New Energy needs a long term scope because climate change is a long-term issue
Bill Gates and Jigar Shah started an excellent discussion – and good science should spark debate. But, when determining policies pertaining to emissions reductions – for the electricity or any other sector – the scope needs to be long term because climate change is a long-term issue.
Good science should spark debate. It’s the nature of the field, after all. You ask questions, search for data and then debate what it means or what actions the data should spur. Such a debate is underway now, and it is adding fuel to an old fire.
In May 2014, Dr. Charles R. Frank of the Brookings Institution published a working paper comparing the net benefits of replacing coal and gas plants with five no- and low-carbon fuels – solar, wind, hydropower, nuclear, and combined cycle natural gas.
Avoided carbon emissions and low energy and capacity costs are deemed benefits, whereas higher emissions, energy and capacity costs, and unique fuel-specific deficiencies (i.e. toxic waste from nuclear power, intermittency of wind, solar, and hydro, etc.) comprise costs.
EDF’s concern, however, is that policy advocates misinterpret this working paper’s implications. While this document contributes to understanding the current state of affairs, it is not forward looking and voices few policy recommendations – none of which are granular. It also discounts the rapidly changing energy landscape and the long-term nature of energy planning.
As Wayne Gretzky might say, we’re not trying to skate to where the puck is, but where it is going to be. It is crucial to target emissions reductions ‘from any source’, but we also know that progress happens over time and decisions that will last for 50 years or more should be made with the future – rather than the past – in mind. Supporting renewables in the short-term is a fruitful investment for people, business and the climate, and robust paths forward for reducing electricity sector emissions should be based on forward-looking analyses.