If We Extend Our Past, We Can Reach a Carbon Free Future

If We Extend Our Past, We Can Reach a Carbon Free Future

By Bruce Naegel, December 2015.

The Department of Energy (DOE) released a study on energy trends that complements work done by Dan Kammen at UC Berkeley and Mark Z Jacobson at Stanford. The DOE study shows renewable energy progress through 2014. The two professors have published extensively on how we can build a carbon free economy based on what we know now.

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The Renewables Vision in the DOE Report. Credit:Revolution Now.

Here are highlights from the DOE study:

1.     About 70% of new generating capacity is from renewable energy, mostly wind and solar.

2.     Two states (California and New York) have legislated goals of 50% renewable energy by 2030 and Hawaii and a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045

3.     The DOE estimates that the total energy generated by wind in 2050 is 35%. The wind belt from Texas to North Dakota  has enough wind to supply 20% of the energy needed by the US.

4.     Land based Wind  capacity is now  70 GW while the cost of Wind Energy has dropped from $.60 per Kw/Hr to around t$.06 per kW Hr.

5.     Utility based Solar is continuing to drop and the lowest cost electricity today comes from a solar farm in Austin TX. With PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements at $.05 per kW/ Hr.

6.     LED Lighting continues to get more affordable dropping 80% from 2008 to 2014 as part of a larger trend increasing energy efficiency.

7.     Electricity use will grow but at a slowing rate to 20% growth over today’s rates by 2040

8.     Electricity consumption will grow in part as we move to an electric  transportation system , We have 300,000 electric vehicles on the road in the US by 2014.  In California, it is a bit under 200,000 today. The state goal is to grow s to 1.5 Million EVs by 2025. The current  cost of batteries for electric cars is around $300 per kWh, and this is projected to drop to  $100 per kWh by 2020.

9.     The electric power industry will get increasingly cleaner over time as coal retires. However the switch to Natural Gas will have to be accompanied with aggressive monitoring of Indianapolis has aggressive monitoring and few leaks. Boston in contrast has no program and many leaks.

Net Positive and Next Steps:

1. The DOE study indicates we have made progress towards a decarbonized future. This makes the goal of getting to a future where we export more renewable energy than we use more possible.

2. We need to continue down these pathways as indicated by studies from Dan Kammen and Mark Z Jacobson.

3. We need to ensure the policies are in place to keep this going in CA, and hopefully across the country.

4. Business models in the utilities sector have to evolve in a way that guarantees we continue to move to more renewable energy.