How America Can Make Its Energy Grid 100% Renewable Within 10 Years

How America Can Make Its Energy Grid 100% Renewable Within 10 Years

How America Can Make Its Energy Grid 100% Renewable Within 10 Years

America’s energy grid is at a crossroads. With climate change accelerating and renewable energy prices plummeting, the country has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform how it produces and consumes electricity. Experts say the U.S. can transition to 100% clean energy by 2035 through rapid deployment of wind, solar, battery storage, electric vehicles, and other technologies. Here’s how we can make it happen within a decade:

H2: Ramp Up Wind and Solar Generation

The first step is massively scaling up renewable energy generation from wind and solar power. The costs of these technologies have fallen 70-90% over the last decade, making them now the cheapest sources of new electricity generation. To reach 100% clean electricity, experts estimate the U.S. would need to:

  • Triple its current wind capacity to over 500 gigawatts by 2030. This is achievable through continued growth in onshore wind farms and accelerated offshore wind development.

  • Quadruple utility-scale solar to over 800 gigawatts. Rooftop solar on homes and businesses would also expand greatly.

  • Ensure steady growth of geothermal, hydropower and other zero-carbon sources.

With the right policies and investments in place, hitting these wind and solar targets is well within reach. Renewables are now the fastest growing segment of U.S. electricity generation. Continued technological advances and economies of scale will also further drive down costs.

H2: Modernize the Grid Infrastructure

To accommodate a dramatic increase in renewable generation, the outdated electricity grid needs major upgrades. Investment is required in:

  • New high-voltage transmission lines to deliver wind and solar power from resource-rich areas to population centers. This will balance electricity supply and demand across wider regions.

  • Energy storage technologies, like batteries and pumped hydro, to store excess renewable electricity for when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing. Storage makes renewables more reliable.

  • Distributed energy resources like rooftop solar, electric vehicles, smart appliances and microgrids. These resources make the grid more decentralized and resilient.

  • Advanced power electronics to control real-time electricity supply and demand across the grid. This optimizes integration of variable renewables.

  • Enhanced regional coordination between grid operators to share resources and data. This allows greater flexibility and efficiency.

Modernizing the grid will require substantial new infrastructure investment but will pay dividends through more affordable, reliable and clean electricity.

H2: Phase Out Gas and Coal Power Plants

The third major step is rapidly phasing out all greenhouse gas-emitting resources, especially natural gas and coal power plants. Despite renewable growth, these fossil fuel plants still supply 60% of U.S. electricity. To achieve 100% clean power, experts recommend:

  • Establishing a national target to retire all coal plants by 2030. Many utilities have already pledged to go coal-free by that date.

  • Transitioning from natural gas “peaker” plants to battery storage for meeting peak electricity demand. Gas plants increasingly struggle to compete with cheap renewables and storage.

  • Replacing remaining baseload gas plants with more solar, wind, nuclear, and geothermal generation. Some gas may remain for reliability but can eventually be eliminated.

  • Investing in worker training and economic revitalization programs in impacted fossil fuel communities. An equitable transition for all Americans will be critical.

H2: Electrify Vehicles, Buildings and Industry

The final major pillar for 100% clean electricity is rapidly switching vehicles, buildings and industrial processes from fossil fuels to electricity. This expanding electric load will provide new demand for renewables. Key steps include:

  • Accelerating electric vehicle adoption to 50% of car and light truck sales by 2030. EVs charged from a clean grid produce no emissions.

  • Switching heating in buildings from gas to electric heat pumps. Heat pumps also provide air conditioning and are extremely efficient.

  • Incentivizing manufacturers to use clean electricity instead of fossil fuels in industrial processes through procurement standards, tax credits and grants.

  • Ensuring electricity remains affordable for households throughout the clean energy transition. Cost declines in renewables will help enormously.

With strong political leadership and commitment from all segments of society, the 2035 target for 100% renewable electricity is achievable. The climate, health and economic benefits for America will be immense. Now is the time to get it done.