So how do we get to Gore's 100% renewable? Part 1

Highlights from Gore’s Speech
Duration: 5min 51sec

July 17, 2008 Al Gore threw down the gauntlet and challenged the US to switch to 100% renewable and carbon neutral sources of electricity in 10 years. A refreshing bit of gumption after the tepid climate change commitments delivered during the recent G8 summit.

But how do we get there?

Where does the US currently stand: Current Electricity Production

First a look at the data.

Electricity – production: 4.062 trillion kWh (2005)
US Electricity Generation, 1995-2006

Energy Generation by Source, 2006

50% of America’s electricity generation comes from coal, followed by 20% from natural gas and 19% from nuclear power. Less than 10% is derived from renewable sources, with the majority coming from hydroelectric power (7.1%).

Summary of fuel sources
Coal: Anthracite, bituminous coal, subbituminous coal, lignite, waste coal, and synthetic coal.
Petroleum: Distillate fuel oil (all diesel and No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 fuel oils), residual fuel oil (No. 5 and No. 6 fuel oils and bunker C fuel oil), jet fuel, kerosene, petroleum coke (converted to liquid petroleum), and waste oil.
Other Gases: Blast furnace gas, propane gas, and other manufactured and waste gases derived from fossil fuels.
Conventional hydroelectric: Conventional hydroelectric power excluding pumped storage facilities.
Other renewables: wood, black liquor, other wood waste, biogenic municipal solid waste, landfill gas, sludge waste, agriculture byproducts, other biomass, geothermal, solar thermal, photovoltaic energy, and wind.
Other: Non-biogenic municipal solid waste, batteries, chemicals, hydrogen, pitch, purchased steam, sulfur, tire-derived fuels and miscellaneous technologies.

Where can we get 331,000 megawatts (electricity produced from fossil fuels)?

Gore’s plan on sources of energy:

  • Increased expansion and innovation in wind and solar
  • Increased use of geothermal and solar thermal with storage capability. At the moment, the US gets a measly 2.4% of its energy from renewable sources other than hydro.
  • Retention of current fossil fuel free energy production (i.e. nuclear and hydroelectric). This makes the goal much easier to meet, given that nuclear and hydro already comprise 26.5% of US electricity generation according to the DoE (2006 data).
  • For remaining coal and gas use, increased carbon capture and sequestration to compensate. Will carbon capture technology be advanced enough in 10 years for this to make up a sizable part of the solution?

A (cursory) breakdown by renewable energy sources in the next post.

Note: a derivation of the above number:
2898371 thousand megawatthours / 24hrs a day / 365 days a year = 331,000 megawatts.

To be continued…

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The (Annotated) Gore Energy Speech from Dot Earth

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