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Friday, February 20, 2009

Obama Must Stop Dirty Coal -- But What Will He Replace it With?

A year ago I wrote a post "Old coal’s out, can’t wait for new nukes, so what do we do NOW?" where I hypothesized:
Suppose the leaders of this country were wise enough to put a moratorium on traditional coal (the most urgent climate policy needed, as discussed here)? How will we meet our steadily growing demand for carbon-free power over the next decade? And to get on the 450 ppm path, we don’t just need to stop U.S. emissions from rising -- we should return to 1990 levels (or lower) by 2020.
Well, we now appear to have leaders that wise (see "Obama EPA to act on global warming emissions from new coal plants"). And we need real reductions by the end of next decade (see "The U.S. needs a tougher 2020 GHG emissions target").

EFFICIENCY: Energy efficiency is the cheapest alternative (see "Energy efficiency is THE core climate solution, Part 1: The biggest low-carbon resource by far"). California has cut annual peak demand by 12 GW - and total demand by about 40,000 GWh -- through a variety of energy efficiency programs over the past three decades. Over their lifetime, the cost of efficiency programs has averaged 2-3¢ per kW. If every American had the per capita electricity of California, we’d cut electricity use some 40%. If the next president aggressively pushes a nationwide effort to embrace efficiency and change regulations to encourage efficiency, then we could keep electricity demand close to flat through 2020.

WIND: Wind has been growing at a staggering pace (see "U.S. becomes the global wind leader"). And its potential for growth is even greater (see "ITC to build $12 billion in wind farm power lines, JCSP study finds $50+B savings from 20% wind").

CSP: Concentrated solar power I have previously written about at length (see "Concentrated solar thermal power -- a core climate solution"). It has come roaring back after more than a decade of neglect with more than a dozen providers building projects in two dozen countires (see "CSP update" and, more recently, "CSP outshines ‘clean coal’ -- and it always will").


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