How Close Are We to Zero-Emissions Electricity?

How Close Are We to Zero-Emissions Electricity?


We’ve all heard the statements and stats
about the ominous timeline our planet is on. To avoid the worst effects of climate change––from
natural disasters to mass extinction––we know that we need to reduce our greenhouse
gas emissions. And fast. And when we stop literally lighting things
on fire to power our world, we can build something that looks more like this. When you plug in,
you’re pulling from a resilient local network of abundant and affordable clean energy that
keeps the sky blue, the storms at bay and the birds, well… alive. So, how close are
we to a zero-emissions grid? Greenhouse gas emissions primarily come from
electricity, transportation, and industry. But in a zero-emissions future, this chart
actually looks more like this. Because in post-carbon world, almost everything relies
on the electrical grid. This means we’ll need a way bigger grid
than we have today –– maybe as much double the 4100 terawatt hours the U.S. currently
uses per year. Right now that’s served up through a high-voltage power system that draws
primarily from centralized coal, nuclear, and natural gas plants. Three main grids then
deliver power by the minute to the eastern half, western half, and the Texas… half… of
the country, through local distribution networks. We use almost no oil in the power sector to
generate electricity, which is a good thing. In 2017, we were 28% cleaner than we were
back in 2005. Two thirds of our power still comes from coal and natural gas, so we have a lot of work to do. So what is that work, exactly? Well, electrical
engineers see the life cycle of energy in three main phases: generation––making
it, transmission––moving it, and distribution––metering it out. And to build a zero-emissions grid,
each of these stages has to be clean and efficient. So let’s start with generation. If you look at how clean we are, nuclear makes
up about 20%, Hydro is around 7.5% or so, and then wind and solar together are getting close to around 8% and then very small amounts of geothermal and
some other renewable technologies. So, how can we bump those numbers up? The
fact is, most renewable sources are highly variable. And finding a way to store that
sunshine for a rainy day is challenge #1. Often storage seems as the Holy Grail to allow
us reaching a low-carbon society. Solar PV and wind turbines are intermittent energy
resources; if we need to have energy available all the time, they cannot supply it. Today, the most common and widely used technology
to store energy is pump storage, huge dams with large lakes at the top and when we need the energy we just open the dam and water
is running down and generating hydro-electricity. Compressed air is another viable solution
for underground storage, and then, of course, there are batteries, which are becoming cheaper
and more widely available by the day. With batteries, typically you just have a
few hours of storage. We’re going to need longer periods of storage, not on the order
of hours but on the order of weeks. The problem is, pumped hydro storage, while
powerful, has already been developed in most of the places it can be. It has a huge ecological footprint and until materials scientists crack the immortal battery––and don’t worry, we’ll let you know––
renewables are just too flaky to rely on entirely, without some additional help. Nuclear power has been a very reliable source
of zero emission power in the U.S. People like Bill Gates and some other groups are
helping to provide support for development of advanced and small-module reactors. These
are safer, cleaner, generate less waste than the generation of nuclear reactors that we
have right now. What we call carbon capture and storage that we install
on fossil fuels power plants —what it can do is capture the CO2 before it reaches the
air and you put it back to the ground. This technology is not yet mature, it’s very expensive. But this is definitely one of the tools and one of the technologies that we would need to develop. Of course, if we could just crack nuclear fusion, that
would be another story. And maybe we will. But once we’ve generated all the clean energy
we need, our next challenge is to transmit it. This is challenge #2, and as it turns
out, it’s one of the biggest. There are some areas that are just more geographically
endowed with good renewable resources. Places like Washington state create more hydropower than they actually use so they have a high
voltage direct current line from Oregon down to the suburbs of Los Angeles that delivers
that clean energy to Southern California. Unfortunately, large infrastructure projects
like this are a challenge to move forward, because let’s face it: no one wants a power
line running through their view––and building them underground is a spendy endeavor. We need to bite the bullet. We’re going to
probably need tens or hundreds of large power lines constructed for this power grid of the
future. And putting up with some black lines of sky
seems like a fair price to keep the whole sky blue. But, even the most efficient power lines still lose
some heat through transport. And that brings us to the final piece of the puzzle: distribution.
Once the power gets where it’s going, it has to get metered out to industrial, commercial,
and residential consumers. And we’re working hard to give many of these ancient systems
a digital facelift. By learning about people’s energy consumption habits, a so called ‘smart
grid’ can actually adjust prices to keep up with supply and demand. Energy efficiency should be promoted first.
Any megawatt which is not consumed is a win-win here. There are millions of smart meters that have
been deployed throughout the US. They’d get a signal, maybe perhaps through their thermostat
or their smart device that would tell them that prices are high right now and that they
might want to hold off on doing the laundry or running the dishwasher during the peak
time of day. But what if that kind of communication went
both ways? Generating and storing power locally, like using rooftop solar panels or electric
car batteries, eliminates the need for transmission entirely. And this is a concept known as distributed
generation, or a ‘microgrid.’ Instead of pulling a set amount of power from
a distant main source, microgrids allow custom power delivery from a suite of sources as
close as your own neighborhood, and this turns its participants into “prosumers,” because
they are both producing and consuming electricity. A device called a microgrid controller acts
like a dj, dropping live beats to match the energy of the crowd… or the energy consumption
of a neighborhood. And this allows prosumers to buy and sell cleaner electricity to and
from their own individual power systems, saving time, dollars, and carbon. A microgrid manager or controller knows what the weather forecast is for the day, it knows how much solar you’re going to be able to produce, how much storage
is available and knows when to have the natural gas backup kick in. It knows what the power
prices might be and when it can be selling power into the grid or buying power for very
cheaply from the main grid. It can be optimized based
on producing the fewest amount of greenhouse gases. Some countries are getting close to a zero-emissions
grid. Iceland has so much hydropower that it sustains their entire nation. Tackling climate change and reducing emission
is a global challenge. So even if California and Germany and all Europe becomes zero carbon
it doesn’t matter if the whole world won’t unify and act together to achieve this goal
because a molecule of carbon does not care if it was emitted in China or in Israel, it
will impact the climate the same. And that’s not even counting the billion
people in developing nations who are expected to become energy consumers in the next century. The truth is, energy is different everywhere. But what all
of us need is a healthy mix of renewable and zero-emission sources; next generation storage
solutions, more transmission lines and less need for transmission at all––namely,
a smart distribution system that shows us exactly when and how all this energy is moving
around, helping us save megawatts and dollars. Experts agree that we must make big strides
before 2030, and reach complete carbon neutrality by 2050, to avoid the 1.5º threshold that
spells climate chaos. Currently we are headed to 3.2 degrees celsius warming. If we want 1.5 degrees celcius, we need to do five times more. We kids shouldn’t have to do this. I wish the adults would take their responsibility but since no one’s doing anything, we have to. So… how close are we to a zero-emissions
grid? We are not so close. Actually, we are not
close at all, but we definitely have means and tools to accelerate this transition. We’re still emitting somewhere north of 50
gigatons of greenhouse gases every year. We need to stabilize that. We can get there but we need to do it faster,
we must be more ambitious, put more effort and think in the box, out of the box, underneath
the box and all the way that we can promote this really, really important goal of low
carbon society. Brains, exoplanets, dark matter, miracle cures, giant wooly mammoths?! Check out more How Close Are We? on this playlist. Smash that subscribe button and let us know what we should investigate next in the comments down below. Thanks for watching!

100 thoughts on “How Close Are We to Zero-Emissions Electricity?

  1. There's only one country that won't be happy with that. Countries in which crude oil is the main Income. Which is ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  2. If we could finally crack how fusion reactor can work then thats it problem solved tons of energy zero emmisions zero radiation and no meltdown danger basiclly a very rare situation where there is only pros and no cons

  3. In the US, we are weirdly moving forward and backwards at the same time.
    On the one hand, coal is dropping off quickly, with plans for few coal plants underway, and most of them will be canceled before ground is broken.
    On the other hand, hydro is 'drying up', and drying up at a rate much faster than solar or wind are growing. Plus there is Nuclear, which is also slowing being shut down as old plants age out and no new plants are being made.
    What we see is a growth of natural gas, solar, and wind… but almost all of the growth is in natural gas. The US is the Saudi Ariba of natural gas. We have the vast bulk of the world's supply. It is cheap, efficient, and (for a fossil fuel) very clean to burn. Forget about carbon for a moment, there are lots of other terrible chemicals produced by coal, and Natural gas has pretty much none of those drawbacks.
    Personally, I am very pro Nuclear, but of all things considered today, natural gas and CCS is the combo that makes the most sense… along with lots of wind, solar, and batteries.

  4. Why is it that district heating is not more common in the US? Like the rest of Europe… I find it so old fashioned to still use gas and in it self an environmental disaster in a lot of places. Excess energy can be stored and used at a later point. How is the environment going to cope with all the battery waste? You mention Iceland, did you know that they also have district heating networks?

  5. This video is very well explained and thought out. Thank you very much Seeker ! Today I learned a lot. Have a good day

  6. Hi, I have access the most advanced AI building energy monitoring software. Green Metrics measures real-time energy use and generates environmental performance insight. We track building energy use at all scales, from individual homes to residential towers, commercial or industrial complexes, neighbourhoods, and whole cities. DM me if you are interested in this very high technology. https://www.greenmetrics.ca/

  7. Could we avoid the transmission and distrapution phase if everyone had something in their homes to generate and store their own personal electricity?

  8. close?? We've had Zero emission power since the 50's. Its just been held down by politicians and stupid people. its called NUCLEAR POWER! The safest, cleanest and most reliable power source we have, but somehow people are terrified of it, why?

  9. What about reducing our need? It is entirely doable except for the simple fact that if we reduced our consumption we would have to deal with a shrinking economy which means fighting greed, yeah… Yeah better sticking to fleeing forward even though we always meet new harder, more threatening "challenges" this way.

  10. a good way , is too kill like 2 billion people , then maybe we won't need so much energy all the time , over population is making everything worse for everybody.

  11. It would be good if solar panels could be placed in public places or public buildings but you have to deal with people complaining about destroying the view or the scenery or whatever delusional excuse

  12. What we need to do is get RID of the rid all together and have small generators in people's house and USE NIKOLA TESLA'S WIRELESS NETWORK to send it to where it is needed.

  13. The tides, the jetstream, and the gulfstream are all real perpetual motion devices and we have control over the tides schedule. Maybe we can figure those out while trying to figure out nuclear fusion. You constantly hear that the sun provides millions of times what our energy needs are. So does the ocean, and we know how to harness that.

  14. What about reducing our energy consumption to a more basic one. I've seen people driving to the grocery store a few blocks away from home. I've seen big buildings during night with all lights turned on. I've seen people warming up their house with summer temperatures. The list goes on. We have also to change this mentality to take for granted the abundance of energy without impact on the environment and our lives

  15. "The human body generates more bio-electricity than a 120-volt battery and over 25,000 B.T.U.'s of body heat. We are, as an energy source, easily renewable and completely recyclable, the dead liquified and fed intravenously to the living."

  16. There is no system of capturing energy that is zero emission, you have to look at the full life cycle: production, use, and recycling and divide that by the energy captured. Some that seem clean, like wind, can have negative environmental side affects like killing lots of birds, others like natural gas sound bad but there are plants with zero co2 emission. It's not a left/right or green/petro it's choosing the cleanest and most effective system for a given area.

  17. Energy generation dominates the other two phases of the power cycle. If you can't crack that, the other two won't make enough difference to matter. You gave new nuclear energy very little time. Our investments need to go after Bill Gates' money and get thorium reactors commercialized.

  18. Sorry sweetie but that electricity cannot be sustained with that technology. There is a plant in Texas that runs on natural gas that is 100% clean. Check it out no CO2 emissions at all

  19. This is not needed.
    A much cheaper, easier, faster, sustainable, and better method is just removing your own bad habits and developing your own good habits.

  20. I love how she says to keep the birds alive after pointing to the "Ideal Society" in which we are using wind turbines for energy.

  21. The damage to the atmosphere is done.So everything done in the present will help. How long does it take the earth to repair itself?

  22. Wind and Biomass are not worthy pursuits, the latter costs too much while the prior just burns organic matter and emits CO2. Photovoltaics are coming down in price very fast, so this should be the core of power supply. Let's build them in the desert, on an INDUSTRIAL SCALE, and use electrolysis to make hydrogen for the night. Also, I don't understand why hydroelectric is not considered "renewable" but biomass, which just burns forests is. Also nuclear should still be on the table. It generates radioactive waste but that can be contained.

  23. if you willing to go even deeper to the Earth core, you will find, abundant, continuous, safe, source of heat that can be harvested with a very simple technology that so many YouTubers already did small scale of it,… that furnace down there already burning for more than 4 billions years and still going strong….but yeah, your incredible genius brain rather turn everybody into mutants

  24. We are getting increasingly closer than most pessimistic people think. Since the 2015ish the business model for renewable have tipped. It is now sound business to invest in renewable compared to fossil fuels in many developed countries, those that release most CO2 per person. The capital market forces combined with political will, will accelerate this faster than you think.

  25. I think one of the biggest issues is how ignorant the public is in general. I have been told absolutely idiotic things, many times, by people such as how we need to do away with anything to do with nuclear energy, bot just weapons but anything with the word nuclear in its name, they refused to even consider that modern reactors could be safe and a cleaner alternative. I have also been told that we should forget about any kind of renewable energy and go back to to using nothing but fossil fuels because they believe we literally have an infinite supply given to us by the christian god and that god would never allow our environment to become too polluted to live in, so burning fossil fuels is perfectly ok. We really need to work on educating the public better, and it doesnt help when have political leaders like the current president that deny anything like climate change.

  26. love ur channel but,i know that ur viewer r mostly in us,but ppl outside us also watch this vdo,so if u really care abt the environment and pollution,it would b far better 4 us guys outside the us if u guys talked about our energy consumption(just an example) not just in the us but the whole world, since not all the environmentalist come 4m the us…..nice vid btw

  27. We passed that threshold long ago, unfortunately big energy companies buy out those innovative companies and patents to keep them from spreading their influence which results in the continuation of the oligarchs.

  28. The infamous "hockey stick" graph has been debunked & Michael E. Mann's credibility has been stripped bare.
    The "97% of scientists consensus" has been shown to be a fabrication by an Australian cartoonist.
    None of Al Gore's predictions have come to fruition.
    Zero emissions energy is not going to do anything except raise the cost of living & prevent millions from lifting themselves out of poverty.
    "Climate change" is merely the Trojan horse they are using to bring in global socialism. Don't believe the lies!
    And… Cue the haters…

  29. ‘Renewable’ energy is a lie. Think of all the metals that have to mined to make a wind turbine! Aluminium, copper, steel, nickel, gold, platinum, and doubtless many others. They all need to be mined using lots of energy, then smelted, processed into a usable state, then machined and shaped into parts. Then the rare earths used to make the neodymium magnets have to mined, processed and manufactured. Then we have use oil! Lots of it, and chemicals made from oil. Like carbon fibre, fibreglass, resins etc,etc.
    Then we have to build access roads to every wind turbine. That takes a lot of energy and raw materials adding yet more costs.
    Next you have to build an electricity grid connecting every single turbine together and feeding the power produced into the electricity grid. This needs transformers, using even more resources and energy to produce.

    Then there is the useful life of the turbine itself when finally working. That’s about 15 years, after which it needs a brand new turbine to be built, erected and maintained, whew!
    Each turbine costs a huge amount of cash, materials and resources and yet makes more Co2 during it’s manufacture and production than it will ever save when generating electricity.

    During use these monstrosities kill huge numbers of birds and bats. Large numbers of them are found dead near turbines, especially migratory species like geese and ducks. I have seen photos of this, it’s not nice.
    Then there is the problem of low frequency sound of turbines which can be very distressing for anyone living near them. It drives some folk bananas, literally.

    Gas fired or nuclear power would be more suitable for making the huge amounts of power we need in today’s world. Heavy industries such as those for smelting the iron, steel, aluminium, copper and other metals needed to make everything that you and your families need to live a normal life.
    Could you do without these things? A car, computer, washing machine, tumble dryer, mobile phone, tv, radio, cooker, fridge, kitchen sink, fan oven, microwave, bed, baby buggy, baby cot, carpets, household furniture, windows and doors, bicycle, sewing machine, game console, MP3 player, the train bus or tram you use to get to work, in fact everything required for modern society to work?

    It all comes from engineering and industry, from factories and workshops which all need lots of ENERGY to keep us all fed, clothed and in work. Renewable energy simply cannot proved the energy we need. Natural gas (Methane) is a greenhouse gas, so if we burn it to make electricity it will produce Co2 but will not drive global warming as all the climate ‘scientists’ claim.

    Most of the plants around today evolved 400 million years ago. Corals in the sea at that time were plentiful and healthy. So how come these things happened when Co2 was at the level of 5,000 parts per million? Surely everything alive in the seas and growing on the land would have been cooked by all that *greenhouse gas*? But no, the plants did not cook, nor did they die. Nor did the oceans become acidic as the ‘climate scientists’ warn us will happen VERY SOON unless we take radical action!

    Do you think it’s possible that these ‘climate scientists’ could be wrong? No, surely not! Or could they? I STRONGLY urge you to investigate all this yourself as I did. I have found that most ‘climate scientists’ are very biased toward radical green opinion and believe that if they “say it loud enough and often enough, the public will begin to believe you’. I have seen one say just that on film, live.
    I have also seen ‘climate scientists’ say “yes, we obviously overstate the case for global warming but it’s more effective if we do”. In other words they have tell you and me (the plebs) that things are really dire when they are not, so that the ‘climate scientists’ can gain power and control and most of all money, from our payment for over expensive energy. The green movement has been hijacked by Marxists who want power over every aspect of your life, they want control over you and your spending, what better way to get these things than to make up a total lie that global warming is a threat to humanity? Then you just get the plebs to demand renewable energy and the ‘climate scientists’ can grab the reigns of civilisation and drive anywhere they want to, because you, the public, are backing them! Isn’t that clever!

    Renewable energy is very expensive and cannot provide the energy we need. It is much too governed by wind speed and sunshine, which in the UK is not good enough for our power/energy needs. So if you want to live in a cave and eat grass, please go ahead and back renewable energy, there will be no iron and steel mills churning out the stuff you need to live a normal life, so caves and grass will be your lot.

    INVESTIGATE these things, Global warming, climate change, the cost of renewable energy.
    Global warming is a con, it’s not going to happen. Find out the people who say it’s a con on the internet, don’t sit around and believe the scaremongers prattling on about their ‘Climate models’. These climate models are notoriously inaccurate and get a lot of things wrong, mostly causing climate changes that never happen.

    Challenge everything you read about global warming, make sure you find the truth yourself.

  30. Nuclear waste is kinda a big deal too btw. I sorta feel climate change is such a hot topic just so people can save the nuclear industry, they've been having a rough go of it. Everyone was very afraid of nuclear waste at one point and time. Now people are thinking nuclear waste is not so bad when compared to the really scary co2.The best future technological option, to reduce carbon emissions will be synthetic photosynthesis as the byproduct is oxygen.

  31. There are 2 kinds of loads. Base loads (need all the time) and peak loads (morning and evning rush hour). Wind and solar are good for none of them. But thats not a problem cause CO2 does not cause global warming. Its a big hoax.

  32. The rise of distributed economy. You can sell people low cost houses adapted to generate more energy than it consumes. The houses will be paid with the amount of eletricity generated. The owners are commited over energy production by being employees of the company which rewards them with shares and money. Combine this with home made food production by organic urban gardening, smart grids and a constant supply of energy by some SMRs, we can solve most problems like unnemployment, clean energy demmands, housing, and can improve education levels. People are free to create more ways to generate eletricity, they may even expand and diversify the system, the limits is the human creativity. Even bikes alternators are valid, you can mantain your health while make money at same time. And if every

    Also in the sunny coastlines, using exceeding power to desalinize sea water and pump it to hydroeletric dams also increase system efficiency.

    For example: if every house generates and sells a mean net power of 2kW, if he have 1 million homes, we have a total of 2000 MW, almost a big nuclear power plant using only houses. And you employ a minimum of 1 million people. This 1 million people who can generate biowaste to fuel biogas plants.

    We can be very efficient, help the environment, help society, create jobs and still make money.

  33. But those birds get chopped up by those turbine blades. The low pressure trailing edge explodes bats lungs. That’s not better power production. We need to address nature as a whole. Environmental groups are now opposing new turbine projects all over the world. The word green does not make it green.

  34. I have no issues at all with the pollution of Mother Earth! She has been here for a few billion years and she will continue to be so! She witnesses many pretenders to her throne, from the dinosaurs to us…All have come and gone. It will not be different for the human race. The human race will be wiped out whether we like it or not. It is only a matter of when…thought the sooner the better because the human race has become a nuisance to other beings….

  35. There are few sad facts tho. Most advanced and wealthy countries emits most fossil co2 per capita. For example, mentioned statistic person from Iceland in 2017 emited 12.23 tons of CO2, for comparison, person from usa – 15.74 tons, from china – 7.72 tons, Peru – 1.74 tons, Burundi – 0.03 tons. I don't think Peru has many solar/hydro/geothermal/wind energy.

  36. Total waste of money. We should rather spend all this time effort and money to prepare for the climate changing, and cleaning up pollution. We are way too insignificant to make any serious impact on Earth. We will kill ourselves long before we put enough CO2 in the atmosphere, for Earth not to just filter it out and continue without us. Honestly, start focusing on stuff that concerns humans, and how we can survive the natural climate change that is happening.

  37. Having zero emissions would mean that the energy generation process is 100% efficient which is impossible. Even using Anti-matter you would still have some efficiency losses elsewhere in the process of converting that thermal energy into electricity.

  38. Why do you people talk about carbon as if it is a bad thing? All life on our planet is carbon-based. Plants require carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, and we require oxygen from the photosynthesis of plants and algae. As much as I like the idea of alternative energy, you still have to create a massive infrastructure using industries that require mining, smelting, manufacturing, composite materials, transportation, construction, excavation, concrete, and so on… If you want to reduce pollution and emissions, tackle things like geoengineering first (namely, stratospheric aerosol injection, ocean iron fertilization etc.)

  39. Hey, Seeker, you forgot two things, like stratospheric windmills and Earthships. Stratosphere windmills can be put in any climate, and depending on how many you put in one area they can generate just as much power as a dam can. Earthships that can be made totally off the grid because they tend to their own sewage, heat, power, water, food which can in affect drive down consumption to epic levels. Earthships use passive solar to generate heat year-round without power consumption.

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