Proposed ‘Green New Deal’ Climate Change Policies, Feasibilities and Probable Impacts – Part 1
- Feb 20, 2019 10:08 pm GMT
Politics have clearly played a major role in addressing U.S. actions towards Climate Change. The ‘Green New Deal’, recently proposed by Congressional Democrats, appears to be the next major strategy towards reducing future U.S. carbon emissions. While part of the Green New Deal definitely has its merits, the question that needs to be more objectively addressed is: ‘Can the recently proposed Green New Deal’s Climate Change policies feasibly eliminate most U.S. carbon emissions by 2030, and do so, affordably for all current and future U.S. Residents?’.
One of the ‘Green New Deal” (GND) apparent first priority’s is transitioning the U.S. Power Sector to ‘100% Renewable Power’, with possibly some level of ‘net-zero’ carbon emissions. The GND’s next proposed steps cover effectively eliminating most carbon emissions from the U.S. Transportation, Residential/Commercial and Industrial Sectors’ in the near future.
This ‘Part 1’ post will address the feasibilities and likely costs of transitioning the Power Sector’s net electricity generation to 100% Renewables by 2030.
How Feasible is Transitioning the U.S. Power Sector to 100% Renewables by 2030?
There is increasing debate over the feasibility of converting the U.S.’s Power Section’s Fossil Fuels net power generation to 100% Renewables by about 2030 as proposed in the GND. The feasibility of this proposed Federal regulatory policy is possibly based on the fact that U.S. Power Sector’s total Renewable Power, including Hydropower, has nearly doubled 2008-2018. The major contributors have clearly been primarily increased Renewable Wind and Solar Power net generation.
The Power Sector’s ‘non-hydro’ (excluding Hydropower) Renewables currently (2018) supply 10% of total net generation; 9% Wind + Solar and 1% all other non-hydro Renewables (Biomass/Wood & Biowaste fuels, and Geothermal). Wind + Solar Power net generation has increased by an amazing 540% 2008-2018. This by far has been the largest percentage increase of all U.S. Power Sector ‘Renewables’ generation sources recently, and, will most likely be the primary/most feasible solution to achieving Power Sector’s GND 100% Renewables goal.
For a variety of reasons, many Liberals often do not support ‘zero carbon’ Nuclear Power or possibly expanding existing Hydropower. The rationalization for these positions is often based on safety and environmental impact concerns. While the significance of these concerns is definitely debatable, the future costs of achieving the GND 100% Power Sector Renewable power goal will be significantly greater without reasonably sustaining these alternative ‘zero carbon’ technologies. Even though, Renewable Wind + Solar Power has been the largest source of increased ‘zero carbon’ net power generation over the past decade, expanding these sources of Renewable Power to replace all Fossil Fuels Power generation, which currently makes up 63% of total U.S. Power Sector net generation, will be extremely challenging and most likely very costly. Arbitrarily, excluding/shutting down Nuclear Power (20% of current total Power Sector’s net generation), will most likely make expanding Wind + Solar Power by 2030 increasingly infeasible. Based on these factors, in order to possibly achieve replacing all Fossil Fuels Power generation with Renewables, primarily Wind + Solar Power, by 2030 will require sustaining most existing Nuclear & Hydropower generation plants-capacities.
Based on the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s EIA data and forecasts reports, a detailed analysis & projections were developed for the current and future Power Sectors net generation mixes. Refer to the following Table 1.
Even with basically sustaining most Nuclear + Hydropower in the future as projected by the EIA in 2030 (AEO), total Wind + Solar Power net generation definitely must be substantially increased (by over 750% 2018-2030) in order to provide future net power generation as required for displacing all the Power Sector’s fossil fuels consumptions & associated carbon emissions by 2030.
Factors that affect the Renewable Technologies that most Feasibly can Displace Fossil Fuels Power
Besides providing the vast majority of recent increases of Power Sector’s ‘Renewables’ net generation, the capital costs of Solar PV Power generation ($/KW) have declined almost by half and Wind Power somewhat significantly, in recent years. Renewables Supporters often state that future Wind and Solar Power capacity cost reductions will become increasing more cost competitive to all other sources of Power Sector generation in the future. While this $ per KW capacity cost factor has been directionally accurate (with the help of past-significant Governments’ subsidies support), what is most often over looked or not well understood are the impacts of Power Generation technologies’ actual-average ‘capacity factors’. Unlike Nuclear, Coal and most Natural Gas Power plants that have ‘maximum’ capacity factors up to 90%, variable (not-fully-controllable) Wind and Solar PV Power generation can only operate on average up to about 35% and 25% respectively; of maximum design power generation levels. In other words, when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine at maximum design-power generation rates, Wind turbines can only generate (annual average) maximum design power for (24hrs. x 0.35 =) 8.4 hrs./day, and Solar PV, (24hrs. x 0.25 =) 6 hrs./day on average per year.
Review of recent EIA data indicates that Coal and Natural Gas Power plants ‘average’ capacity factors are about 50%-70%, not up to 90% similar to Nuclear Power plants. This is true, but what is not well understood or communicated is the fact that Coal and Natural Gas Power plants average capacity factors are not based on the ‘maximum’ design levels similar to Wind or Solar Power, but are based on Power Grid’s supply-demand operations and required/controllable generation levels needed to continuously sustain Power Grids and distribution systems stabilities & reliabilities. Unlike Wind and Solar PV Power, in which maximum generation levels are normally weather related (and uncontrollable), Coal and Natural Gas Power plants lower then maximum capacity factors & generation levels are result of controlling and continuously balancing all Power Grids’ power supply-demand’s. Automatic/controlled power generation is required to basically optimizes all Grid’s Transmission & Distribution (T&D) systems’ in order to continuously maintain required power systems’ voltages, frequencies and amps levels. Also, more economic/lower cost Natural Gas Power generation has increasingly reduced the operations of many higher cost (and carbon) Coal Power in recent years; due to large reductions in natural gas market costs in recent years and expanded Power Grid’s Natural Gas Power generation capacities.
Another factor that impacts Coal and Natural Gas Power plants’ actual-average ‘capacity factors’ is properly maintaining Power Grids ‘baseload’ and on-demand or ‘peaking power’ net generation requirements, as needed by all Centralized Power Grids; 24/7 ‘on-demand’ power systems. This includes routinely maximizing the capacity factors of all variable/largely uncontrollable Wind and Solar PV Power generation by continuously adjusting Natural Gas Peaking Power generation; up and down as required to reliably operate all Power Grids. Unlike recent claims that ‘Baseload’ power generation is obsolete, and, that installation of ‘Smart Grids’ technologies and distributed power will enable solely huge expansions of variable Wind & Solar PV Power, Baseload Power generation is absolutely required for stable/reliably Power Systems’ continuous operations. The reality is that displacing all Fossil Fuels Baseload and Peaking Power net generation with variable Wind & Solar (PV) Power will actually require massive construction-installations of Industrial scale electric Power Storage. With installations of primarily chemical-batteries/Industrial grade technologies (very likely the most feasible, efficient and economic storage technology compared to other thermal/physical power storage technology options), variable Wind and Solar PV Power could feasibly displace all Baseload & Peaking Power generation currently supplied by Fossil Fuels Power Plants.
There are definitely alternative technologies to Wind Farms & Solar PV with huge Power Storage batteries. These include Solar Thermal, Coal Plants with CC&S, and other alternatives such as expanding Geothermal Power. However, based on recent histories/developments of these alternative Renewable and generally ‘net-zero’ technologies, these alternatives appear to not be as very cost competitive compared to Centralized Wind or Solar PV with Industrial scale Power Storage, currently.
Another option to substantially expanding Centralized Renewables with Power Storage technologies is possibly installing ‘Distributed Power’ systems. Examples include substantially expanding Residential & Commercial structural/buildings’ rooftop Solar PV systems, and possibly building numerous smaller Wind & hydro/water turbine systems. Yes, these options can be part of the GND solutions, but most likely not be anywhere near the scale required for 100% Power Sector Renewables. One major factor that affects the cost effectiveness of these Distributed Renewable power technologies/supplies vs. Centralize Wind + Solar PV Power is the cost per KWh net generation. Due largely to the fact that smaller roof top/distributed Solar PV panels or smaller Wind/water turbines are much less efficient and have substantially lower capacity factors than Centralized Solar PV and Wind Power Plants. This results in the capital costs of Distributed Renewables being largely uncompetitive to Centralized Wind and Solar PV Power generation farms & plants.
Probable Costs for Transitioning the U.S. Power Sector to 100% Renewables/Zero-Carbon by 2030
Assuming that the future developing GND allows sustaining current zero-carbon Nuclear and Hydropower generation as projected by the EIA AEO2019 in 2030, and with Centralized Power Grids’ Wind Farms and Solar PV Power generation plants plus adequate Power Storage, the ultimate Renewable Power solution will very likely be as documented in the above Table 1: 2030 ‘GND’.
Using recent EIA ‘levelized cost’ data (2016-18 data, adjusted for 2025 average costs) for installing an assumed 50% Wind + 50% Solar PV Power mix, with adequate Power Storage to displace all Fossil Fuels Baseload and Peaking Power generation, the cost impacts will be most likely very large. In addition to the EIA ‘levelized costs’ for Centralized Wind + Solar PV Power + Power Storage there are very significant added costs required for the new generation equipment. These include (at minimum) new/improved infrastructures for Transmission & Distribution (T&D) systems, normal T&D power system losses, numerous T&D lines connections & upgrades, and most likely, upgraded ‘Smart Grid’ technology that fully addresses mechanical reliability’s and ‘Cyber Security’. Many T&D systems’ upgrades will be needed to more effectively mitigate most weather related risks (fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.). Another major future maintenance expense will be the normal wear and limited lifespans of battery Storage Power systems, which currently must be replaced about every 10 years. Most of these cost factors are generally included in the following Table 2.
Table 2 clearly shows that to replace all Fossil Fuels Power with Renewable Wind + Solar PV Power (50/50) will cost at least $6.57 Trillion 2018-2030. This cost could significantly increase due to further possible cost increases of Wind and Solar Power equipment in the near future. Unlike past cost reductions experienced, due to Free Market driven and reasonably controllable increases in these Renewables’ Manufacturing capacities/efficiencies, the Federal Government’s GND forcing substantially increased equipment demands by over 7-fold from current (2018) production volumes, will very possibly drive costs up considerable higher in the near future due to increasingly limited equipment supplies.
If one assumes the substantial increased demand for U.S. Wind & Solar Power equipment can be met by International & National Manufacturers at the costs estimates shown in Table 2, the minimum $6.57 Trillion cost will have a substantial economic impact of all Power Companies. Whether you assume the solution is ‘Carbon Taxes’ or other alternatives, the cost impacts will most likely be placed on all U.S. electric power Consumers. In other words, Power Companies and Public Utility Commissions could likely require U.S. Consumers power purchase costs increases on the order of over 21 cents/KWh 2018-2030. This will effectively increase U.S. average power costs by 3-times the current average level of 10.5 cents/KWh, by 2030.
Is such an increase in average U.S. electric power costs reasonably affordable? Before you can more fully answer this question, I suggest reviewing my next future post “Proposed ‘Green New Deal’ Climate Change Policies, Feasibilities and Probable Impacts – Part 2”, that will next cover the GND added cost impacts on the ‘U.S. Transportation Sector’ 2018-2030.
Get Published - Build a Following
The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.
If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.