Different technologies work better in different places, and adaption to use of alternatives to fossil fuels is by no means uniform — the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis took a look at these topics and others Thursday in an attempt to facilitate greater expansion of renewable energy use.
“Renewable energy has flourished because we finally started giving wind and solar some of the same support the fossil fuel industry has enjoyed for more than a century,” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., and chairwoman of the committee. “States have also led with renewable energy standards. California, Washington, Hawaii, Nevada and New Mexico have committed to an electricity grid powered by 100 percent clean energy.
“The new governors of New Jersey, Minnesota and Illinois have called for similar levels of ambition. South Carolina also passed the South Carolina Energy Freedom Act to promote solar energy. It was bipartisan and unanimous and a pro-jobs and economic growth bill.”
She said that while states have led the push here, Congress has a role to play in working to achieve net-zero carbon pollution by 2050.
“When scientists do the math, it’s clear that the United States will have to generate much of its electricity from renewables to get there,” Castor said. “Many experts see a continued role for nuclear power and fossil-fuel plants with carbon capture, but renewable sources are crucial. Clean renewable energy is the linchpin for solving the climate crisis.”
The committee’s ranking member, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., remarked on the need to develop the infrastructure necessary to make renewables shoulder a larger load of American energy generation.
“It’s important for us to recognize that there are challenges with achieving this energy future that many of us do envision,” Graves said. “Challenges associated with the regulatory structure, the challenge with updating our grid system in order to facilitate this expansion of clean energy solutions. And many of the witnesses here today have run into these challenges of trying to get through this regulatory process to bolster or to increase the role that renewables play.”
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, discussed what energy mixes could work best where with one of the invited experts, Christine Tezak, who is the managing director of research for ClearView Energy Partners.
“If you look at the 10-year chart we put together for Georgia, you can see how the generation mix has shifted away from coal to increased natural gas and renewables, and hydro that has always been there, and the renewables that are coming on, it takes time to make that transition,” Tezak said. “One of the things that they have in (the Southwest Power Pool), for example, in the heartland of the country, is great wind. That’s not as readily available to Georgia as it is to …”
Carter cut her off, declaring, “A lot of hot air down there sometimes, they have, anyway.”
After the laughs subsided in the committee room, Tezak continued, “But I think that’s a clear illustration of what some of the challenges are. When you speak about wind energy, you can speak in gigawatts. For residential solar, you’re talking about kilowatts.
“So, each technology has a key role to play, and when you’re talking about distributed load, then residential solar, I think, has a great opportunity to make a difference, as you pointed out. It can also help the utility manage growth at the ends of the system, and that helps reduce the need for massive transmission investments.”
Noting Georgia’s forest industry, Carter asked Tezak why biomass energy isn’t seeing the sort of acceptance in the United States that it’s receiving in Europe, considering it’s carbon-neutral.
However, the carbon neutrality of biomass remains highly debatable.
“Anecdotally, I think there’s been a bit of concern about the harvesting of mature trees, and the change you have from a carbon profile perspective, when you substitute old trees for newer trees and saplings…,” Tezak said. “But I think there’s been an evolution of thought that’s made biomass more agreeable here in the U.S. than it was 10 years ago.
“The wonderful thing about biomass, that makes it competitive as a renewable technology, is it often doesn’t need the same amount of backup, in terms of storage, that solar and wind would, because it is a more-stable power generation resource.”
The entire committee hearing can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=H25Ic5eMJfg.