While the Carbon Capture and Storage boffins struggle to make CCS commercially viable and environmentally safe – a goal that may never eventuate in time – the key to a low carbon energy future is already here.
A report released last month by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has determined renewable electricity generation using currently available technologies such a wind, solar PV, concentrating solar power (CSP), hydropower, geothermal, and biomass; combined with better electricity infrastructure, could supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050.
The NREL says electricity supply and demand can be balanced in every hour of the year in this scenario, including nearly 50% from variable renewable generation.
The Renewable Electricity Futures Study (RE Futures) states U.S. renewable energy resources “can support multiple combinations of renewable technologies that will slash not only electric sector greenhouse gas emissions, but also water use“.
Furthermore, the report says incremental direct costs associated with high renewable generation is comparable to published cost estimates of other clean energy scenarios.
NREL points out while such a high renewable generation future is certainly possible, a “transformation of the electricity system would need to occur to make this future a reality.”
Perhaps instead of increasingly throwing good money after bad in terms of CCS – or other expensive and questionable solutions that only further promote the mining and burning of coal and are essentially the equivalent of sweeping dirt under a rug – those investments could be re-routed towards achieving such an attainable renewables scenario and maybe even help to bring forward the time we’ll see 80% renewables in our energy mix.
The four-volume Renewable Electricity Futures Study can be downloaded here.
Established over 35 years ago, the NREL is the principal research laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The organisation is solely focused on advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies; from concept to commercial application.