The Biden Administration has set a goal of reaching 100% clean electricity by 2035 and a net zero economy by 2050.
Additionally, provisions in the recently signed into law “Inflation Reduction Act” are intended to put the country on a path to reduce greenhouse gasses by 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
With these aggressive goals and government “investment,” are we hurtling toward sustainability or increased unreliability?
To say that transitioning from fossil fuel to clean energy will be a complex process is an understatement. Challenges include:
- Reduction in clean energy costs to spur widespread adoption
- Grid complexity
- Incorporating new technologies into the electric grid, such as
- Inverter-based resources (IBRs)
- Battery energy storage systems (BESS)
- Standardization of connectivity
- Material production and shortages
- Logistical issues with the supply chain
- Grid security
Rolling blackouts in Texas and California this Summer and the widespread power outage in Texas in the Winter of 2021 may be harbingers of a bumpy ride toward sustainability.
Few can argue that the occurrences mentioned above aren’t consequences of the disruptive shift from fossil fuels to green energy. Transferring to an all-electric power source pushes a higher and higher demand for electricity. Neither the grid nor the green energy technology may be ready for such a monumental shift.
Both wind and solar require battery storage so that energy can be collected for later use when the wind’s not blowing, and the sun’s not shining. Unfortunately, large-scale battery storage isn’t yet feasible. Thus, the increase in the use of wind and solar has reduced the overall reliability of the grid. A backup energy source, referred to as dispatchable power, is necessary to rectify this problem.
The most reliable and clean backup source is natural gas. However, there are catch-22s here–The Net Zero Carbon goals disincentivize investment in natural gas power. Adding a natural gas backup system for emergency use, in effect, increases the cost of solar and wind production.
Nevertheless, the Biden Administration is betting $369 Billion that it can force this transition. Only time will tell whether this has been money well-spent.