The SB 100 Pathways Project explored various options for eliminating carbon dioxide from electricity in CA by 2045 and assessed each option’s feasibility with respect to cost, reliability and security of electric supply, as well as the required rate of infrastructure deployment for each strategy. The models show that meeting this future demand reliably with resources restricted to solar, wind, battery storage would be the costliest option, up to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for all generation, storage, and transmission costs. In contrast, supplementing those technologies with any combination of clean firm power would keep costs within the range of 7 - 10 cents per kWh, comparable to today’s generation and transmission costs, reduces land area requirements by nearly 90% and new transmission by up to 75%. Clean firm power resources, including geothermal energy, biogas, nuclear energy, natural gas with carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen or other carbon-free fuels produced from net-zero carbon processes, are not weather-dependent and are available for as long as needed by electricity system operators. California should start investing in clean firm technologies today to ensure their commercial readiness and scalability in the 2030s and 2040s. If California, blessed with a wealth of renewable energy potential, needs to pursue a balanced portfolio of technology strategies including clean firm resources, other jurisdictions without as many renewable resources will be even more dependent on development of these firm resources.
Jane C.S. Long is a senior contributing scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, Visiting Researcher at UC Berkeley, Cochair of the Task Force on Geoengineering for the Bipartisan Policy Center and chairman of the California Council on Science and Technology’s California’s Energy Future committee. Her current work involves strategies for dealing with climate change including reinvention of the energy system, geoengineering and adaptation.
As Associate Director for Energy and Environment Directorate at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Dr. Long led programs in Earth System Science and Engineering, Nuclear System Science and Engineering, National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center, and the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry. From 1997 to 2003 she was the Dean of the Mackay School of Mines at the University of Nevada, Reno. She holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Brown University and Masters and PhD from U. C. Berkeley.
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