Two recent reports make clear that long-distance gas pipeline infrastructure will cost more than the transmission investment needed for achieving 80% renewable electricity. The Keystone XL pipeline is just one new pipeline – let’s think about the energy system we are building.
Gas industry groups America’s Natural Gas Alliance and the INGAA Foundation reported on March 18 that the gas industry sees need for pipeline investments of $641 billion over next 20 years in the U.S. and Canada. The cost of new natural gas transmission capacity could be approximately $14 billion per year (real 2012$).
On one hand, while some of the pipeline investment would serve oil needs, when electricity planners think big, they are also including increased electricity use for transportation as well. (Think electric cars.) The NREL Renewable Energy Futures study of 80% electricity from renewable energy, (with 80% annual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions) projected annual investments in new transmission infrastructure, including interconnections for all plants, was less than the gas industry costs, ranging between $6.4 and $8.4 billion/year from 2011 through 2050.
Now that the gas industry sees $641 billion to bring hydro-fractured gas to use as power plant fuel, we can compare other studies with lower transmission costs for great amounts of added wind and solar.
- Utilities’ Eastern-wide (39 states, 70% of US population) EIPC study
Transmission costs: $100 billion
CO2 reductions: 80% in electricity sector by 2050
- PJM (13 states, 61 million people) 30% Renewables study by 2026
Transmission costs: $13.7 billion
CO2 reductions: up to 40%
- EEI (U.S. investor-owned electric utilities) report of 10 years planned transmission
Transmission costs: $60.6 billion
Transmission supportingrenewables: $46.1 billion
With these descriptions of our energy choices, we can make real choices. We should choose renewables first.