Monday, February 8, 2016

Wind power and solar power are ways to reduce carbon emissions, but these generation sources are dependent on the vagaries of the weather, which means neither wind nor solar can produce electricity on-demand at all hours of the day. This variability has led many to assume that greatly expanding wind and solar to reduce carbon emissions will cause electricity costs to skyrocket and require expensive energy storage.
My colleagues and I have just published a new study to show that this assumption is not correct. In fact, if the U.S. were to move to a national 48-state electric system, rather than the regional one in place now, the country would be able to transport more renewable energy around the country. That change could reduce CO2 by 78 percent at lower costs than today without using any storage technologies.

Using a computer model, we found that this larger electric system would utilize power more efficiently regardless of the generators within it. The cost reduction between the national style system we modeled and the current one, which is divided into about 130 regions, is US$47 billion per year. That translates into an electricity cost of between 8.5 and 10.2¢ per kilowatt-hour (kWh), compared to the current national average of 12.7 cents per kWh.