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Plan to Zero – Load Growth (#8)

Doug Houseman's picture
Visionary and innovator in the utility industry and grid modernization, Burns & McDonnell

I have a broad background in utilities and energy. I worked for Capgemini in the Energy Practice for more than 15 years. During that time I rose to the position of CTO of the 12,000 person...

  • Member since 2017
  • 255 items added with 91,697 views
  • Jan 10, 2023

Follow up to the ongoing 'Plan to Zero' articles:


42 percent more electricity to electrify transportation

45 percent more electricity to decarbonize buildings

10 percent more electricity to change industrial processes to electricity

21 percent more electricity to re-shore manufacturing

In all 220% of what we used in 2021 by 2050 to meet our goals for a carbon neutral economy.


Today we have wind and solar that have been built over 20+ years that add up to 12 percent of our current needs. That becomes 5.5 percent of what we need in 2050.

Even if we do energy efficiency and chop 20% off the total, we need to still double electric generation, transportation, and distribution by 2050.

And because those needs are uneven, in some locations we may have to do nothing, and in others it may be at 3 to 20 times improvement in the grid.

Demand response and proper placement of storage can help with, but not solve the grid infrastructure issues. Locations like New York City and Boston have a real issue once centralized fossil generation go away. I would not be surprised if both cities are paying over $1 per kWh because of transmission and distribution congestion issues (in today’s dollars) by 2040.

It will take serious changes in permitting for transmission and storage in New York, as well as massive near shore wind farms or new nuclear plants to prevent these kinds of issues.

OBTW when I said in 2004 that the cost of the transition would be north of $20 trillion, I was told I was wrong too.

Other cities face similar issues, too many people and too much energy use, in too small a land area to make power locally.

Even a community like Ann Arbor, MI can't make enough power within the city limits to supply what will be a 75MW peak winter load.


Next is how do we trim our current energy use by between 30 and 40% so that we achieve the 20% overall reduction.

The assumption on the new load is it will all be energy efficient as possible. So the majority of the energy efficiency needs to come out of our current loads (appliances, buildings, etc.)

Otherwise, we must build 20 % more generation in total (~40% of current).


Finally, there is the issue of land area to put generation on, the reality of it is that we are building solar for fun and profit, not for energy production today. If we were building for maximum production we would only build in Arizona and New Mexico.

The reality is we can get 2 units of energy in Arizona for every 1 that we get in Minnesota from a solar installation.

In a plan we really need to focus on the best places to get production, and then build the transmission to the load, or get the load to migrate to the good generation locations (then sort out how to move the people, food and water to those locations).

If we cover 100% of Arizona in solar we would produce about 50% of our current annual usage or 20% of what we need in 2050. 


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