While support for the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% by 2050 (80×50) is continuing to grow, many have argued that a more ambitious goal of 100% GHG emission reduction is not possible. Brattle Principal Jürgen Weiss’s recent Utility Dive article titled “Who’s afraid of 100%?” addresses three key criticisms related to a target of a 100% emissions-free electricity sector: necessity, feasibility, and cost.

According to the article, aiming for a 100% reduction is necessary since achieving an 80% economy-wide GHG reduction will likely mean developing a 100% carbon-free electric system (and close to that for the whole energy system). As time goes on, we are likely to find that the 80×50 approach in the energy sector is not enough.

Dr. Weiss argues that it is feasible – we already have the key technologies. While we will need more dispatchable resources, we should not confuse renewable and dispatchable. Various storage technologies – such as batteries, gravity storage, and power-to-gas/power-to-liquid – can provide the flexibility needed to dispatch energy to meet demands. According to the article, more technological innovation will help improve the quality and efficiency of these types of technology, but we do not need major breakthroughs to make it work.

However, it is unlikely to increase energy costs enough to materially affect our economic prosperity. Americans have never paid less for electricity as a share of disposable income than they are paying today. And the cost of all the key components of a 100% renewable system are rapidly decreasing. Committing to 100% could provide additional certainty for innovations and cost reductions.

The article, “Who’s afraid of 100%?” is available below.

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