Rebuilding the U.S energy system to run primarily on renewable energy would cost about $1 per person, according to researchers at the Berkeley National Laboratory.
The researchers created a detailed model of the entire U.S energy and industrial system in order to produce the first detailed, peer-reviewed study outlining how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
They developed multiple feasible technology pathways that differed widely in terms of fossil fuel use, land use and consumer adoption.
The pathways studied had net-costs ranging from 0.2% to 1.2% of GDP, with higher costs resulting from certain tradeoffs, such as limiting the amount of land given to solar and wind farm.
The scenarios were generated using new energy models complete with details of both energy consumption and production, such as the entire U.S building stock, vehicle fleet, power plants and more.
The researchers have highlighted that the cost would be lower still if they included the economic and climate benefits that decarbonising our energy systems will bring. For example, less reliance on oil will mean less money spent on oil and less economic uncertainty due to oil price fluctations and this could lead to the avoidance of climate related disasters.
Margaret Torn, lead author of the study, said: ‘The decarbonization of the U.S. energy system is fundamentally an infrastructure transformation.
‘It means that by 2050 we need to build many gigawatts of wind and solar power plants, new transmission lines, a fleet of electric cars and light trucks, millions of heat pumps to replace conventional furnaces and water heaters, and more energy-efficient buildings –while continuing to research and innovate new technologies.
‘In this transition, very little infrastructure would need “early retirement,” or replacement before the end of its economic life. No one is asking consumers to switch out their brand-new car for an electric vehicle. The point is that efficient, low-carbon technologies need to be used when it comes time to replace the current equipment.’
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