A month ago, Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave a speech outlining a plan for (nearly) eliminating fossil fuels from the US electrical grid in 20 years, stating that it would be a $2.7 trillion dollar effort. Anyone interested in a better energy future would like to hear Eric give this talk in person. (Another slide show to turn into a movie???) Google announced Clean Energy 2030 formally on 1 October with a focus on three core elements:
Not a bad focus, in terms of changing the energy picture in the United States — not just in electricity but in driving down personal transportation reliance on fossil fuel.
Clean Energy 2030 was put up as a Google “Knol” and is already generating some quite thoughtful commentary. There is much to seize on and support in this proposal. But, as is stated there,
Our goal in presenting this first iteration of the Clean Energy 2030 proposal is to stimulate debate
This is a “first iteration” and it merits “debate”. Hopefully, Eric Schmidt and Google will consider putting resources to bring attention to their viable concepts like T Boone Pickens has put into promoting the ‘Good, Bad, Ugly’ Pickens’ Plan.
Now, something to note, the price has gone up in a month. Eric Schmidt said “$2.7 trillion” as to price tag. Clean Energy 2030, according to its summary, would have a price tag of $4.4 trillion, in 2008 dollars. That over 50 percent increase in just one month is rapid price growth, even by government standards. But, far more importantly,
Although the cost of the Clean Energy 2030 proposal is significant (about $4.4 trillion in undiscounted 2008 dollars), savings are even greater ($5.4 trillion), returning a net savings of $1.0 trillion over the 22-year life of the plan.
And that profitability occurs even though it looks as if some quite significant value streams (health, productivity) might not be accounted for in the discussion.
Anyway, for a quick overview …
Clean Energy 2030 seeks to drive coal out of the US electrical grid through a serious (and clearly achievable) move toward energy efficiency: 33 percent of efficiencies against the base case of growing power use by 2030.
Second, a quite serious effort to drive renewable energy. Wind power from 20 gigawatts today to 380 gigawatts of faceplate capacity in 2030 (or 29% of demand). Solar (both PV and CSP) from about 1 GW today to 250 in 2030 (or about 12% of demand). And, geothermal from 2.4 GW to 80 GW (or about 15% of demand — note that geothermal is closer to baseload and its 24/7 means meeting a greater percentage of demand for the same nameplate capacity). In addition, Clean Energy 2030 has nuclear power, hydro, and biomass/municipal waste production. The estimate: 90% of US electrical demand met, with the remaining 10% coming from natural gas (half of NG’s portion of electricity today).
When it comes to energy efficiency, the basic target: maintaining a flat level of electricity demand, even as driving even more of the light-vehicle fleet to plugs (both plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs)).
The plan is a reasonable first start and definitely worth a look. Unlike T Boone Pickens, who sometimes seems like he can’t be force to say the word, energy efficiency is core to the plan — it is holistic with a mix of new energy, changing transportation mixes, and a broad swath of renewable energy options.
There a broad swatch of gaps in the plan, as its authors understand:
We have chosen to focus on the electricity and personal vehicle sectors because these are areas where we currently are working.
And, they provide some examples of gaps after that. Here are some additional gaps that merit inclusion:
1. What are the health care (and other) benefits from reduced coal/other fossil fuel emissions? Are you valuing, in benefits, the reduced asthma, cancer, etc positive implications due to this reduced pollution?
2. There are very large productivity implications (back to the health) from greeing spaces, greening schools, etc … Are the economic impacts from such ‘green’ productivity improvements accounted for in this discussion?
In any event, Clean Energy 2030 merits further attention and discussion … which I plan on giving it in the coming days.