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Renewable Energy

RAND Corp. says big gains can be achieved at little cost

by Jeff Johnson
November 20, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 47

Renewable sources of energy could meet 25% of U.S. demand for electricity and motor fuels by 2025 with little additional costs, says a study by RAND Corp. released last week. Currently, renewable energy sources provide about 6% of U.S. energy.

To generate renewable energy without new costs, however, fossil fuels must remain relatively expensive—at least $54 per barrel—and renewable energy production costs must fall about 20% between now and 2025, the report determined. Both assumptions match government predictions and historical trends, the report says.

The study considered renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass for electricity generation and the use of agricultural products and cellulose-based biomass to produce the motor fuel ethanol.

The increase in renewable energy for electricity and motor fuels means that 18% of all energy would be from renewable sources by 2025. RAND researchers conducted some 1,500 runs of simulation models to come up with their scenarios.

The renewable energy increase, the report estimates, would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 1 billion tons a year by 2025, a reduction of 15% from U.S. CO2 emissions projected for that time.

The report notes that 20 states have widely varying renewable energy standards—from Arizona's requirement that 1% of its energy be from solar by 2012 to New York's target of 25% renewable electricity by 2013.

RAND urges a national renewable energy standard to focus U.S. resources.


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