“10-50” Solutions for a Clean Energy Future

The Pew Center just published a summary of many of the major clean energy policy developments of the past five years (2005 through 2009). This look back gauges progress on clean energy policy since the “10-50” Solution Workshop, sponsored by the Center and the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP) in 2004, which convened leading experts to discuss key technologies likely to enable a low-carbon future by mid-century (50 years henceforth) and to identify the critical policies necessary in the next 10 years to enable this long-term vision.

While we certainly wish that clean energy policy and development had moved faster and gone further over the last five years, the review does show that the United States made significant progress against the goals experts set for clean energy policy five years ago. The last five years saw several pieces of legislation with significant clean energy provisions, including the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Energy Security and Independence Act of 2007, and the 2009 stimulus bill (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA). Take coal gasification and carbon capture and storage (CCS), for example. Major developments from the last few years include: federal tax credits to support a 630-megawatt (MW) integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) coal-fueled power plant under construction; a proposed rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) governing underground injection of CO2 for sequestration with regard to drinking water; large-scale CO2 injection and geological sequestration demonstration projects beginning in 2010 under the final phase of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Carbon Sequestration Regional Partnerships; the reconsideration of FutureGen by DOE; international cooperation on CCS development; bilateral collaboration on CCS between the United States and China; the first coal power plant to capture and store CO2 from a portion of its exhaust; and government cost-sharing for large-scale (150+ MW) CCS projects at a new coal gasification project and existing pulverized coal power plants.

In a similar vein, a recent memo from Vice President Biden highlighted the significant clean energy progress in just the last 12 months. There’s talk now among Senators and policy experts of settling for another energy bill in 2010 rather than a greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade program, like that passed by the House in June. We’ve discussed on this blog why that’s not the best approach. Our look back at clean energy policy developments reinforces this message, showing that the major energy policy recommendations that experts made five years ago have largely been addressed—with the glaring exception of putting a price on carbon.