Is Natural Gas A Renewable Energy Source – To increase the use of renewable energy, we need new methods of storage and transport, efficient production and prices that cover the hidden cost of electricity.
Electricity is produced from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydropower. In 2018, the US got about 17% of its electricity from renewable sources. Instead, the country got 35% of its electricity from natural gas, as it is the cheapest source of energy in many areas.
) instead of burning more coal. But natural gas produces more pollution than renewable sources. Some natural gas leaks into the atmosphere from wells, storage tanks, pipelines and production facilities, even as the oil and natural gas industry tries to stop it. In 2017, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimated that such leaks are responsible for a third of US emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. About 4% of all US greenhouse gas emissions come from this fall. This makes natural gas a major contributor to climate change.
Electric power generation facilities in the United States in 2018. (Items do not add to 100% due to independent rounding.) Credit
Renewable energy has grown exponentially. For example, the amount of energy produced by solar power increased by more than 100% from 2014 to 2018, although it is still a small part of the electricity generation pie. At the same time, wind power increased by 46%.
Another thing is money. Some forms of renewable energy, such as wind power and utility-scale solar power, are already cheaper than natural gas in some areas. But price comparisons vary by country. Technological advances can lower the cost of renewables by helping them produce more electricity. For example, a joint research project is working to combine two different types of solar technology into a single technology that can produce energy at a lower cost than either technology.
Adjusting electricity prices to more accurately reflect their costs. Currently, utility prices and energy bills do not reflect the costs that energy sources impose on human health and the environment. For example, they do not cover the cost of respiratory diseases caused by air pollution or the contribution of energy sources to climate change.
Because these “hidden” costs are not reflected in energy prices, businesses and consumers may not know the full range of their options. If market prices change to reflect these hidden costs—for example, if lawmakers impose pollution taxes or issue pollution permits that power plants can buy and sell—the price of natural gas and coal will rise. The cost of other renewable energies, such as biomass and geothermal, will also increase, but to a lesser extent. Overall, the price differential will narrow and reduce the incentives to choose fossil fuels.
It’s hard, but it can be done. For example, a 2010 report by the National Research Council analyzed a sample of 498 natural gas-fired power plants that accounted for 71% of gas-fired electricity in the United States. In 2005, a panel of reports estimated that these plants generated about $740 million in human health and environmental costs.
The estimate does not include climate change damage – the economic costs caused by temperature changes and sea level rise. However, it is difficult to attach an exact dollar figure to these hidden costs because they will be out for a long time and their size is still uncertain.
Private money shows failure in energy markets. When a market failure occurs, there may be an opportunity for the government to intervene through legislation, taxation or trade sanctions to release hidden capital. Thus, companies and consumers can think for themselves when making decisions.
Of course, tax laws and regulations also affect the use of energy sources, especially wind and solar. The central government currently provides tax incentives for investment and production in many renewable energy sources. And some countries require the use of renewable sources. For example, 29 countries have adopted measures that require a certain amount of electricity consumed in the state to come from renewable or zero-carbon sources.
Improved accessibility. While natural gas can generate electricity on demand, electricity generation from wind and solar varies with the weather and the time of day. This presents a problem because people still need electricity on calm or cloudy days and at night. We need energy storage that can store wind or solar energy for later use. Other storage technologies are available – pumped storage, which uses energy to pump water into a hydroelectric reservoir and then pumps the water through a turbine when electricity is needed. New battery technologies are also beginning to be used. Shifting excess electricity from renewable sources to alternative fuels such as hydrogen is another conservation option.
Yes. In the United States, many places where solar and wind are distributed are far from the big cities that need the electricity. Transporting renewable energy from the places where it is produced to the places where it is used is a big problem.
Providing more electricity – and doing it right – will be key to overcoming this barrier and helping renewables find greater use. New technologies such as high-voltage direct current and the use of superconducting materials are improving transmission efficiency. However, policy issues and the siting of new transmission lines remain an obstacle for many new transportation projects.
Of course, the integration of “smart grid” technologies into the power grid will make its overall operation more flexible and efficient. This allows for greater use of renewable sources. For example, smart meters can integrate demand-based energy pricing for electricity, allowing utilities to better predict electricity demand and production. Smart grid technology includes monitors and controls that help better manage energy sources and storage technologies. This month, we aim to add 5,000 new people to our community of readers who support our commitment to freedom. With a cash donation at the end of the month. Will you help us reach our goal by donating today? x
Across the country, many cities and states have passed laws or ordinances targeting 100 percent carbon-free electricity — most recently 20 communities in Utah and Virginia.
But is it possible to run today’s economy with a carbon-free grid? So what are the best strategies and techniques to get there?
These questions have been a source of heated debate for years, but have moved closer to mainstream political conversation since the introduction of the Green New Deal. (For a brief introduction to the terms and actors involved in the Clean Energy 100 debate, see here and here.)
There is now a growing list of places facing tighter emissions targets in the coming years and urgently needing solutions. Let’s discuss California’s most notable rule and the new technology that will help it reach its 100 percent goal.
First, let’s look at the problem that can be solved: the problem that comes with electricity that usually runs on renewable energy.
The main problem is diversity. While fossil fuel power generation can be scaled up or down to meet demand (which translates to “dispatchable”), large sources of power generation—solar, wind, and water (hydropower)—cannot. They come and go in the order of nature. The sun sets every evening and on cloudy days. Wind and precipitation vary from day to day and from season to season. All three show long-term differences over years and even decades.
To a certain extent, sun, wind and water balance each other; When it’s not sunny, it’s often windy. With good transmission infrastructure, renewables can provide as much as 60 percent, perhaps 80 percent of U.S. electricity.
But what? Coal plants emit carbon, so they cannot be part of a clean grid. Nuclear plants are not good at filling the gap – they are big, slow and expensive to get up and down. (Though nuclear proponents claim they are better than they are given credit for.)
In practice, many places in the US (such as California) have high penetration of renewable energy and fill the gaps with natural gas plants, which are smaller and faster than coal or nuclear plants. But natural gas is a fossil fuel, and unless its production is captured and buried, it cannot be part of a net-zero carbon grid.
Is there a carbon free way to fill the holes? This is where the controversy comes in. Some renewable energy advocates argue that the gaps can be filled by energy storage, which currently means mainly batteries. But getting to 100 means paying for the expected decline over seasons or even decades in renewables, which means more batteries. Others, who do not have cheap energy storage, can store more energy for a longer period of time, making it cheaper.
Some believe this means 100% clean electricity is impossible. Some use this to argue that smaller nuclear power plants are needed. Some argue that coal or natural gas plants should go online, with emissions captured and buried, or biomass power generation.
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