Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Obama’s Advisers Just Dismantled a Key Myth About the Future of Clean Energy

Solar panels are shown at a MASH-funded housing project in National City, California. (Credit: Reuters file photo) Click to Enlarge.
Can we really attain far higher levels of renewables, and still get everybody power when they want and need it? Without suggesting it will necessarily be easy — or that we can entirely do away with “baseload” power sources like nuclear any time soon — what’s so striking is to find that Obama’s advisers think that, thanks to the burgeoning growth of grid batteries and other technologies that can help integrate variable energy streams, the answer is yes.

In the process they’re subtly undermining one of the key arguments made by defenders of coal and also sometimes nuclear — that renewables cannot compete with the steady output of baseload electricity from these long established sources.

“What they’re getting at here is that these things are growing rapidly, and there isn’t a hindrance to higher penetration of renewables,” says Matt Roberts, executive director of the Energy Storage Association, an industry group that welcomed a White House rollout of the CEA report, other related battery-focused announcements, and an energy storage summit late last week.  “There’s not some artificial cliff that says, ‘Okay, if we hit 30 percent, or whatever other magic number we decide, that renewables are un-viable.”

Through new administration moves and paired announcements by industry and utility companies, the expected upshot of the new initiatives is “at least 1.3 gigawatts of additional storage procurement or deployment in the next five years,” the White House said.

The Council of Economic Advisers report amounts to the intellectual backup for these endeavors.  It finds that two key trends — managing the grid’s electricity requirements at a given time through innovations such as “demand response,” and a greater proliferation of batteries and other energy storage technologies — can substantially ameliorate the very real problems caused by the variability of wind and solar and “support further increases” in the deployment of these electricity sources.

Read more at Obama’s Advisers Just Dismantled a Key Myth About the Future of Clean Energy

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