nuclear in particular is expensive and risky,” he added. The EIRP review assessed a study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that modeled an 80% U.S. renewables penetration. The four-volume, 2014 study found a renewables mix “in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of the total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the United States.” One NREL study author suggested focusing now on the most cost-effective resource mix for deep decarbonization in the near term... click here for more