Electricity production and carbon reduction

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President,
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

The abbreviated form of the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2016 Annual Energy Outlet released earlier this year adds intensity to the competition between various sources of energy available to generate electricity. Projections indicate that overall electricity sales will grow at an average rate of 0.7 percent from 2015 to 2040.

Sales in the residential sector are projected to grow at a 0.3 percent rate over the same time period. The report attributes the limited increase to improved energy efficiency, particularly in lighting, and the increased installation of distributed solar electric systems. A similar slow rate of increased electrical sales is expected for the commercial sector.

Limited growth in electrical demand and abundant cheap natural gas have undermined the earnings of nuclear power plants and led to Exelon’s proposed closing of the Clinton and Quad Cities plants. If the plants are closed the communities in which they are located will suffer substantial economic damage as jobs and taxes will be lost.

Exelon has pointed out that the operating plants do not release climate changing gases to the atmosphere and should be included in the state’s plans to cut carbon emissions.

In an article published by the Association for Study of Peak Oil Tom Whipple reports that some of the nation’s most influential environmental groups are softening their opposition to nuclear power as their priorities have shifted to addressing climate change. It is unclear if the shift occurs how it would affect the proposed fate of the Clinton and Quad City installations.

Howard Learner of the Environmental Law and Policy Center has indicated Illinois is well on its way to meeting its carbon reductions goals by closing old coal fired plants while installing more renewable energy sources which will generate new jobs. He indicates that the avoided carbon releases from operating the nuclear plants are not needed to meet the state’s carbon reduction goals.

In 2011, Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director for the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research, gave a presentation on what it will take to limit the global average temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. If emissions do not peak by 2025, the chances of staying within the 2 degrees Celsius limit will no longer exists. In sharp contrast to these concerns, presidential candidate Donald Trump considers climate change a hoax.

We remain convinced that efficiency and renewables are essential to a sustainable energy future. The annual IREA fair provides information on how to arrive there. Kevin Brehm from the Rocky Mountain Institute will explain why communities are embracing solar. Margaret McCall, also of the Rocky Mountain Institute, will present new energy technologies, grid-interactive water heaters, off-site corporate renewable electricity, and the future of utility investments. Willem Dijstelbergen will lead a discussion on grid independence. Sergio Zamora will inform us of innovative lighting and related efficiency topics. Len Salvig will provide an overview of the solar PV/battery interface and new battery technologies. All provide an optimistic view of our clean energy future.

Major sponsors of the fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times, Northern Public Radio and the Ogle County Waste Management Department.

Visit illinoisrenew.org.

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