• 9 hours U.S. Oil Production To Increase in November As Rig Count Falls
  • 11 hours Gazprom Neft Unhappy With OPEC-Russia Production Cut Deal
  • 13 hours Disputed Venezuelan Vote Could Lead To More Sanctions, Clashes
  • 14 hours EU Urges U.S. Congress To Protect Iran Nuclear Deal
  • 16 hours Oil Rig Explosion In Louisiana Leaves 7 Injured, 1 Still Missing
  • 17 hours Aramco Says No Plans To Shelve IPO
  • 3 days Trump Passes Iran Nuclear Deal Back to Congress
  • 3 days Texas Shutters More Coal-Fired Plants
  • 4 days Oil Trading Firm Expects Unprecedented U.S. Crude Exports
  • 4 days UK’s FCA Met With Aramco Prior To Proposing Listing Rule Change
  • 4 days Chevron Quits Australian Deepwater Oil Exploration
  • 4 days Europe Braces For End Of Iran Nuclear Deal
  • 4 days Renewable Energy Startup Powering Native American Protest Camp
  • 4 days Husky Energy Set To Restart Pipeline
  • 4 days Russia, Morocco Sign String Of Energy And Military Deals
  • 4 days Norway Looks To Cut Some Of Its Generous Tax Breaks For EVs
  • 5 days China Set To Continue Crude Oil Buying Spree, IEA Says
  • 5 days India Needs Help To Boost Oil Production
  • 5 days Shell Buys One Of Europe’s Largest EV Charging Networks
  • 5 days Oil Throwback: BP Is Bringing Back The Amoco Brand
  • 5 days Libyan Oil Output Covers 25% Of 2017 Budget Needs
  • 5 days District Judge Rules Dakota Access Can Continue Operating
  • 5 days Surprise Oil Inventory Build Shocks Markets
  • 6 days France’s Biggest Listed Bank To Stop Funding Shale, Oil Sands Projects
  • 6 days Syria’s Kurds Aim To Control Oil-Rich Areas
  • 6 days Chinese Teapots Create $5B JV To Compete With State Firms
  • 6 days Oil M&A Deals Set To Rise
  • 6 days South Sudan Tightens Oil Industry Security
  • 6 days Over 1 Million Bpd Remain Offline In Gulf Of Mexico
  • 6 days Turkmenistan To Spend $93-Billion On Oil And Gas Sector
  • 6 days Indian Hydrocarbon Projects Get $300 Billion Boost Over 10 Years
  • 7 days Record U.S. Crude Exports Squeeze North Sea Oil
  • 7 days Iraq Aims To Reopen Kirkuk-Turkey Oil Pipeline Bypassing Kurdistan
  • 7 days Supply Crunch To Lead To Oil Price Spike By 2020s, Expert Says
  • 7 days Saudi Arabia Ups November Oil Exports To 7-Million Bpd
  • 7 days Niger Delta State Looks To Break Free From Oil
  • 7 days Brazilian Conglomerate To Expand Into Renewables
  • 7 days Kurdish Independence Could Spark Civil War
  • 7 days Chevron, Total Waiting In The Wings As Shell Mulls Majnoon Exit
  • 7 days The Capital Of Coal Is Looking For Other Options
Alt Text

Russia To Become A Leader In Energy Storage

Russia, normally a hub of…

Alt Text

Richard Branson To Invest In Elon Musk’s Hyperloop One

Britain’s Virgin Group boss has…

Alt Text

Tesla Execs Bail As Cash Flow Hits Record Lows

Amid a rough second quarter…

Colin Chilcoat

Colin Chilcoat

Colin Chilcoat is a specialist in Eurasian energy affairs and political institutions currently living and working in Chicago. A complete collection of his work can…

More Info

Could The U.S. Go Fully Green By 2050?

Could The U.S. Go Fully Green By 2050?

There’s little debate surrounding the ultimate future of the energy industry. Hint: it’s renewable. Simply put, the way of finite resources is just that – helplessly bound to end. When, and at what rate, we transition to renewable energies is much less clear, however.

The current, largely unofficial, U.S. renewable electricity target is 20 percent by 2030. The Energy Information Administration is less optimistic and projects that renewable generation won’t surpass 20 percent until 2040, and only if oil prices rebound and remain high (greater than $100 per barrel).

Still, others believe that a 100 percent renewable future is possible, and even attainable – at a price tag of around $14 trillion – by 2050. Reality lays somewhere in between, though it’s closer to the high-end than one might expect. Related: Oil Price Rebound Looking Unlikely

In 2014, approximately 13 percent of U.S. electricity was generated from renewable sources, hydropower included. The figure has since risen – and it’s wind and solar doing most of the work. Through May of this year, solar and wind have accounted for 74 percent of all new capacity additions. In all, renewables are expected to account for 91 percent, or more than 18 gigawatts (GW), of all electric generation capacity additions in 2015. The build rush will continue in 2016, before tapering due to regulatory uncertainty.

Fueling the rapid capacity growth are swiftly dropping unit prices. System prices fell roughly 10 percent in 2014, and similar declines are expected in both 2015 and 2016. In Texas, solar power bids are coming in at under 4¢/KWh – some of the lowest globally to date. In fact, at roughly 5.70¢/KWh when not including a 30 percent tax credit, the Texas solar deals are cheaper than any other source of energy besides wind power. But topping that, First Solar just signed a 20-year power purchase agreement at 3.87¢/KWh in Nevada, which could actually claim the mantle of the cheapest source of electricity in the United States.

The cost of solar power continues to beat projections and the unsubsidized levelized cost of energy is inching closer to complete parity with natural gas. Related: OPEC, Get Ready For The Second U.S. Oil Boom

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NERL) estimates that renewables growth will have to continue at a rate of 19-22 GW/year toward 2020, before ramping up to 32-46 GW/year by 2040 in order to achieve renewables penetration of 80 percent in the electric power sector by 2050. Such growth is unlikely to transpire, but the agency concludes that, with technologies that are commercially available today and a more flexible electric system, such a goal is possible. What remains is the political and social will, coupled with a fair bit of system retooling, to accomplish such a task.

Despite the falling prices, there remain economic and practical limits to the level of renewable penetration in our generation profile. That level is largely bound by the power source’s capacity factor and the economic carrying capacity of the grid. The capacity factor, or amount of power a plant produces relative to its potential, for wind and solar ranges from 20 to 50 percent and 10 to 30 percent, respectively.

To address the issue briefly, as the grid penetration of variable sources like wind and solar increases, the economic returns for those producers fall at a rate much faster than that of the market as a whole. Put another way, solar and wind capacity systematically reduce electricity prices at the very time solar and wind generators produce the most electricity. The more of each on the grid, the less they make. Related: Midweek Sector Update: What The Iran Deal Actually Means For Oil Markets

Furthermore, the grid, as currently constructed, is hardly optimized for renewable deployment. As penetration increases – and exceeds the capacity factor – wind and solar will occasionally generate up to, and sometimes more than, 100 percent of total demand. What cannot be exported or otherwise stored must be curtailed.

Systems stabilizing conventional generation and lumbering baseload plants necessitate further curtailment. An NERL study for the Western U.S. suggests variable renewable sources must be limited to around 55 percent of total demand.

This is to say nothing of the greening of the transportation sector, which presents it own, unique set of barriers. By 2050, the Rocky Mountain Institute estimates that 50 percent of U.S. vehicle fleet will be electrified – extremely positive growth, though far from fully green.

To be clear, the renewable energy revolution is already well underway, and the next few years will see remarkable growth. However, the next and final steps will require large-scale, top-down, adaptive measures to ensure a thorough, and above all, timely transition. Those who can provide cost-effective energy storage and efficient transmission stand to gain the most.

By Colin Chilcoat of Oilprice.com

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:

Back to homepage

Leave a comment
  • John on July 16 2015 said:
    "Fueling the rapid capacity growth are swiftly dropping unit prices."

    ... and massive government subsidies using YOUR money.
  • Philip Branton on July 16 2015 said:
    Ha....it could be done practically "overnight"...! We are sitting on so much technology that can generate every homeowner and human around the world personal power. Once wikileaks dumps those documents, every politician will be running for the exits. Most huge energy generating machinery can be made much smaller! Heck.......anyone not owning LAND or a home will be LIVID..! Every home is a BATTERY; but how many women are being told? How has building codes changed to force energy PRODUCTION from homes in the last decade, or five years, or year, or....the last 3 months...!! Moore's law will be used to send most MAYORS to the local "landfill"..!! War for oil will turn into a war against those who control information..!! Dare we say Yellowstone National Geo-thermal pipeline instead of "Keystone"..?

Leave a comment

Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News