A fully renewable power grid will cost $4.5 trillion, report suggests

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Nicholas Yekikian

According to a new report by Wood Mackenzie, an energy and renewables research and consultancy group, a full decarbonization of the US power grid would cost the $4.5 trillion, given the current state of technology. The $4.5 trillion would fully cover everything needed to produce and deliver clean, fully-renewable energy to customers. That’s nearly as much money as has been spent on the war on terror over the last 18 years.

In October of last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued an updated report on climate change that gave the world 12 years to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the face of severe climate. Since then, former Prime Minister of the UK Theresa May has updated the UK’s goal of reducing emissions from 80% to 100%, and the Green New Deal has become a hot-button issue among politicians in the United States.

The WoodMac report observed that, today, no large scale power infrastructure in the world operates with more than 30% of its energy coming from fully renewable sources like wind and solar. The report goes on to say that getting 25% of an electrical grid powered by renewables is relatively simple, but going beyond that extends the price and complexity of the task exponentially. Essentially, the more a large power grid tries to create power from renewables, the pricier it gets, in part due to the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources.

A lot of countries have set goals of heavily reducing their carbon emissions by the year 2030, but WoodMac estimates that countries with aggressive 2030 targets are going to have to work overtime to reach those goals. The report says that “aggressive climate policies with 2030 targets will require more capacity to be built every single year over the next 11 years than what has been installed collectively over the past two decades. Assuming the capital costs for W+S continue to fall, this represents a cost of roughly US$1.5 trillion.”

The report concluded that a power system run off of fully renewable energy is still a “largely aspirational goal,” but still attainable, “given a reasonable time horizon to allow for technology development, regulatory realignment and socio-economic reforms.”

You can check out the full report here

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