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Berkeley study: 90% carbon-free electricity achievable by 2035

Posted on 17 September 2020 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

Imagine the U.S., over the next 15 years, achieving 90% carbon-free, “clean” electricity.

No need to just imagine, better yet read about it. That’s the conclusion of a new University of California Berkeley study “2035 – The Report: Plummeting Solar, Wind, and Battery Costs Can Accelerate Our Clean Energy Future,” by the university’s Goldman School of Public Policy. The report is featured in the current installment of videographer Peter Sinclair’s “This Is Not Cool” video.

That goal – 90% carbon-free electricity by 2035 – can be achieved without increasing consumer electricity costs “at all,” says Dan Kammen, PhD, of Berkeley. Solar, wind, and storage costs have fallen so significantly, he says, that “even conservative leaders, conservative states, districts, countries can legitimately look at renewables, and actually economically need to look at renewables, as their next purchases.”

Study author Amol Phadke, PhD, says that costs “have dropped so much that renewables have become cost-effective across the country” and no longer solely in particular regions of the U.S.

U.C. Santa Cruz’s Leah Stokes, PhD, says policies are needed to support efforts involving, for instance, energy conservation and commercial building efficiency and residential retrofits

Kammen, Phadke, and Stokes join with consulting firm Energy Innovations Vice President Sonia Aggerwal in arguing that renewables create three times more jobs per investment dollar than fossil fuels.

MacArthur “genius” fellow Saul Griffith, in a clip included in the video, cautions advocates of renewable energy against “demonizing” the fossil fuel industry: “We are getting the fossil fuel industry sort of backed into a corner,” Griffith says in that video. “And honestly, the most people in this country who know how to build infrastructure at scale are in the fossil fuel industry.”

Asked if the U.S. can afford to move to renewables, Nobel Prize economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, PhD, says he is not worried: “Should it be a problem for us to borrow now and service that debt afterwards?” He answers his own question: “The arithmetic says it’s no problem.

“The debt implications – if it’s my top 10 things to worry about – it’s not in that top 10 list.”

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Comments 1 to 6:

  1. Using language such as, "..backed into a corner,..", is interesting because that is generally not a winning formula- for it to be a winning formula the odds need to be considerably overwhelming in ones favour basically forcing a resignation.

    Entrepreneurs don't get out of bed to make peanuts. If there is no pathway for future profiteering then the ideas of capitalism, with its associated captains of industry, itself go to sleep.

    Where is the work involved in an imagined utopia?

    There isn't any... thus we come back to the reality of price points and diminishing returns.

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  2. Let alone complex equations...

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  3. Keithy,

    Your comments do not make sense.

    The video reports that it will be cheaper to build out a renewable energy system that provides 90% of electricity in the USA.  That means people will make money building out the renewable energy system and consumers will pay less for energy.  There will be threee times as many jobs in a renewable energy system that in a fossil system.

    Fossil companies are backed into a corner because their products cost more and cause climate change (along with additional pollution problems).  Since fossil fuel companies are among the largest in the world they are using their political power to keep out cheaper and more profitable renewable energy.  Every year renewables are cheaper which drives more renewable build out.  

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  4. The report does not seem to account for a significant increase in EV usage ... which  is the entire point of decarbonizing the grid, right?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Here's the url for the report:

    I also embedded the url into the title of the report in the first paragaprh of the OP. 

  5. Papawhisky:

    On page 21 of the report they say:

    "Our modeling approach represents a conservative strategy for
    achieving 90% clean energy. Various complementary approaches
    could help achieve this deep decarbonization, with potential for
    even lower system costs and accelerated emissions reductions.
    Demand-side approaches include demand response and flexible
    loads, such as flexible electric vehicle charging and flexible water
    heating—which could play a large role if building and vehicle
    electrification occurs more rapidly than envisioned in our core
    cases."  My emphasis.

    It appears to me that they have some transportation electrification (I did not try to find out how much transportation electrification they use).  They say this electrification could progress faster and more renewable energy could be accomodated.

    According to Connelly et al 2016, when larger parts of the economy are electrified it allows a greater percentage of electricity to be renewable and less storage is required.  Connelly et al use electromethane for storage which would complement the proposal described in the OP.

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  6. Yes, I had read the report. It's why I posed the question.

    You need to go to the appendix to see their discussion of  "IMPACT OF HIGH ELECTRIFICATION"

    "In our modeled cases, we assume future load shapes will be
    similar to today’s, largely driven by commercial activity (work
    hours), seasonal changes, and especially by air conditioning
    demand in the summer."

    They do a sensitivity in the Appendix on 'High Electrification". Instead of 1200 GW of cumulative new additions to 2035 they forecast a need of just over 1600 GW.


    "Note that we do not consider any load flexibility, which
    significantly underestimates the overall system flexibility
    available in the model."

    I am guessing they did not consider Vehicle to Grid

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