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How Would a Net-Zero America Look Like by 2050? Much More is Needed – Princeton University


Today, a New York Times (NYT) story showed how America could look under a Net-Zero America High Electrification scenario by 2050. Based on assumptions provided by the Net-Zero America Report developed by Princeton University, the U.S. would need to get a lot more of its energy from renewable sources to bring emissions down to net-zero in the same period.

Read more of our news content, here; Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Makes Significant Energy Transition Investments

Under the Net-Zero America High Electrification scenario, the study assumes that the U.S.; will essentially phase out coal use and drastically reduce natural gas and oil use. Besides, the scenario assumes the country will use geologic sequestration to capture and store one metric gigaton of carbon each year by 2050.

In any case, all the scenarios charted in the report require the country to exceed the current pace of building for solar panels and wind turbines.

The Factors determining a Net-Zero America

One of the factors that will determine where renewable energy projects could be built; is the location of high-voltage transmission lines. Currently, the U.S. doesn’t have the lines to move power from solar or wind farms to big cities in other parts of the country.

Additionally, the current approval process to build new transmission lines needs to be granted state by state. Accordingly, the best option is to build energy sources close to population centers, say planners.

Additionally, experts think the best way to handle the country’s renewable transmission network will be through minimizing that expansion.

Another problem is aesthetics. For instance, neighbors sometimes voice strong opposition to new clean energy projects. Particularly, renewable power infrastructure like wind turbines and solar farms significantly change the view.

Is the Country Ready?

However, a crucial aspect that will heavily determine the future of any clean energy project is regulations. In fact, many places with the best sun and wind resources in the country are on public land; particularly, in the southwest and along the Rocky Mountains.

Worth noting, getting approval to build on federal or state land can be much longer than what’s required for private land. For instance, the Interior Department currently aims to approve permits for 25 gigawatts of renewable energy on federal land by 2025. However, some of the Princeton models propose nearly five times that amount on public land in the coming decades.

How much energy is allowed on public land and where projects are built; will depend on how the Biden Administration updates to the current needs.

Conservation is also a key question. Particularly, without careful planning, adding vast solar panel arrays or hundreds of wind turbines could push vulnerable species onto extinction.

Finally, a pivotal element to approach a clean energy future would be, according to Princeton’s report, developing better technology. In fact, even without significant advances; some experts think the U.S. now has the technology and resources to reach net-zero emissions.

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