Six Bedrock Themes for a Clean Energy Economy
How do we get the U.S. to a net-zero emissions economy by mid-century. There are six key elements -- all of which are necessary.
First, we will need a broad set of coalitions dedicated to pragmatic, actionable approaches. Without building broad coalitions, we as a society cannot create sustainable change to our massive energy system. Partnerships between labor and business; NGOs and financial institutions; religious and military leaders; public and private sectors; Federal, state and city leaders; Democrats and Republicans are all essential to producing effective change.
“Without building broad coalitions, we as a society cannot create sustainable change to our massive energy system.”
Second, we'll need regional solutions for both climate challenges and social justice. Energy resources and social equity needs vary considerably across the country, which should empower regionally tailored solutions.
Third, a critical aspect of future plans should focus on an all-of-the-above approach. Meaning, there are no magical solutions to reach net-zero emissions. True success will be found through comprehensive plans that account for all related issues. We need:
- Energy efficiency across all economic sectors
- Advanced renewables, such as off-shore wind
- Short and long duration energy storage
- Advanced small modular and micro nuclear technologies, both fission and fusion
- Carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) at large scale
- Associated infrastructure for consumer accessibility, such as smart grids, EV fast charging, CO2 pipes, hydrogen transport, etc.
- Buildup of secure supply chains, including those for critical minerals and metals
- Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere and upper oceans, using natural, technological and hybrid solutions at scale, without which there cannot be a net-negative future.
Earth Day Inside I: The Scientists of WW0 -- Bill Nye and Ernest Moniz (April 20th, 2020)
In addition to these are still other technologies, such as advanced biofuels, which will address electricity emissions and harder-to-decarbonize industry sectors, i.e. transportation and agriculture. With all the above, this full "tool kit" will also enable regional solutions.
Fourth, in the wake of COVID-19 and its subsequent economic damage, we'll need the creation of millions of good jobs. The energy sector's job creation outpaced the economy more than 2 to 1 in the last five years. Congressional intervention for clean energy will leverage strong job creation.
“...in the wake of COVID-19 and its subsequent economic damage, we’ll need the creation of millions of good jobs. The energy sector’s job creation outpaced the economy more than 2 to 1 in the last five years.”
Fifth, we'll need strategically incentivized supply chains that will provide energy and national security benefits while leading to job creation and improving job security. Public-private partnerships will be important, as will policy support (such as carbon border adjustments for imports).
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Last, and arguably of greatest importance, the energy sector needs breakthroughs. We need a decade of supercharged innovation, from research to demonstration, in order to scale clean energy dramatically after 2030. Increasing the investment in clean energy innovation by an additional $100 billion over the next ten years will serve as a catalyst for the synergistic development of new technologies, business models, and jobs needed to reach our aggressive climate and social justice goals.
These six bedrock themes provide a foundation for building effective government policies towards a clean energy future.