Contrary to “Common Wisdom,” Fossil Fuels Are Not the Cheaper Route for Nation’s Future; Groundbreaking Synapse Energy Economics Study Details Savings, New Jobs, Environmental & Health Benefits of Ending “Business As Usual” Reliance on Dirty Energy
WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 16, 2011 – It is a myth that switching to safe, renewable energy would mean an unreliable U.S. power supply that also is too expensive to afford. That is the major conclusion of a new Synapse Energy Economics report prepared for the nonprofit Civil Society Institute that details a future with more energy efficiency and renewable energy and less reliance on coal and nuclear power.
Titled “Toward a Sustainable Future for the U.S. Power Sector: Beyond Business as Usual 2011” and available online at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org/synapsereport, the new Synapse/CSI report outlines a realistic transition to a cleaner energy future that would result in a net savings of $83 billion over the next 40 years. The Synapse report also details other major benefits, including: the avoidance of tens of thousands of premature deaths due to pollution; the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs; sharp cuts in carbon pollution; and significant cuts in water consumption for power production.
The new Synapse report findings for CSI are particularly significant in view of the fact that a strong majority of Americans want the U.S. to make the investments needed to be a clean energy leader on a global basis. More than three in four Americans (77 percent) – including 65 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Independents, 88 percent of Democrats, and 56 percent of Tea Party members — agree with the following statement: “The U.S. needs to be a clean energy technology leader and it should invest in the research and domestic manufacturing of wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies.” (For details on this November 3, 2011 CSI national opinion survey, see http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org/media/110311release.cfm.)
Key highlights of the new Synapse/CSI report include the following:
* Due in part to a significantly increased emphasis on energy efficiency, power sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2020 would fall 25 percent below 2010 levels; by 2050, such pollution would be 81 percent below 2010 levels. Under status quo trends, CO2 emissions would grow 28 percent from current levels by 2050.
* The steep health and environmental (including water use) impacts of coal-fired electricity are dramatically reduced and, by 2050, eliminated altogether when all such facilities are retired. For example, over 50,000 premature deaths are avoided relative to status quo trends linked to pollution from coal-fired plants.
* The construction and operation of the new power plants in the first decade would create roughly 3.1 million new job-years – the equivalent of 310,000 people employed for the entire decade.
* Natural gas use in 2050 would be reduced 28 percent from projected levels for 2050.
* By retiring about one quarter of the existing fleet of nuclear power reactors and not building any new ones, the risks associated with nuclear power generation and the nuclear fuel cycle are reduced considerably.
Civil Society Institute President Pam Solo said: “U.S. policymakers and others who assume that a safe, renewable energy future – including an end to reliance on coal-fired electric power and a sharply reduced reliance on nuclear power and natural gas – is impractical and too expensive for the U.S. to achieve are wrong. The truth is that America can and should embrace a workable and cost-effective future that is built on safe, renewable energy. Not only is it feasible and less expensive to do so, but we really have no other choice as a nation, given the concerns about coal emissions, natural gas ‘fracking,’ and nuclear reactor safety.”
Synapse Energy Economics President Bruce Biewald said: “The results of our new analysis are very encouraging. We find that a transition to efficiency and renewable energy for our electricity is likely to be less expensive than the business-as-usual status quo approach. There are indications now that the cost of replacing coal with clean energy is falling. The current and projected price of coal has increased, and the price of photovoltaic systems has fallen sharply since 2009, a result of unprecedented growth in this sector globally. Further, the financial community is placing higher risk premiums on technologies with carbon emissions, making renewable energy and efficiency more attractive.”
ABOUT THE GROUPS
Based in Newton, MA., the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org) is a think tank that serves as a catalyst for change by creating problem-solving interactions among people, and between communities, government and business that can help to improve society. Since 2003, CSI has conducted more than 25 major national and state-level surveys and reports on energy and auto issues, including vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, consumer demand for hybrids/other highly-fuel efficient vehicles, global warming and renewable energy. In addition to being a co-convener of TheCLEAN.org (http://www.TheClean.org), the Civil Society Institute also is the parent organization of 40MPG.org (http://www.40MPG.org) and the Hybrid Owners of America (http://www.HybridOwnersofAmerica.org).
Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. (http://www.synapse-energy.com/)provides research, testimony, reports and regulatory support on energy, economic, and environmental topics. Synapse has a professional staff of 22 with more than 300 years of combined experience in the electricity and natural gas industries. Synapse assesses the implications of electricity and natural gas industry planning, regulation and restructuring. Our work covers various interrelated issues such as transmission planning, service reliability, siting, fuel diversity, resource planning, financial and economic risks, renewable energy potential and renewable portfolio standards, energy efficiency, electricity modeling, portfolio management, customer service and more. Synapse works for a wide range of clients throughout the United States, including attorneys general, offices of consumer advocates, public utility commissions, a variety of environmental groups, foundations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and others.