California, a leader in efficiency and clean energy policies for decades, is about to embark on another pioneering climate change program.
November 14 marks the first auction in its cap-and-trade system, which uses a market-based mechanism to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet.
On its own, California’s program will drive down harmful emissions in the ninth largest economy in the world. But perhaps more importantly, California’s example could guide and prod us toward national action against climate change.
Nuclear energy is often touted as a reliable, carbon-free element in our electricity portfolio, but three major challenges must be overcome before it can play a bigger role in our energy mix: cost, reactor safety, and waste disposal. Recent progress on each of these fronts shows that nuclear energy may indeed be a greater component of our clean energy future.
As a zero-carbon energy source that also has the highest capacity factor, new nuclear generation is especially well suited to provide baseload generation, which is an emerging gap in our electricity system. As electricity demand rises, aging coal plants are retired, and we pursue greenhouse gas emission reductions, there is a growing need for new low- and zero-carbon baseload electricity generation. Without technological breakthroughs in electricity storage technology, wind, and solar, energy cannot adequately meet baseload demand due to intermittency. Natural gas is lower emitting than coal, but it still emits greenhouse gases and has historically been vulnerable to price volatility.