That will be $115 bln for clean energy, please

June 12, 2009

Yikes. Seems it ain’t easy, or at least ain’t cheap, being green.

It will cost California some $115 billion for (pretty much) hitting 33 percent renewable energy by 2020. That’s more than twice the price tag of sticking with a goal of 20 percent. The difference, according to a long-delayed report issued today by the state’s Public Utilities Commission is due to the speed of building fast. There are all sorts of other problems outlined in exquisite detail. It’s all quite handy for those trying to get a sense of just what needs to be done to go green. A lot, it seems.

When Kennedy announced the moon shot, was there this type of gnashing of teeth? Maybe no one ran the numbers ahead of time!

Pic of Mr. It’s Not Easy Being Green by Mike Segar/Reuters

2 comments

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What could be greener than taking our most abundant and affordable energy resource – coal – and making it cleaner through advanced technology?

During the America’s Power Factuality Tour, we’ve been traveling around the country talking to the people who are behind the production of cleaner electricity from coal.

That’s why we stopped by Mattoon, Ill., the proposed site of FutureGen, a public-private partnership to build the world’s first near-zero emissions coal-based power plant. Citizens and legislators are continuing to work towards the original plan – and town residents are excited, too. They understand what a great boost the plant will be to the local economy – and how much the technology will mean to the rest of the world.

Factuality Tour FutureGen

@Monica from ACCCE

I wanted to make two points around the idea of Clean Coal technology:

The first has to do with more conventional pollutants which make up a small part of the emissions stream like sulfur and other things which can be dealt with by implementing better filtration and “scrubbers” in the emissions (waste) stream of existing coal fired power plants. This is addressable with our current technology level and these technologies can be retrofitted to existing plants to make good progress towards the goal of improving the air pollution problems in the USA and other countries.

The second issue, which is being popularized in recent years, has to do with defining CO2 as a source of pollution as a “greenhouse gas”. It’s not terribly practical to sequester all the CO2 from the emissions from a coal burning power plant with current technology. The FutureGen project is in fact a pilot to prove new technological developments to sequester CO2 on a commercial scale, but is truthfully all a bit experimental. It is a worthwhile line of research but not quite “shovel ready” beyond this one experimental pilot site. There also seem to be some significant unanswered questions regarding where companies will be able to store all the CO2 once we start the process to sequester it so that it does not eventually escape into the atmosphere after all the effort to prevent that from happening. Also there is a question of if it will be practical to retrofit the technology being developed to older coal burning plants as portions of the clean coal technology depend on special geographic features to store the CO2 underground.

I don’t have all the answers but I am concerned that it’s not all as easy or straightforward as Monica from ACCCE (American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity) seems to make it sound in her post. That being said, it also seems inescapable that coal will play a major role in providing power in the USA for many years to come given the fact that we have such an abundant supply of it and there is really not any good alternative that can be implemented quickly on the scale with which we use coal today.

Kind regards,

Joel
A Concerned Citizen

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