The solution to the climate change issue is not simply relying on wind, solar and hydroelctric power exclusively as a 2015 study indicated, but instead relying on a much larger number of energy sources and approaches, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The study, which was conducted by 21 of the nation’s top energy experts, details how a near-zero-emissions energy system must depend on a variety of energy technologies—such as nuclear energy, bioenergy and carbon capture technology—in combination.
“While wind, solar, and hydroelectric should play a central role in future American energy systems, we concluded that a much broader array of energy technologies is necessary to transition to a zero-emissions future as quickly and seamlessly as possible,” said lead author Christopher Clack of Vibrant Clean Energy.
Because current energy storage technology is not sufficient enough to fill the gaps in variable solar and wind production on a national level, the team is focused on having backup energy sources available.
“Our energy system is leaking waste carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. When you call a plumber to fix a leak, you want her to arrive with a full toolbox and not leave most of her tools at home,” Ken Caldeira of Carnegie Mellon said. “Having a full toolbox means you are more likely to be able to solve the problem.”
The researchers determined that offering a larger “portfolio” of energy options will help to ensure the success of achieving a near-zero-emissions energy system.
“Unrealistic visions based on a very limited set of technologies have made it more difficult to actually transition to cleaner technology in the real world,” Caldeira said. “The more technologies that we can bring to the table, the easier it will be to transition to a safe, affordable and reliable energy system.”