Friday, October 03, 2008

Clean Energy 2030: Google's Proposal for Reducing U.S. Dependence on Fossil Fuels

by Jeffery Greenblatt
October 1, 2008

Right now we have a real opportunity to transform our economy from one running on fossil fuels to one largely based on clean energy. Technologies and know-how to accomplish this are either available today or are under development. We can build whole new industries and create millions of new jobs. We can cut energy costs, both at the gas pump and at home. We can improve our national security. And we can put a big dent in climate change. With strong leadership we could be moving forward on an aggressive but realistic time-line and an approach that offsets costs with real economic gains.

The energy team at Google has been analyzing how we could greatly reduce fossil fuel use by 2030. Our proposal - "Clean Energy 2030" - provides a potential path to weaning the U.S. off of coal and oil for electricity generation by 2030 (with some remaining use of natural gas as well as nuclear), and cutting oil use for cars by 38%. Al Gore has issued a challenge that is even more ambitious - getting us to carbon-free electricity even sooner - and we hope the American public pushes our leaders to embrace it. T. Boone Pickens has weighed in with an interesting plan of his own to massively deploy wind energy, among other things. Other plans have also been developed in recent years that merit attention.

Our goal in presenting this first iteration of the Clean Energy 2030 proposal is to stimulate debate and we invite you to take a look and comment - or offer an alternative approach if you disagree. With a new Administration and Congress - and multiple energy-related imperatives - this is an opportune, perhaps unprecedented, moment to move from plan to action.

Our proposal will allow us to reduce from the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) current baseline for energy use:
* Fossil fuel-based electricity generation by 88%
* Vehicle oil consumption by 38%
* Dependence on imported oil (currently 10 million barrels per day) by 33%
* Electricity-sector CO2 emissions by 95%
* Personal vehicle sector CO2 emissions by 38%
* US CO2 emissions overall by 48% (40% from today's CO2 emission level)
We can achieve these results in 2030 by:
* Deploying aggressive end-use electrical energy efficiency measures to reduce demand 33%. Baseline EIA demand is projected to increase 25% by 2030. In addition, the increase in plug-in vehicles (see below) increases electricity demand another 8%. Thus, our efficiency reductions keep demand flat at the 2008 level.
* Replacing all coal and oil electricity generation, and about half of that from natural gas, with renewable electricity:
--- 380 gigawatts (GW) wind: 300 GW onshore + 80 GW offshore
--- 250 GW solar: 170 GW photovoltaic (PV) + 80 GW concentrating solar power (CSP)
--- 80 GW geothermal: 15 GW conventional + 65 GW enhanced geothermal systems (EGS)
* Increasing plug-in vehicles (hybrids & pure electrics) to 90% of new car sales in 2030, reaching 42% of the total US fleet that year
* Increasing new conventional vehicle fuel efficiency from 31 to 45 mpg in 2030
* Accelerating the turnover of the vehicle fleet from 19 to 13 years (resulting in 25 million new vehicle sales per year in 2030, a 31% increase over the baseline)
The financial bottom line:
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.
A number of actions will be required to realize the Clean Energy 2030 proposal:
Renewable electricity
* A long-term national commitment to renewable electricity (e.g. national renewable portfolio standard, carbon price, long-term tax credits and incentives, etc.)
* Adequate transmission capacity (to support about 450 GW targeting mostly Great Plains and coasts for wind, and desert southwest for concentrating solar power)
* Adequate grid resources to manage large-scale intermittent generation
* Public and private renewable energy R&D and investment to achieve cost parity with fossil generation in next several years

Energy efficiency
* Long-term commitment to energy efficiency by the federal government and states (e.g, national efficiency standard, aggressive appliance standards and building codes, "decoupling" of utility profits from sales, incentives for energy efficiency investments)
* Deployment of a "smart" electricity grid that empowers consumers and businesses to manage their electricity use more effectively

Personal vehicles
* Public policies supporting the accelerated deployment of fuel-efficient vehicles, e.g. higher fuel efficiency standards for conventional vehicles, financial incentives to remove older vehicles from the fleet and encourage efficient (especially plug-in) vehicle purchases, special electricity rates for "smart charging", and greater R&D
* Investment in infrastructure necessary to support massive deployment of plug-ins including charging stations and development of new power management hardware and software
All of the above will require a sufficient and well-trained work force and manufacturing capacity to meet projected growth.

©2008 Google


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