The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

In an Age of Compromise, Will Clean Energy Become Dirty?

Based on the actions of a very active lame duck Congress last month, we could be moving into a new age of compromise. By crossing both sides of the aisle, President Barack Obama was able to pass comprehensive tax legislation, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the START nuclear arms reduction agreement in the final weeks of the outgoing Congress.

As witnessed, compromise can be a very positive and productive thing. But it also has its dark side, where compromise is so skewed it ends up achieving the opposite of what most everyone hoped for or intended. Many point to the Obama healthcare plan as a classic example of where neither side is happy with the end result. Could the same happen for clean energy?

Moving into the 112th Congress, we could see a new age where “clean energy” becomes increasingly “dirty.” There are growing calls not for a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS), but a so-called clean energy standard that includes clean coal and nuclear power along with renewables. In our book The Clean Tech Revolution and in our work at Clean Edge, senior editor Clint Wilder and I have made a strong case for not including these technologies in the clean-tech taxonomy. 

But an “all of the above” approach to our energy future may very well be in the offing. The Chinese have been pursuing this approach, spending more on solar PV, wind power, and electric vehicles than just about any other country (and reaping leadership benefits along with their investments), while also supporting the advancement of clean coal and nuclear. It’s not a bad approach, and has worked very well for the Chinese, but is it the right one for the U.S.?

Only One State RPS Includes Nuclear

In our recently released U.S. Clean Energy Leadership Index, Clean Edge tracks states on more than 80 technology, policy, and capital indicators, including RPS. And the states take a pretty clear view on how they feel about nuclear as part of a clean-energy future. Of the 29 states with an RPS, only one, Ohio, includes nuclear. Nuclear containment issues and waste storage problems all weigh heavily on the minds of local residents, not to mention greater overall public support for the expansion of renewables over conventional sources.

Arizona, for example, aided by the adamant voice of the state’s solar industry and others, recently put a stop to legislation that would have allowed existing nuclear and hydro facilities to count towards the state’s RPS – which would have effectively killed any incentive to install new renewables.

One of the other big issues facing nuclear power is that you’re always just one accident away from broad social rejection of the technology. People forget about the latest pipeline explosion or the latest coal mine accident, but they don’t do that with nuclear power accidents. This makes the wide-scale adoption of nuclear all the more difficult and potentially impractical.

But let’s face it. Candidate Obama wasn’t against nuclear or clean coal, so we shouldn’t expect much different from President Obama. And his Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, has been vocal in his support of nuclear power, stating that he doesn’t see a way out of our current energy mess sans nukes (see our rebuttal to that here). So the idea of a clean-energy standard that includes both nuclear and clean coal isn’t at all far-fetched. It is an increasingly likely reality.

But we can do better.

China may need to pursue nuclear and clean coal along with its leadership role in renewables, electrified transportation, and efficiency. But the U.S., with its more advanced existing infrastructure and smaller projected demand growth, doesn’t have to. We could be one of the first nations in the world to wean itself off of coal and nuclear while replacing these volatile sources of energy with a combination of cleaner options. Recently, the state of Oregon decided to shutter its only coal plant by 2020, by ratcheting up renewables and efficiency, along with some base-load natural gas. This could be achieved across our entire country.

If we do end up with a broad federal clean-energy policy that includes clean coal and nuclear, then let’s be sure it’s structured so that states can say no to these technologies. Let California, Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington, and others pursue their own strategies to reach low-carbon goals.  There’s a reason why so many states have chosen not to include nuclear and clean coal in their targets, and the feds should stay out of the way on this one.

Like many others, I believe that solar, wind, geothermal, smart grid, electric vehicles, and conservation and efficiency, along with intelligent use of conventional sources like natural gas, represent our energy future. Let’s not get distracted by expensive, polluting, volatile, and resource-intensive alternatives. The U.S. can and must lead in the clean-energy revolution, and it can do so by supporting, leveraging, and growing the cleanest of clean technologies.

Ron Pernick is cofounder and managing director of clean-tech research and advisory firm Clean Edge, Inc. He’ll be moderating a discussion on nuclear power between Ralph Cavanagh, NRDC and Peter Schwartz, GBN/Monitor Group, at the upcoming Clean-Tech Investor Summit in Palm Springs. 

Untitled Document

RELATED ARTICLES

Sunrise in Pakistan as the Country Delves into Solar PV

Robert Harker Pakistan has joined the list of countries that are exploring solar power as a means to bridge critical energy generat...

Global Renewable Energy Roundup: China, Kenya, Turkey, India Seeking More Renewables

Bloomberg News Editors China is being encouraged by three industry groups to double the nation’s solar-power goal for 2020 to make up for sh...

Why Smarter Grids Demand Smarter Communications Networks

Mark Madden

Historically, utility networks and communications networks have had little in common.

The Importance of “Switching Costs” to the US Residential Solar Industry

Paula Mints The DoE and numerous organizations and governments globally are focused on driving down the cost of solar convinced t...

PRESS RELEASES

Array Technologies’ DuraTrack HZ v3 Continues to (R)evolutionize at SPI

Array Technologies, Inc. (ATI) prepares to showcase its recently launched tracking syst...

Appalachian's Energy Center assists counties with landfill gas to energy projects

The Appalachian Energy Center at Appalachian State University recently completed a proj...

Early Bird Registration Deadline for GRC Annual Meeting is This Week

The deadline for early-bird rates for registration for the biggest annual geothermal ev...

Redesigned HydroWorld.com Video Gallery

Hydropower news and information, and interesting promotional announcements are now avai...

FEATURED BLOGS

Transitioning to Net-Zero Living

Judith and Jeffrey adore living in Belfast, Maine – a quaint harbor town of Belfast, Maine. They previously res...

The True Cost of Electric Vehicles in Australia

In order to avoid increased congestion, further greenhouse warming and lessen Australia’s reliance on imported ...

The Coming Multi-trillion Dollar Energy Investment Drive

In coming years, a multi-trillion dollar low-emission energy investment drive will get underway. Three catalysts wil...

The Perfect Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch is a concise statement that grabs attention and communicates value, ideally leading to a next step...

FINANCIAL NEWS

Ron Pernick, co-founder and managing director of Clean Edge, Inc. (www.cleanedge.com) and co-author of Clean Tech Nation and The Clean Tech Revolution, is an accomplished market research, publishing, and business development entrepreneur with thre...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Doing Business in South Africa – in partnership with GWEC, the Glob...

Wind Energy in South Africa has been expanding dramatically, growing fro...

Intersolar India 2015

Exhibition and Conference: November 18-20, 2015 Intersolar India 2015 I...

Intersolar North America 2016

Exhibition: July 12 - 14, 2016; Conference: July 11 - 13, 2016 Intersola...

COMPANY BLOGS

Less Is More

When you’re giving a presentation, one of the easiest things to do...

Captivology

One of the biggest challenges we face as efficiency sales professionals ...

How To Optimize Your Meeting Schedule

Do you spend more time in meetings than you do actually working? While m...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS