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EGEB: Hey, John Kerry – the renewable tech we need already exists

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • Climate czar John Kerry said emissions cuts will come from future tech, but a new study says we’ve already got what we need.
  • The Department of Energy’s Collegiate Wind Competition has kicked off – check it out.
  • UnderstandSolar is a free service that links you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates. Tesla now offers price matching, so it’s important to shop for the best quotes. Click here to learn more and get your quotes. — *ad.

Renewable tech is here now

In mid-May, climate czar John Kerry caught a lot of flak for saying:

I am told by scientists that 50% of the reductions we have to make to get to net zero are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have. That’s just a reality.

A new study, released today by Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, reinforces those, such as climate scientist Michael Mann, who say Kerry is wrong about renewable tech. The report states that the US has the capacity now to build an energy system around renewable resources.

Environment America is a federation of state-based environmental advocacy organizations, and Frontier Group is a nonprofit think tank.

The study, “We Have the Power: Reaching America’s potential for clean, renewable energy,” finds that the US already has abundant renewable tech and resources to meet all of its energy needs. The study states:

Researchers have largely concluded that the technology we need for a renewable future is already available. As one study from Nature Communications put it, “currently available generation and storage technologies are sufficient for nearly 100% power system operation.” And from another study from Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews: “The technologies required for renewable scenarios are not just tried-and-tested, but also proven at a large scale.”

NREL has used sophisticated modeling to simulate electric grids running on high levels of renewable energy. In its most recent study, focused on Los Angeles, [the National Renewable Energy Laboratory] concluded that “[r]eliable, 100% renewable electricity is achievable — and, if coupled with electrification of other sectors, provides significant greenhouse gas, air quality, and public health benefits.”

The report found that US solar energy resources have the technical potential to meet the US’s 2020 electricity demand more than 77 times over, and US onshore and offshore wind resources could meet America’s 2020 demand 11 times over. In addition, all 50 states have sufficient solar or wind potential to meet current electricity needs, and 49 (excluding Connecticut) have enough to do so under a 2050 scenario in which energy uses like transportation and buildings run on electricity.

And the four steps the US has to take to achieve that? Build out renewable energy; modernize the grid; reduce and manage energy use; and replace direct uses of fossil fuels with electricity.

Emma Searson, 100% renewable campaign director at Environment America Research & Policy Center, said:

How quickly America shifts toward wind and solar will be decided by how and when we lean into fully erecting the four pillars outlined in this report.

Given the remarkable technological advances and progress we’ve made so far, we should feel confident in our ability to build each and every one of them.

DOE Collegiate Wind Competition

If you like a good, clean, fun energy contest, check out the Department of Energy Collegiate Wind Competition that runs until June 11.

The competing teams this year are:

  • Brigham Young University
  • California Polytechnic State University
  • California State University Maritime Academy
  • James Madison University
  • John Hopkins University
  • Kansas State University
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Texas Tech University
  • The Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Virginia Tech
  • Washington State University, Everett

In the DOE’s words, the competition:

Challenges multidisciplinary teams of undergraduate students to design, build, and test a model wind turbine against a set of rigorous performance criteria; develop a wind project plan based on market and siting considerations; and interact with wind industry experts and raise awareness of wind energy in their local communities. 

 To see the winning project, you can watch the Virtual Awards Ceremony (click on the Zoom link) on Friday, June 11 at 3 p.m. ET. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will share a video address, and DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Power Alejandro Moreno will announce the winners of the 2021 competition.

Here’s a neat video from the 2019 competition that shows the challenges the students face, what they feel are the most valuable lessons, and just how much fun they have:

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.