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Gore calls for 100% renewable power in 10 years

By Joe Romm  

"Gore calls for 100% renewable power in 10 years"


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The former vice president and Nobel laureate is giving a major speech at noon today in which he will be “challenging the nation to produce every kilowatt of electricity through wind, sun and other Earth-friendly energy sources within 10 years“:

“I have never seen an opportunity for the country like the one that’s emerging now,” Gore told The Associated Press in an interview previewing a speech on global warming he was to deliver Thursday in Washington.

Gore said he fully understands the magnitude of the challenge … $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion over 30 years in public and private money. But he says it would cost about as much to build ozone-killing coal plants to satisfy current demand….

To meet his 10-year goal, Gore said nuclear energy output would continue at current levels while the nation dramatically increases its use of solar, wind, geothermal and so-called clean coal energy. Huge investments must also be made in technologies that reduce energy waste and link existing grids, he said.

Personally, I would have set the challenge at closer to 50% by 2020 and 90% by 2030. In particular, I’d like a few years for solar photovoltaics and concentrated solar thermal to mature a little more, to see what are the very best strategies and technologies. And I’m not certain all the money in the world can get us a substantial amount of “clean coal” (presumably coal with carbon capture and storage) in a decade. So all that speaks to adding another decade. Also, I don’t know why we would want to shut down the combined cycle natural gas turbines, which is why I’d be more than happy to see this country with a 90% fossil-free grid in 2030.

Nonetheless, kudos to Gore for laying out such an ambitious “moonshot” goal.

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17 Responses to Gore calls for 100% renewable power in 10 years

  1. kenlevenson says:

    The beauty is the simplicity. And it potentially puts the goal entirely within the next presidency – another elegant move.

    (Too bad he muddies the otherwise clear vision with “clean coal”.)

  2. kenlevenson says:

    Can you imagine the coal industry advertising onslaught we are about to be subjected to? It’s going to get really ugly. (I’d guess they’re going to make the swift boaters and health industry 527s look like amateurs.)

  3. CoRev says:

    Base load, base load, base load solve that problem then tell us what percentage is feasible! ninety percent alternative can easily be 100% zero electricity when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun don’t shine.

    [JR: Been there, done that. It's called concentrated solar power. And I wouldn't shut down existing nukes -- they can provide some baseload, as can natural gas combined cycle and of course hydro. That and CSP should give us all of the baseload that we need. And that is not even counting an aggressive push for cogeneration, which we desperately need, or geothermal. Efficiency and demand response can handle all of the load growth. Wind can do lot of the plug ins. PV can handle some of the peak. QED.]

  4. Hal Levin says:

    A nice coincidence – the current issue of Science features an article by Currie et al of MIT on their development of “High-Efficiency Organic Solar
    Concentrators for Photovoltaics” which they claim improves efficiency of non-tracking solar collectors and thereby reduces the edge loss of tracking arrays. The claim a 10-fold improvement in efficiency without the need for tracking.

    It’s online at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/321/5886/226.pdf
    [subscription required]

    Here’s the abstract:

    “The cost of photovoltaic power can be reduced with organic solar concentrators. These are planar waveguides with a thin-film organic coating on the face and inorganic solar cells attached to the edges. Light is absorbed by the coating and reemitted into waveguide modes for collection by the solar cells. We report single- and tandem-waveguide organic solar concentrators with quantum efficiencies exceeding 50% and projected power conversion efficiencies as high as 6.8%. The exploitation of near-field energy transfer, solid-state solvation, and phosphorescence enables 10-fold increases in the power obtained from photovoltaic cells, without the need for solar tracking.”

  5. John Hollenberg says:

    Here’s the popular press description of the MIT work that is a bit easier to understand (there is a diagram, too):


  6. Earl Killian says:

    CoRev says, “Base load, base load, base load solve that problem then tell us what percentage is feasible! ninety percent alternative can easily be 100% zero electricity when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun don’t shine.

    Concentrated Solar Power with Thermal Energy Storage is actually better than baseload because it can both (1) produce 24×365 (see Ausra’s papers), and (2) produce more at times of the day when the load peaks. Coal and nuclear plants do that; you have to build separate peaking plants. CSP+TES is better than baseload.

  7. I’m disappointed that Romm comes out and doesn’t support Al Gore when Gore makes the correct call. If there is already too much carbon in the atmosphere (Hansen, Caldeira etc) and the answer to that is that we need to have a lower CO2 level that we have today. Then the only option is zero carbon and then assist natural means to draw down additional carbon.

    Fortunately we have all the technology to do this. During the 10 years an accelerated program of rolling out.. THIS IS COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE TODAY

    1. Concentrating Solar Thermal Plants
    - Distributed Power Towers using stirling or rankine cycle turbines with salt storage (Heliostat mirros pointing on tower)
    -Distributed Power towers using Concentrating Solar Photovoltaic Spectrolab 40% today (theoretical to 60%) triple junction solar cells
    -Distributed Power towers using Concentrating Solar Photovolatic Spectrolab 40% AND a light splitter a couple of metres in front of the aperture taking away the heat for running a second cycle.
    -Distributed power tower technology with graphite block on top that directly takes solar insolation then recalling heat when required by pumping water through.

    -Dish Concentrating PV
    -Dish Concentrating solar with Stirling engine
    -Dish concentration solar with highest temp steam in CSP and rankine
    -Dish Concentrating solar with ammonia thermochemical dissasociation (Endothermic/exothermic reactor 97% efficient battery)

    -Compact Linear Fresnel arrays

    - Parabolic Trough Arrays

    - Special coatings on all of the above so cleaning is not required, so less reflectivity occurs etc.

    - Super insulation of houses
    -Using Heat Pumps to heat instead of Gas/Electric
    -Using passive solar design on all new houses
    -retrofitting passive solar design features to existing housing stock
    -Using Real time instantaneous heat pump hot water services (Such as “eco cute” hitachi and matsushita models in Japan) for boosting solar hot water
    -No more gas end use, slowly end the use at open cycle power plants as energy security backup as you are rolling out renewables

    - using direct solar heat for industrial steam which is the main use of end use gas and electricity in the industrial sector
    - commercial buildings with air locks retrofit gas and electric hot water services.

    -absorber chillers.

    -massive Rail infrastructure and an 80% modal shift to rail (tram and trains as one shared mode) in the cities, Freight by rail frieght by light rail “cargo trams” refrigerated containers on board freight running from 25kv AC overhead line instead of onboard generators etc.

    -modal shift 20% of city transportation to plug -in hybrid electric vehicles
    -last mile trucking for getting final delivery of some freight.. electrified.
    **Rail beats busses cause of 25kv overhead lines and less rolling resistance, 100 year lifespan of rail versus 14year for bitumen road

    –Wind Power – Spain installed 3500MW of wind last year — will install 4300MW this year — just tool the factories up and make the turbines. Use the concentrating solar thermal tech above to provide the supply security to deliver a hybrid wind/solar baseload solution

    –Plug in hybrids and other loads can be scheduled using smart meters controlled by the grid operator for cheaper tariff

    –Close the loop on recycling so upto 100% of materials in to goods are the inputs for new products at the end of their lifecycle. Plastics that can’t be recycled aren’t licensed to be sold for instance.

    –residual high density liquid fuels for range extending some PHEV trips and some rural /country last mile freight from Algal Biodiesel / Methanol
    Use Algae feedstock – 40x the energy per unit of land versus ethanol/corn

    The list goes on. Commercially available off the shelf now

    So Joseph I’d like to know what isn’t available now to make the transition, and why you are sticking to your climate destroying call of 50% by 2020.

    Just because possibly you can’t see the solutions. Hopefully the above helps.

    Kind Regards

  8. Further to the above

    The drive train of a Toyota Prius running in electric only mode (ie with a 40km battery installed) is 160watt hour per km which is less than 1/10th of the power of an average Australian motor car when looking at fuel tank to wheels analysis.

    A shared Tram/train system with a 30% average loading uses 1/40th of the average Australian car energy to propel along.

    This is extraordinary and means we only need to grow our power production about 10% on what it is at the moment if we switch our power / drive train system to electricity. (80% Rail / 20% PHEV in cities)

    We could easily reduce electricity consumption with insulation / heat pumps and moving steam for industry to concentrating solar thermal and refrigeration to solar absorber chillers. (or hybrids of these with electricity backup) by 40-70% meaning we can spend a lot less on the renewable infrastructure to 100% replace our polluting coal / nuclear.


    Matthew Wright
    Beyond Zero Emissions

  9. There are myriad ideas that are presently being espoused for the salvation of THE PLANET and it’s inhabitants. I say GREAT!

  10. There are myriad ideas that are presently being espoused for the salvation of THE PLANET and it’s inhabitants. I say GREAT! However many of these ideas are not NEW. Many of them have been around for centuries waiting for some AWE-INSPIRING ground-breaking ceremony to be applauded by those who relish living by COMMON SENSE, which of course is not so common. HENRY FORD whom many would like to score as being the FATHER OF SMOG (sarcastically), actually gave us part of the answer to part of the problem, seeing that his Dearborn, Michigan mansion had it’s own self-contained power plant! GENIOUS! What else is new? Thus the financially strapped banking industry, with backs to the wall, and nowhere to turn, can take a queue from the OLD MAN. Solicit Congress along with other resourceful regulators and benefactors to generate a BOOST to the housing market by up-grading foreclosed housing to the latest GREEN TECHNOLOGY, providing tax and/or market incentives to those whose participate in the renovation and/or purchase of such homes. WHERE THERE IS A WILL, THERE CAN BE A WAY! If AMERICA wants to WORK, provide a means for it to go back to work! Carbon dioxide removal is considered an emergency. It has been utillized to produce dry-ice. I wonder what megatons of dry-ice could be used to cool down if the collection of C02 was converted to it’s production on a massive scale? Also we need to re-visit the “old” Chrysler gas-turbine engine for automobiles that was discarted years ago for various reasons. Lets take an up-dated look-see, no telling what may be discovered. WE NEED TO GET ON THE BALL! BOOYAH!

  11. Jonas says:

    This can obviously done but only with biomass, the single biggest potential source of clean energy.

    However, Gore’s call is only a first weak step. We must begin to go carbon-negative, now. Sticking to carbon-neutral renewables is a bit too simplistic.

    The technology for negative emissions energy is here. There’s no reason to wait.

    Of course, solar, wind, geothermal, etc… can play a (small) role too.

  12. Jonas, that is rubbish, biomass , algae making char (carbon negative biofuels) are a part of the solution but there is not the capacity of areas under cultivation to replace the gross energy requirements of our stationary energy and transport sectors.

    however to range extend vehicles for people living in out of the way places their is a spot.

    solar wind geothermal can play a HUGE role.. not a small one. biomass a small one. We must really only leverage algae and biomass residuals or we’re going to compete with food production and habitat which is what is happening now — if we do algae then water supply is an issue.

    SO Electrification of transport is where it is at. and direct solar is 10,000 times more energy than photosynthesis for biomass.. so direct solar concentrated to boil water, converted to wind which runs through a wind turbine and direct solar photovoltaic.. with a little biomass to range extend vehicles and offer backup for electricity supply security.

  13. Randall Jacobson says:

    I like Al Gore’s call to action and I’d suggest that even a ten trillion dollar investment to build a complete infrastructure using concentrating solar would be money well spent.
    Consider that we are now spending one trillion dollars to satisfy our energy needs and spending up to 60% of these dollars on imports. Assuming a modest inflation rate of 3% these costs will inflate to $19.1 trillion dollars by the year 2108. Now let us assume we have completed our solar infrastructure over the next 20 years and we are now getting one trillion dollars in revenue at the time they are completed in the year 2038. At the constant inflation rate will see yearly revenue of $1.8 trillion by the year 2058. After 50 years our solar farms are producing revenue of $4.38 trillion dollars a year and the total revenue over the 100 year period from years 2038 to 2138 is $625 trillion dollars on an investment of ten trillion dollars. On the down side a cup of coffee will cost $25 dollars in the year 2138 but the cost of renewable energy could be cheap.
    One of the lowest cost sources of electricity today is from Hoover Dam. If we built this infrastructure today it would be an expensive option but we are taking the benefit on the infrastructure completed over 80 years ago. If we build a concentrating solar infrastructure today we would enjoy the benefits for the next 100 years provided we build the infrastructure to endure.
    We need greater emphasis to show that renewable energy is the low cost option for future generations. We also need to look at the cost to our economy and our national security to spend $500 billion a year on foreign oil. We will quickly go broke attempting to buy foreign oil and we can’t move fast enough to become self reliant.

  14. Helmut says:

    Wind energy is a joke (but not as big of a joke as ethanol). It really isn’t practical for windmills to be attached to the grid because they produce so little electricity. In order to do anything meaningful, they would have to be built all over the place and suck up just about every gust of wind that crosses our country. The only real application that I see for windmills is to power individual firms (see: New Belgium Brewery) as a means of free energy for a single operation.
    Solar energy on the other hand has vast gridded energy potential. If just a small fraction of our countries desert wastelands were covered with state-of-the-art solar cells, we could achieve energy independence. I believe the government should fund a Manhattan Project style initiative for solar technology in order to step up solar cell efficiency. This would provide huge dividends… The sun can provide essentially infinite energy and is 100% renewable (within 5 billion years, that is!).
    And those who are concerned about the variations in cloud cover and such: When the sun shines and excess energy is being produced, a solar plant uses that energy to charge an “energy reservoir” for use at a later time. This can be something as simple as a lake with a hydroelectric dam, and the excess energy is used to pump water above the turbines. Then when the clouds come, the potential energy of the water is turned into usable electricity…

  15. John Hollenberg says:

    > Wind energy is a joke (but not as big of a joke as ethanol). It really isn’t practical for windmills to be attached to the grid because they produce so little electricity.

    Debunked here:


    and here:


  16. Paul says:

    Few people yet know that there is a website set up to promote a 100% green energy plan for Australia.

    The website is: http://www.DearKevinRudd.com.au/

    It has been in place for over a year and the proposal is being seriously being considered by the Australian Federal Government.

    It is a masterpiece of engineering and much of what is shown on the site could be incorporated into the plans put forward by pickens and Gore.

    In any event it would be a great idea to lend some help to the website and proposal contained therein in the fight against Global warming.

  17. In 10 years is impossible but we’re can hope.