The hot new thing in the energy world is to procure carbon-free energy for every hour of your consumption, year-round. Google & Microsoft aspire to it by 2030. But critics say it's the wrong goal -- that these companies should be strictly focused on reducing emissions. I dig in.
Thank you for covering this topic. I am wondering if the issue is a victim of overthinking. I also think "Is 24/7 carbon-free energy the right goal?" is not the right question.
The way I understand it, 24/7 CFE is an end state which is not a choice but a question of how soon we get there - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we all are getting electricity from non-carbon based fuels. As the podcast points out, "The goal is grid decarbonization." The choices of how we get there are either a path associated with RECs or a path associated with what David calls that "terrible neologism" - emissionality.
With this in mind, I thought about a Yogi-ism from Yogi Berra, that famous NY Yankee player/coach. Legend has it that in giving directions to his home, Yogi said to a friend, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Taken literally, it sounds strange but within the context, it made sense since both paths led to the same destination. I can't help but think this Yogi-ism applies to the REC vs emissionality discussion. Once we all get to our 24/7 CFE destination, our decarbonized grid, the complexities, subtleties, and nuances associated with both paths disappear as we are no longer on either path.
So, in the end, I see we have two paths in front of us. Both lead to the same destination. Both have pros and cons. Assuming the costs are approximately the same, I say take the one that gets us to the 24/7 CFE, our decarbonized grid faster.
Am I missing something?
Frankly I think all of these gimmicky solutions are a waste of time and energy. They distract from the only true mission -- get to 0 emissions as fast as humanly possible. We have a mechanism in place in the U.S. to achieve that and it's called the regulatory compact (arguably another gimmick). It says briefly that in return for being granted effective monopolies on electricity utilities agree to a fair profit AND to provide ratepayers with the cheapest power possible. That is solar and wind supported by batteries. Fossil fuels with their climate impacts are infinitely more expensive than emission-free solar and wind. Without their climate and health impacts, fossil fuel electricity is 3 times as expensive as leading edge solar and by the end of this decade will be 20 times as expensive. New solar plus batteries is cheaper than simply operating existing fossil fuel and nuclear facilities. No new fossil fuel or nuclear generation should be considered, and we should close down existing facilities as rapidly as they can be replace with solar and wind plus batteries. That could be accomplished in the U.S. and the rest of the world this decade.