Before we get into today’s topic, we need to familiarize ourselves with the Berkeley Laboratory and its role in our energy grid. The Berkeley Lab is a just one facility in a system of energy laboratories in a system of United States Department of Energy National Laboratories and Technology Centers all managed by the department of energy. Recently, the Berkeley Lab released a report about the feasibility of a carbon neutral by 2050 and even carbon negative going farther into the future.
For their most recent report the Berkeley Lab partnered with the consulting firm Evolved Energy Research to tackle the affordability of a reaching Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommended goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to limit the effects of climate change. The partnership concluded that the price tag for a carbon neutral United States would be one dollar, per person per day. What this would afford us would be a complete overhaul of our energy infrastructure. Berkeley Lab senior scientist Margaret Torn highlights the journey to a net zero energy grid as needing “to build many gigawatts of wind and solar power plants, new transmission lines, a fleet of electric cars and light trucks, millions of heat pumps to replace conventional furnaces and water heaters, and more energy-efficient buildings – while continuing to research and innovate new technologies.”
Now this may sound like an overwhelming task that will see coal plant shutting down and people going without power as construction crews scramble to install solar panels in time, but luckily this is not the case and in fact, far from it. The Berkeley plan would require no “early retirement” of the infrastructure that we currently have in place, and instead on replacing aging infrastructure with green alternatives as the economic life of old plants and generators comes to an end. This way we only need to bridge the gap as new energy needs arise.
All this has been for the carbon neutral case, but at the beginning of this post I teased something even better, a carbon negative future. The carbon neutral pathway from above would cost roughly 0.4% of US GDP per year to achieve. By investing a little bit more, 0.6% of GDP to be exact, we would be able to sufficiently invest in restructuring our agriculture and forest management, increasing carbon capture, and generating greater amounts of electricity through renewable means. Though, this would also mean greater costs in terms of land use required.
If you’ve enjoyed these last few blogs, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn (Arkadiusz Bolanowski) or follow me on twitter (@RKDSBolanowski). Also, if you think this story is interesting and you’d like to learn more, please visit the Berkely lab’s website at https://www.lbl.gov/ .