Report: Clean energy not unreliable or too expensive

November 16, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr.

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.

10 Responses to “Report: Clean energy not unreliable or too expensive”

  1. Dianne Bady says:

    It is often said that energy efficiency and renewable energy will never be sufficient to provide the electricity needed by our nation. Yet I heard from one of the experts releasing this study, that there is no empirical evidence to support this common claim.

    This study incorporates the current lowered costs for technologies such as photovoltaic solar, and increased costs for fossil fuels, to demonstrate that over time, a transition to clean renewable energy sources IS possible, coupled with strong energy efficiency measures.

    WV Public Energy Authority recently announced that the state will be spending $40 million to improve energy efficiency in government buildings.
    This is a good step in the right direction!

  2. Casey says:

    They certainly make the renewable option look painless and easy. The last report I read on getting 20% of our energy from wind involved billions of dollars in infrastucture and something like 23,000 miles of transmission lines. PATH had what 250 miles and how did that go over?

  3. unbiased2 says:

    Contrary to your shameful inferences, the white smoke stack plume is only water vapor.

    And, the black looking fog is just that—fog.

    You must be honest to earn credibility.

  4. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    Please share the title and author or a link to the study you’re quoting.


  5. Ted Boettner says:

    As we’ve discussed before, there is no ‘free market’ in coal, oil, or gas production. These industries would not be where they are today without the so-called nanny state subsidizing them every step of the way. And that’s fine. But why not give renewables an even playing field?

  6. Mark says:

    I’m glad all of this is classified as a blog with all the opinion and picking and choosing of ‘experts’ and ‘studies’ to support your position.

  7. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    I don’t believe I wrote that the authors of this report were “experts” … that term was used by another reader in a comment …

    But if you have some specific criticisms of this report, please do share them with us and if you have links to other reports that offer other information or differing views, please share those as well.

    By the way, we did a print story about this report as well. … Ken.

  8. Casey says:

    Here’s the wind study link:

    It states: “The eastern United States could get 20 or even 30 percent of its electricity from wind by 2024, but it would cost up to $175 billion and wouldn’t take a big bite out of greenhouse gas emissions without a price on carbon” and “on-shore wind, mainly in the Midwest, has the lowest cost, $140 billion. But this scenario also has the highest transmission costs, $93 billion, mainly due to 22,697 miles of extra high-voltage lines”.

  9. Ellen says:

    If energy production were more localized, it would seem that we would not have to shell out the $$ for the high transmission costs. Germany’s goal is to turn every house into a producer of energy (even if it’s not the total amount the house consumes), and use local energy sources. Combine solar films on every available roof, wind, and battery storage for every home, people can choose when to use electricity with smart meters that tell you how much you are using and how much the electric costs at any given moment … seems like a winner. We have small local co-ops here in upstate NY and people want to live in those towns (which rely on hydro-electric or wind) because the electric is less expensive. So, take it to the next step. We really should be following in Germany’s footsteps … or better yet … become a leader. How many jobs would be provided if we localized our energy?

  10. Brent says:

    Ellen, I agree with you 100%. The wave of the future is to localize energy, use smart technology, better home construction. Larger power sources may still be required for large metro areas, however there are still plenty of options.

    We are still the leader in innovation of new technologies, it just takes us forever to implement those innovations because corporations control the stopcock. What we do best is make the rich richer and corporations more powerful because the general public is too ignorant or easily duped into believing whatever they want them too.

Leave a Reply