Four complimentary policy ideas have been presented by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) which the group believes would clean up the U.S. power grid.
The first idea is a standard of 50 percent renewable energy but designed not to inhibit the goals of states with higher ambitions. Second, a continuation of the 30% investment tax credit or 2.4 percent production tax credit enjoyed by solar and wind, but expanded to include all clean energy technologies. Thirdly, there is a carbon tax, with a strong focus on both the start rate (from $15 to $55/ton) and the rate of increase.
The report, aptly titled Policy Options That Most Effectively Put Renewable Energy To Work, notes that just over 1 TW of utility-scale, electrical generation capacity is renewable (22 percent), while two-thirds of our fossil-based generation capacity. To replace this capacity by 2050 we will need around 30 GW of renewable energy per year to be deployed.
The first proposal is to set a 50 percent federal clean or zero-carbon energy standard. The technologies considered should include broad wind, solar, hydropower, ocean, tidal, hydrokinetic, geothermal, and other renewable zero-carbon resources. The timelines should comply with scientific recommendations for mitigating climate change.
For any facility that delivers clean electricity, the second guidance was for a technology-neutral tax credit, much like what wind and solar are getting. Recently proposed “Clean Energy for America Act” was highlighted by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), with support from any clean electricity facility that is at least 35 percent cleaner than the average.
The legislation also eliminates multiple incentives for fossil fuel companies, including “the cost of intangible drilling costs, percentage depletion, tertiary injection deductions, and credits for increased oil recovery and marginal oil wells.”
The authors included the aforementioned model from the University of Texas in formulating the carbon tax to give some round figures to recognize when implementing the said tax. Realize that they were not even considering coal, but we’re skipping directly to gas.
The result, and lessons learned, was that all comparative proposals reduced carbon emissions by more than 20 percent over the next 15 years – but that any of the starting amounts could end up with the biggest reduction in emissions depending on their annual growth.
The authors also suggest getting a dividend for the poor, some mathematics to ensure that local goods do not suffer against countries that do not adopt a tax of this nature, and a smarter shift with coal and gas so as not to run power plants that will be shut down by ratepayers early.
Finally, the authors say we’ve focused their time on the power grid. They note a study that found that a “large transmission network” would be most effective in achieving approximately 55 percent wind and solar penetration and a Brattle Group analysis that said that “building transmission to access high-quality but remote renewable resources is often more cost-effective than using more local but lower-quality resources.”
Still, other research indicates that the US could reach 100% renewables with a blend of over-sized solar and wind, some energy storage, and a nationwide network of HVDC transmission.