ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Known Unknowns For 100% Renewables
The unknown costs of a 100% carbon-free future; State approaches to a 100% carbon-free future vary and while several costs remain unknown, some solutions are emerging.
Herman K. Trabish, Sept. 3, 2019 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The value of distributed resources and the future balance between central station and distributed renewables continue to make the cost of a 100% future uncertain.
Opponents claimed zero emissions mandates in Hawaii, California, Washington, Colorado, New Mexico and New York would drive up electricity rates, but ample evidence in today's falling renewables prices led to lawmaker approval. Now, utilities and policymakers are trying to determine what the full costs of a high renewables power system will ultimately be.
But cost impact forecasts cannot be certain until technologies protecting reliability are in place, Washington and New York utilities told Utility Dive. In contrast, Colorado and New Mexico were able to use utilities' expectations of lower costs to bolster political support. There are still many unknowns about the mandates' costs, advocates acknowledged. But that is not a reason to prevent enacting them, they added.
The six mandates share a goal of very high levels of renewables and much lower greenhouse gas emissions than any state has achieved today. But their policies differ in detail. Utilities in these states don't have definitive formulas for achieving the long-term goals or a final calculation of costs. The transition to a fully decarbonized U.S. power system using currently available technologies would cost $4.5 trillion, according June's Wood Mackenzie analysis. That could mean nearly $2,000 per U.S. household per year for 20 years. But it is uncertain how much of the cost would fall on shareholders, companies or customers. Although wind, solar, and storage will make up the bulk of California's high renewables power supply, the need for "firm" generation creates another unknown, Energy + Environmental Economics found…But renewables advocates say if leaders establish a vision, engineers and advocates will find the way to achieve it…” click here for more