Coal Tattoo

Report: Clean energy not unreliable or too expensive

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Here’s the bottom line from a new report being issued this afternoon by the Civil Society Institute:

It is a myth that switching to safe, renewable energy would mean an unreliable U.S. power supply that also is too expensive to afford.

The report, prepared for the institute by Synapse Energy Economics, explains the benefits of a future energy system based less on coal and more on efficiency and renewables:

— Due in part to a significantly increased emphasis on energy efficiency, power sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2020 would fall 25 percent below 2010 levels; by 2050, such pollution would be 81 percent below 2010 levels. Under status quo trends, CO2 emissions would grow 28 percent from current levels by 2050.

— The steep health and environmental (including water use) impacts of coal-fired electricity are dramatically reduced and, by 2050, eliminated altogether when all such facilities are retired. For example, over 50,000 premature deaths are avoided relative to status quo trends linked to pollution from coal-fired plants.

— The construction and operation of the new power plants in the first decade would create roughly 3.1 million new job-years – the equivalent of 310,000 people employed for the entire decade.

— Natural gas use in 2050 would be reduced 28 percent from projected levels for 2050.

— By retiring about one quarter of the existing fleet of nuclear power reactors and not building any new ones, the risks associated with nuclear power generation and the nuclear fuel cycle are reduced considerably.

Civil Society Institute President Pam Solo said:

U.S. policymakers and others who assume that a safe, renewable energy future – including an end to reliance on coal-fired electric power and a sharply reduced reliance on nuclear power and natural gas – is impractical and too expensive for the U.S. to achieve are wrong. The truth is that America can and should embrace a workable and cost-effective future that is built on safe, renewable energy. Not only is it feasible and less expensive to do so, but we really have no other choice as a nation, given the concerns about coal emissions, natural gas ‘fracking,’ and nuclear reactor safety.

Synapse Energy Economics President Bruce Biewald said:

The results of our new analysis are very encouraging. We find that a transition to efficiency and renewable energy for our electricity is likely to be less expensive than the business-as-usual status quo approach. There are indications now that the cost of replacing coal with clean energy is falling. The current and projected price of coal has increased, and the price of photovoltaic systems has fallen sharply since 2009, a result of unprecedented growth in this sector globally. Further, the financial community is placing higher risk premiums on technologies with carbon emissions, making renewable energy and efficiency more attractive.