Signs Of Climate Progress: Advanced Technology Options For Congress To Consider

There is talk in the major papers of the US Congress pursuing a "compromise" climate bill. You know the drill: won't hurt the US economy (note use of pain metaphor); won't cause job loss (too late for that); won't embarrass presidential candidates in Congress; and, ideally, makes industry insiders look practical and compromising. The idea is for industry to subsume the best design ideas that we wacky TreeHugger types have been pushing for, and which present real business opportunities down the road. To which they add some of their own. And the government "mainstreams" the list. If you have a problem with that, tell your Congressman.

We think it's far too early for a real climate bill to shake out of the US Congress. But, it's certainly not too early for Congressional reps to send a message to constituents that "we're at least trying." That opens up a dialog with the people. In the interest of keeping that dialog open, what merits our immediate attention is the list of technical "interests" that industries have in whatever bill moves forward: the stuff they want to see incentives for. If it's things we like, then we can all push together to have them included. Here's a good example: what looks to be the most current list, cited directly from a study of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). [note: registration required for login at EPRI site] Note that of the 7 items, those in bold indicate the most critical items from our view.

From EPRI's perspective, it is clear that greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2, must be reduced over time. To better understand our future options, EPRI conducted a technical analysis of the potential for significant CO2 reductions from the U.S. electric power sector within the next 25-30 years.

• We first identified specific needs for research, development, deployment and demonstration of electric technologies that, if successful, would result in a low-cost, low-carbon portfolio of options with comparable economics.

• Using the Energy Information Agency Annual Energy Outlook 2007 base case as our baseline, we then calculated the CO2 reductions that would result from reasonable but aggressive deployment programs in seven specific areas:

1. Increased end-use energy efficiency in homes, buildings and industry.
2. Increased deployment of cost-effective large-scale renewable energy resources, sufficient to exceed future State renewable portfolio requirements.

3. Maintenance of the existing nuclear fleet and substantial expansion to include new advanced light-water reactors.

4. Improvement of new coal-based generation unit efficiency to reach nearly 50% by 2030 (including efficiency loss due to CO2 capture and storage).

5. Deployment of CO2 capture and storage technologies at nearly every new coal-based generation unit placed into service after 2020.
6. Expanding sales of "plug-in" hybrid electric vehicles that replace gasoline with increasingly cleaner electricity for up to 30% of their range.

7. Exchanging central-station electric generation for higher-efficiency distributed energy resources (including solar PV) for up to 5% of total load by 2030.

• The analysis indicates that no one technology is a "silver bullet"—a portfolio of technologies will be needed. However, over the coming decades it is potentially feasible for the U.S. electric sector to first slow the projected increased in CO2 emissions then to stop the increase, and eventually to decrease emissions while meeting an ever increasing demand for reliable and affordable electricity.

• The challenges to actually achieving these reductions are daunting in their scope and complexity. It will require a decade or more of very aggressive development, demonstration, and deployment of a broad portfolio of technologies to achieve the desired goal of eventually reducing carbon emissions in the electric sector.

• We expect to publish these and related findings in the peer-reviewed literature, and welcome potential reviewers and collaborators in this ongoing effort.

Via:: EPRI, "Electricity Technology in a Carbon-Constrained Future
Executive Summary", an Executive Summary
Image credit:: EPRI presentation.

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