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Feature Article

Energy Transition Meets the Cycle: Danger and Opportunity

By Roger S. Conrad on Oct. 10, 2021

According to the US Energy Information Administration’s baseline forecast, Americans will use 40 percent more electricity by 2050 than in 2010. And more than half of that will come from new wind and solar, driven by the combination of favorable government policies, continued declines in the cost curve and development of energy storage.

This summer, the Biden Administration upped the ante even more with a proposal to build 1,000 gigawatts of solar generating capacity in the US by 2035 at a projected cost of roughly $1 trillion. That follows its acceleration of permitting for US offshore wind projects as well, which the government hopes will result in 26 GW of capacity entering service by 2030.

Those are aggressive goals indeed. And getting there will require much more than just Uncle Sam being willing to lay out quite a bit of funding in the form of subsidy, tax cuts and direct expenditure. It means some heroic assumptions for costs and technology advance as well, particularly in energy storage where even the most advanced systems now will only keep the lights on for a few hours at great cost in materials.

Historically, betting against determined American ingenuity has been a good way to go broke. And with Asian and European developers also pushing on the cost and efficiency curves, odds of success have never been better.

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