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100% Clean Electricity by 2035?

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John Benson's picture
Senior Consultant Microgrid Labs

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Microgrid Labs, Inc. Advisor: 2014 to Present Developed product plans, conceptual and preliminary designs for projects, performed industry surveys and developed...

  • Member since 2013
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  • Sep 29, 2022

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Mitigating climate change is important, really important, and the sooner, the better. The first major step in this process is converting our electricity to 100% greenhouse gas (GHG) free generation. This is because all other major producers of GHG plan to use electricity as their future energy-source in lieu of their current GHG-producing methods. As an example, all types of vehicles will need to evolve to either use electricity directly or use GHG-free fuels (like hydrogen) that are produced with electric energy and/or carbon capture and sequestration. This is a process that will take several decades to reach zero-net-GHG, so it is good that we have already started and the sooner we can make electricity zero-GHG, the less GHG we will pump into the atmosphere.

My home state (California) has an official goal of reaching zero GHG electricity by 2045. However a recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “Examining Supply-Side Options to Achieve 100% Clean Electricity by 2035,” suggests that the 2035 goal is achievable.

This post will examine the possibility of achieving net-zero GHG energy by 2035.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 29, 2022

John-- what's your opinion on the benchmark being 100% clean energy by a given year. It's great marketing and it's snappy, but it introduces doubt about the last 5% or so. Would utilities be better off setting targets for 90% clean energy and simply focusing on that, not putting the 10% cart before the 90% horse? 

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Sep 30, 2022

Yes this sounds good BUT I don't consider H2 or Nuclear Clean or Renewable. Some consider 100% Renewable impossible. So ask Elon Musk for his plan.  Or I can move to Iceland= QUOTE- In 2018 the Icelandic Government outlined ambitious plans to be carbon-neutral by 2040 and is set to become the first fossil-fuel free country in the world by 2050. Icelandic expertise lies in four main areas: hydropower, geothermal energy, power transmission systems, and carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS).May 25, 2021

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Oct 3, 2022

The planet’s climate is controlled by energy from the sun and the complex, chaotic processes that transfer the energy around the globe, generally towards the poles.

CO2 involves a minor sliver of the sun’s energy and is a very minor fraction of the earths’s atmosphere.

Claims that man can direct the planet’s future climate by controlling CO2 are not supported by fundamental considerations while also being practically impossible. Further, spending tens-of-trillions of dollars in pursuit of “zero carbon” while impoverishing hundreds of millions of the planet’s population is inherently cruel.

The hysterical overreaction to CO2 is essentially driven by greed and a religious like fervor decoupled from reality.

We have obvious examples of the massive economic destruction caused by over reliance on green energy; e.g. California and Germany.

Enough of the mindless kneeling before the green energy altar. Deploy energy based on the common sense, namely: reliable, reasonably clean, and reasonably affordable.

Dump “100% green energy” into the trash bin where the irrational idea belongs.

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Oct 4, 2022

Hi guys, thanks for the comments.

Matt: our (California's) current goal is 90% by 2035 (see near the Intro of this paper, near the end). While I agree the last 5% to 10% will be very difficult, since our generation is very diverse, and we allow the use of offsets (like negative emission technology), I believe we have at least a reasonable chance of making the 2035 goal.

Jim: Everyone has a different definition of what is renewable is and isn't, but I'm more interested in the direct carbon emissions of each source when generating power. Thus, I generally use "very low greenhouse gas (GHG)" generation rather than "renewable."

Michael: I agree that our climate is extremely complex and climate science is more so. I would suggest you read the post linked below. I originally posted this in 2018 but keep updating it (most recently last year).


John Benson's picture
John Benson on Oct 5, 2022

I posted my responses below yesterday in a screaming panic (late for an appointment). I just checked and I didn't see the link to the paper in Michael's response, so I'm posting it below.


Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on Oct 5, 2022

It's a noble goal, but it won't be easy. In New England we have a critical dependency on Natural Gas for electricity production and there are similar state goals to reduce GHG, that aren't as ambitious as CA, but they are similar.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Oct 6, 2022

Fundamentals of mathematics and computer computation do not support the veracity of the climate models. These models attempt to solve a vast number of highly non-linear partial differential equations allegedly  modeling the planet’s extremely complex and chaotic climate. Thousands of variables are involved. Numerous completely different solutions emerge, which is a characteristic of non-linear partial differential equations. Change a variable, and even more numerous solutions emerge.

Averaging the results of the models is nonsensical because the the models are intrinsically mathematically improper. Crudely put, averaging crap still results in crap.

The brutal truth is we have no ability to precisely predict the planet’s distant climate. The best that can be said is the climate will probably be similar to the past.

Claiming that man can control CO2 emissions is completely beyond any practical reality. Further claiming that CO2 controls the climate is not supported by fundamental considerations involving the sun’s energy and the extremely complicated processes that move heat around the globe.



John Benson's picture
John Benson on Oct 11, 2022

Hi Michael:

Thanks for the comment.

I almost agree with you. I study the climate enough to know what you say is essentially true, but we must never stop attempting to move in a positive direction. In this case doing everything we can to reduce human caused GHG emissions. Also, to improve our understanding of Earth's climate. Although it may take many decades to accurately model a system as complex as our climate, there are many developments in computer science that give me hope. One of these is described in the earlier post linked below.

The alternative is to casually accept many millions of deaths of humans and other species. 

I read many things that are not directly related to my writing. One rather large book that I'm currently reading is "The Rise and Reign of The Mammals" by Steve Brusatte. Among many other things, Steve explores many mass-extinctions. Only one of these was caused by a big rock from space. Most of them (like the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum) were caused by excessive GHG (mainly emitted by volcanic events). I hope we able to avoid another mass-extinction caused by us.


John Benson's picture
Thank John for the Post!
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