Diversifying power generation in a carbon-constrained future

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The US electricity industry faces operational and environmental challenges of unprecedented scope and complexity. Demand for electric power is increasing even as much of the generation fleet ages and capacity stagnates.

Climate research and policy cloud the investment picture as utilities wrestle with this fundamental question: What technology portfolio must utilities develop to meet demand growth and the social and policy mandates related to climate change?

Each generation option has its proponents, with advocates of nuclear, renewables, and clean coal technologies calling for a place in the portfolio. Energy efficiency advocates also work hard to persuade the public and policy-makers that investments must be made on the other side of the meter to achieve meaningful reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Even the grid itself is subject to technological scrutiny, as utilities work to determine how best to meet growing demand while reducing potentially climate-changing emissions.

Increasingly, utilities are turning to researchers and scientists for answers in meeting this challenge. Together, they are tackling the question of how to “de-carbonize” the electricity sector. If climate science and policy continue on their current track, the ultimate goal will be to stabilize and then reverse global atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The question then becomes, what portfolio of technologies can equip the electricity sector to achieve this?

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