Bioenergy, Solar, Wind Power

Increased Use of Renewable Energy Would Save Money

Greater use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the United States would be better than the National Energy Policy, according to a study released Wednesday by a major environmental group.

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, US, 2001-06-14 [SolarAccess.com] Greater use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the United States would be better than the National Energy Policy, according to a study released Wednesday by a major environmental group. “Energy efficiency and renewable energy could replace nearly 1,000 of the 1,300 new power plants that President Bush says are needed to meet increasing energy needs,” says Alan Nogee of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “America does not face a shortage of energy supplies, just a shortage of vision, leadership, and determination to provide clean and affordable energy.” Wind, solar, geothermal and biomass could supply 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2020, according to ‘Clean Energy Blueprint: A Smarter National Energy Policy for Today and the Future.’ When combined with incentives to improve energy efficiency, the UCS blueprint would start to save money for consumers in 2010, with annual savings growing to $43 billion by 2020. UCS produced the report with the Tellus Institute. The goal was to propose a package of policies that includes incentives for energy-efficient appliances, stricter energy codes for buildings, and a requirement that suppliers obtain 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The National Energy Policy does not make any “meaningful commitment” to increase the use of renewables, beyond the 2.8 percent in 2020 in a business-as-usual forecast, says Nogee. UCS proposes increases in research funding for renewables, while Bush’s proposed budget slashes these funds in half. “The Administration’s National Energy Policy focuses on increasing fossil and nuclear energy supplies,” notes the report. “UCS here examines a package of policies to increase energy efficiency in homes, businesses and industry, and to develop renewable energy resources.” The forecast was developed using the National Energy Modeling System, the same model used by the U.S. Energy Information Administration to develop long-term forecasts of energy supply and demand. The analysis does not use the practice of EIA in modeling renewables by placing artificial constraints on the growth of renewable energy. That practice has been criticized by UCS and other groups, including five national laboratories that do energy research. “Clean power can help protect us from price-gouging, artificial shortages, and market manipulation by a handful of energy companies,” adds Alden Meyer of UCS. “The conservation and renewable policies in the Blueprint reduce natural gas prices and provide consumer savings.” The UCS blueprint predicts that overall consumer savings would begin in 2010, but a balanced energy policy would start to save money for households through projected lower natural gas prices within three years, growing to $26 billion a year in savings by 2020. The UCS package would achieve significant reductions in air pollutant emissions, with carbon dioxide emissions dropping 43 percent by 2020, and emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides at 25 percent below the levels forecast for 2020. “The Clean Energy Blueprint takes us a long way toward our goal of reducing air pollution and avoids the need to extract fossil fuels from sensitive public lands,” says energy researcher Deborah Donovan. “This report shows that we can meet future energy demands and still be responsible stewards of our planet.” UCS will release the second phase of its analysis next month, to examine additional policies to reduce pollution and make power plants more efficient. “The nation needs a balanced approach to meeting future energy demands, one that invests in clean and efficient technologies both to reduce energy demands and to increase energy supplies,” concludes the report. “This phase of the UCS analysis shows that energy efficiency and renewable energy sources can meet a large share of our energy needs both today and in the future, including replacing some of the most polluting power plants that operate today. Moreover, they do so while providing health and environmental benefits, lower energy bills, and net savings to consumers.” “The policies in the Clean Energy Blueprint are practical and achievable,” it adds. “Many states have proven to be leaders in developing and demonstrating new approaches for improving energy efficiency and deploying renewable energy.” “Ironically, Texas has been one such leader” as a result of a law signed in 1999 by then-Governor Bush that included a Renewable Portfolio Standard that has created the largest market for new renewable energy development in the United States. Electricity companies in Texas must supply 2,000 MW of new renewables by 2009, and the state may meet that goal seven years early, but the concept was “completely ignored” in his National Energy Plan. “One of the greatest advantages that energy efficiency and renewable energy sources offer over new power plants, transmission lines and pipelines, is the ability deploy these technologies with almost no delay,” explains the report. “It takes only six months to add new wind turbines to existing wind farms. We can implement the policies of the Clean Energy Blueprint now and begin seeing benefits right away.” “Energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies are ready to serve us,” it concludes. “Now we need vision, leadership, and determination to provide a clean, affordable energy future.”