Clean energy is popular, but sometimes it’s hard to see how we’re going to get there from here.
In a poll taken this spring, two-thirds of registered voters in the US supported transitioning the U.S. economy from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy by 2050.
In a recent guest opinion, State Sen. Ankney, a tireless advocate for the people of Colstrip, said “no one wants to cheer up [climate champion] Greta Thunberg more than I do”, but he seems wary of the Clean Energy Payment Program (CEPP), and worried about losing affordable, reliable fossil fuel energy and jobs, saying “No one knows how all of that energy would be replaced.”
While there is always uncertainty, experts have been planning for this transformation to clean energy for decades. So have entrepreneurs, who are daily announcing 21st Century innovations, like hydrogen gas storage in the salt domes of Utah, or the molten salt energy storage facility being considered for the decommissioned coal plant in Hayden, CO.
Closer to home, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s latest 5-year Plan (draft, comment at nwcouncil.org) shows how market forces are already and will continue to be a large driver of this switch from coal, since wind and solar PV are the least expensive options for utilities and their customers.
The Council is “confident” that concerns about the daily fluctuation in renewable energy can be managed reliably by coordinating with other sources, like hydropower, energy efficiency, demand response (voluntary reduction of demand at certain hours of the day), existing resources (gas, nuclear, and remaining coal), and regional collaboration in the Western electric grid, which will “produce significant cost savings and introduce more efficiency into system operations.”