It’s time to bust some myths about gas-fired electricity, renewable energy, and the United States grid, writes David Wooley, executive director of the Center for Environmental Public Policy at UC Berkeley, after a study earlier this month showed clean electricity could supply 90% of the country’s power by 2035, at less cost than non-renewable sources.
“By using updated cost figures for wind, solar, and batteries, the researchers found that it will be economically feasible to power a reliable grid by 2035, while only depending on natural gas for 10% of annual electricity production,” Greentech Media reported at the time. The plummeting price points explain how “in just a few years, decarbonizing the grid went from a solar-lover’s pipe dream to something many major American utilities have committed to.”
Now, Wooley is out with a post on Utility Dive that undercuts the conventional wisdom that gas is cleaner than coal, that renewables still raise grid reliability concerns, that gas is cheaper than renewables, and that renewables in the U.S. are only cost-competitive in the sunny, windy southwestern and Plains states.
Wooley counters that:
- While gas plants reduce some pollutants compared to coal, the methane emitted along the entire supply chain makes gas a “serious problem for the climate”.
- The U.S. grid has always depended on a mix of supply sources to ensure reliability. “Today, low-cost wind and solar, paired with battery storage technologies and existing hydro, nuclear, and gas generation, allows the U.S. to dramatically increase renewable generation and cut fossil fuel use without sacrificing dependability or raising costs.”
- Utility-scale wind and solar “routinely out-bid gas and coal in wholesale electric markets.” Those projects receive federal tax credits in the U.S., “but gas production also enjoys a wide range of federal subsidies, and wind and solar plant costs in many cases are already lower than gas generation, even without considering the tax credits.”
- And beyond the regions of the U.S. where the technologies got their start, “low costs are now driving a geographic expansion of renewables, making wind and solar cost-effective in all regions of the country.”
Read more on Utility Dive here.