Why 100% renewable energy goals are not practical policies
Sustainable power source Portfolio Standards require the utilities to create or secure an insignificant level of vitality in their portfolios from renewables vitality as characterized by the qualified advances in every resolution, to be specific sunlight based, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, and capacity. The principal phase of the strategy happened in the mid 2000s as states established the arrangements into law with objectives of around 20%. Be that as it may, today, we are at present in another time where state assemblies and Green New Deal advocates are discussing whether to expand the ostensible prerequisites – the rates of the vitality portfolios to originate from renewables – to either half or 100% inside the following 15 or so years. As far as the genuine vitality that must be created to satisfy the guidelines, the objectives are altogether expanding.
The issue is that our present advances are irregular, variable, and unusual as they rely upon the climate and subsequently have constrained limit factors. At the scale required, capacity is right now not a suitable alternative as the innovation is pricey and as yet creating. In any case, it merits referencing that utilities in Arizona and Florida are building batteries in sun oriented vitality handle that would almost certainly contend with flammable gas. Be that as it may, this is a direct result of the great specialized possibilities in those states for sun oriented vitality. Since free market activity must be comparable in the power advertise at some random time, while including new age, some current age must be taken disconnected in the long haul. In the short-run and in crisis circumstances, the matrix controllers need to close off the association with the lattice from the sustainable power sources (NREL 2018; DOE 2017). This makes it progressively troublesome for those people that put resources into their sustainable power source advancements to recuperate the expenses of their frameworks, and it likewise raises transmission costs for every other person. The age that is expelled over the long haul is regularly from sources that give baseload control, the maximal measure of vitality expected to fulfill a negligible dimension of interest. Baseload control sources (coal, flammable gas, and atomic) expect time to increase and down and along these lines are generally less receptive to changes sought after. Since electrons move at the speed of light and that power is devoured inside a similar minute it is created, the time brought to increase and down can be a noteworthy driver of increasing expenses (Bakke 2016). After some time, working at lower scales raises costs for utilities (and later the ratepayers) as they presently need to work the power plants at scales that are wasteful. Somewhat higher electric rates are not an issue for those in the white collar class, yet they are an issue for those in destitution who can as of now scarcely manage the cost of utility rates, as the rates are a higher level of lower earnings.
Another issue with the large targets for renewable energy is that they create load uncertainty for nuclear power plant operators. This is an issue as nuclear power is emission-free and virtually safe. This load uncertainty was a major driver for the premature shutdown of the Diablo Canyon plant in California (DOE 2017). Critics often point to the issue of storing the waste, but the issue is political, not an engineering or scientific issue (Mueller 2012). Many of the fears with Yucca Mountain and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant sites are based on irrational fears of nuclear waste and they ignore the status quo that the waste is stored on site with much higher human health, environmental, and security risks. Also, as we ramp up the renewable energy portfolio standards, the subsidies for the technologies (the Renewable Energy Credits, RECs) will increase in value. The increased costs of the credits will be passed onto ratepayers if there is no cost control mechanisms in place. As cheap natural gas and cheap renewables have been the leading drivers of premature nuclear power plant shutdowns, with their costs influenced by the subsidies, more subsidies for renewable energy will exacerbate the premature nuclear power plant shutdowns. This can be seen in the most recent Alternative Energy Outlook (AEO) where the EIA projects that the share of nuclear energy in our national energy portfolio will drop to 12% by 2050.
So what will replace the lost nuclear capacity? Most likely solar and natural gas in the long-term, as the AEO shows that these are the most economically attractive alternative generation technologies, when considering the capital expenditures and the operating and maintenance costs. But in the short-term, the lost capacity would be replaced by natural gas combined cycle power plants. This is why our emissions rose by 1.7% in 2018.
So, now that I have covered a few of the issues around renewable energy portfolio standards, let me raise the profile of a few solutions. First, as energy consumers, we need to work with the utilities to ensure that the costs of our own decisions are privatized. For example, if a consumer wants to go green, we should allow the utility to purchase RECs, and then have the customer pay for them. The CEO of Duke Energy Corp. acknowledges that it will be a trend in the utility industry to become more customer-oriented. Despite not having a fancy solar panel on your roof, by working with the utility to go green, we can ensure that we can support renewable energy technologies without pushing the costs onto others.
Second, we need to embrace nuclear energy using market-based strategies. The energy industry is already heavily regulated in many ways, and that the point is to use the right combination of incentives to lower greenhouse gas emissions to internalize the externalities. Haratyk (2017) finds that a carbon price of $10/MWh would be enough to ensure that the market would respond to provide the needed incentives to keep nuclear power plants in operation. Alternatively, we can update the renewable energy portfolio standards themselves to include a special tier for nuclear energy. Tiers are used to target specific technologies and just as some RPS policies have tiers for solar and wind, we can create clean energy portfolios so that we can ensure low-carbon generation, which is one of the main intentions of the RPS policies in the first place. Another option is to use Clean Energy Credits. New York, Illinois, Connecticut, and New Jersey currently use this type of policy to provide a subsidy on a per MWh basis to nuclear power plant operators for the zero-emission attribute of the energy. This policy is currently proposed in Pennsylvania. With any of the policies above, we can efficiently and effectively support renewable energy and ensure that our current nuclear power plants would not shutdown so that we can tackle climate change.
Third, we need to keep investing in emerging technologies and updating our existing policies to meet current challenges. We need to find ways around the strategic metals (nickel, cobalt, copper, lithium) shortage that will act as a barrier to research and development for batteries and other storage technologies. We need to lower NEPA barriers to electricity infrastructure, namely transmission lines so that we could increase our grid capacity for renewables. We could also discover more ways to make CCS and direct air capture technologies economically feasible. And we need to think about solutions pertaining to energy efficiency. As the energy grid becomes decarbonized, energy efficiency measures have lower benefits, but energy efficiency can help increase capacity for renewables and provide ancillary services to the grid. Additionally, we need to think about decarbonization beyond the power sector to find economic opportunities at the interconnections between sectors in the broader economic system, broadly in transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture. Lastly, we need to spread our low-carbon technologies to the developing world so that they would not build more coal plants and increase emissions as they develop.