No matter your view on climate change, corporations and markets are planning for a lower-carbon future. In fact, some of the largest utility companies in the U.S. are making big bets that they can reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
But without nuclear power in the mix to produce needed energy, these bets are much less likely and will certainly be more expensive.
The question is not whether the world’s economy will shift to a low-carbon one. The question is how and when.
Here’s where things get very tricky and incredibly complicated, and a dose of humility is called for. When you hear Democrats in Congress and the party’s 2020 presidential candidates talk about their solutions to climate change, they generally focus on electricity and a “renewable” grid comprised of wind and solar power.
Much of the case for 100 percent renewable energy comes from one professor at Stanford University – Mark Jacobson. His theory includes the assumption that we can increase the amount of power from hydroelectric dams tenfold.
But according to the U.S. Department of Energy and all major studies, the real potential increase is just a tiny fraction of that. Even if this were possible, it’s not smart or humble to put all of our eggs in one basket.
I’m for renewables as part of the energy mix, but I’m not sure why the word “renewables” even matters. Aren’t we going for “clean” – meaning reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
If so, why would Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and other Democrats want to take down 55 percent of our clean energy by decommissioning all nuclear power plants by 2030?
That means replacing $60 billion of always-on power with intermittent renewables that have to be backed up by a power source when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
And to replace a 2-gigawatt nuclear plant with solar you would need the equivalent solar panel coverage of a two-lane highway from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles and back.
Democrats say that wind and solar power are cheaper than other forms of energy, but they aren’t counting the cost of backup power. This is like saying that I saved a ton of money by selling my car and riding my new bike to work – but not counting the cost of Uber when I didn’t want to get wet on rainy days or sweaty on hot ones, or when I had to make a long trip.
Jay Faison is the founder of ClearPath, whose mission is to accelerate conservative clean energy solutions. Learn more at www.clearpath.org. Follow Jay on Twitter: @JayFaison1