Have you ever had the feeling of struggling to articulate an idea, only to have someone else come along and make it look easy?
That’s the feeling I got reading this post from Grist’s David Roberts, laying out in just one short blog post a vision for constructing an electricity grid based on renewable energy. Just go read it.
The paradigm shift that Roberts undertakes here is to envision building a renewable energy-based grid from the bottom up, rather than trying to pound the square pegs of solar and wind power into the round holes of today’s power sources.
Within that paradigm, nuclear power looks like an increasingly silly and unnecessary investment that is incompatible with a wide-scale embrace of renewable energy, something we’ve written about recently here.
It also leads one to the right conclusions about the role of natural gas in our future energy system: we need a little bit of it for the foreseeable future to act as the glue that holds everything together, but simply replacing coal with gas is not much of a climate or environmental solution.
The one beef I have with Roberts’ piece – and it’s a tiny one – is that he ignores a couple of other key solutions: energy efficiency and “dispatchable” renewables such as concentrating solar power with thermal storage. Energy efficiency can play a key role in reducing overall demand for energy, while technologies such as concentrating solar power can do some of the “gluing” that would otherwise be done by natural gas.
But, on the whole, if you’re looking to understand how it is possible to build a future energy system without fossil fuels or nuclear power, it’s a great place to start.
Associate Director and Senior Policy Analyst, Frontier Group
Tony Dutzik is associate director and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group. His research and ideas on climate, energy and transportation policy have helped shape public policy debates across the U.S., and have earned coverage in media outlets from the New York Times to National Public Radio. A former journalist, Tony lives and works in Boston.