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Going carbon-free for electricity might not be as costly as imagined

December 03, 2020

Energy News:

Most of the United States’ existing fossil fuel power plant capacity will reach the end of its typical lifespan by 2035, according to new research published this week in Science.

Findings of the Dec. 4 study suggest that a deadline to decarbonize electricity by then will cost less than previously expected. The study follows on the heels of an October report from the Applied Economics Clinic and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis that found the risks of investing in natural gas plants in the PJM grid region likely outweigh the financial rewards.

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis energy analyst Dennis Wamsted, who co-authored the IEEFA-Applied Economics Report from October, said Grubert’s study in Science is an important analysis.

“This is a powerful result showing that a rapid fossil fuel phase-out is possible without undue financial implications,” Wamsted said.

One potential weakness, he said, is that the study assumed a high degree of national planning. “Given the incredibly disparate nature of the electricity sector in the U.S., this may be difficult to accomplish.” Policies and regulation take place at both the federal and state level, and there is wide variation among the states. There are also different market structures and regional grids with different market rules as well. 

[Kathiann Kowalski]

More: Study: Decarbonizing U.S. electricity by 2035 could cost less than expected

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