It gets expensive, progressively more so as decarbonization reaches 80 percent and above.Trying to squeeze out that last bit of carbon without recourse to big dispatchable power plants is extremely challenging, at least for today’s models.
Deep decarbonization of the electricity sector, then, is a dual challenge: rapidly ramping up the amount of variable renewable energy (VRE) on the system, while also ramping up carbon-free dispatchable resources that can balance out that VRE and ensure reliability.
Two potentially large sources of dispatchable carbon-free power are nuclear and fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Bradshaw, who, it should be noted, are advocates for nuclear power. Jenkins and Thernstrom rounded up 30 studies on deep decarbonization, all published since 2014, when the most recent comprehensive report was released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
It looked at a range of studies on deep decarbonization in the electricity sector and tried to extract some lessons. (Needless to say, such a thing does not exist and would be quite expensive.) The other way to balance VRE is to maximize carbon-free dispatchable resources, which include dispatchable supply (power plants), dispatchable demand (“demand management,” which can shift energy demand to particular parts of the day or week), and energy storage, which acts as both supply (a source of energy) and demand (a way to absorb it).
The other was a paper in the journal that boasted “a comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems.” It was by B. Energy storage and demand management are both getting better at balancing out short-term (minute-by-minute, hourly, or daily) variations in VRE.
The highest score was four points out of a possible seven.