>>Replacing coal and gas in ten years
July 18, 2008, 7:32 am
Filed under: Utilities

Reading the blogs overnight, and listening to radio talk, it’s marvelous to see the advocates and deniers lining up on either side of Al Gore’s call to action. Folks with direct experience in renewable energy development tend to say “Right on, let’s get at it.” Conservatives tend to say “He’s a gasbag; it can’t possibly work.”

Well, do the math. The US currently gets 20% of its electricity from nuclear plants and about 7% from hydro sources (granted, we buy some of that from Canada). In 2007 about 2.5% of our power came from “other” renewables — wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. To get to that level, wind and solar have been growing at about 40% annually for the past five years, so that they’ve become the new magnet for progressive investors, from the Kleiner Perkins group to T. Boone Pickens. Pickens wants to replace ALL oil imports, soon, and is putting up $100 billion for the purpose. The Google guys — we all know how naive they are — say they can make renewables cheaper than coal.

Assume for a moment that Mr. Pickens and his peers can keep renewable energy growing at 40% annually for the next decade. Why shouldn’t they? At that rate, it doubles every two years. In 2010, renewables make up 5% of our electricity mix; in 2012, 10%; in 2014, 20%; in 2016, 40%; and in 2018, ten years from now, 80%. Assume we still have nukes and dams, and we’re over the top.

Just stay the course, and we can shut all the coal plants down, and all the natural gas powerplants, too.


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