A future based solely on renewable energy is not far off.
We can and will transition to a society that no longer utilizes the burning of fossil fuels. The electrification of our infrastructure, transportation, and energy needs is currently underway.
Case in point is a story out of Berkeley, California. Berkeley is the first major city in the U.S. to ban the use of natural gas in new construction. There are now more than 50 other cities in California with plans to do the same.
Natural gas was seen as a “bridge fuel” to help us transition away from dirtier fossil fuels. In fact, the recent fracking boom has killed off much of the need for the use of coal fire power plants. Now forward thinking cities are realizing that they can completely supplant the need for natural gas with sources of renewable energy.
The truth about natural gas is that it’s not as clean and safe as many think. The total lifetime emissions from natural gas come from various sources including; drilling, fracking, leaks, and burning throughout from start to end use. There’s also considerable health dangers including asthma, lung cancer, bronchitis, and heart disease caused by both burned and unburned gas emissions.
Electrification of our homes and office buildings will also make our communities more resilient when recovering from disasters. In fact, getting natural gas lines repaired takes about 30 times longer after a large earthquake. In addition to natural disasters, gas lines have been known to explode on their own due to their inherently dangerous nature.
To make it even more clear that this change is both needed and certain, is the fact that it is now cheaper to go all electric with new infrastructure. That’s right, in addition to health and safety advantages, it now makes economic sense to avoid natural gas implementation in new buildings. This is made possible by recent increases in efficiency in HVAC systems, water heating, clothes drying, and high efficient induction cooking.
The challenge that we now face is to make this transition to a clean energy society as quickly as possible. Many older buildings must be retrofitted to this new future in which everything is electrified. While we are phasing out coal and natural gas, we will need massive amounts of new wind and solar power capacity combined with energy storage. At the same time, every major vehicle manufacturer must finally start producing electric automobiles en masse. This has already started with Tesla showing the “writing on the wall” by significantly cutting into other car companies’ sales and market share.
This transition away from fossil fuels has further benefits still. Significant numbers of local jobs will be created throughout this transition. These include enery efficiency, wind, solar, energy storage, and all related project management jobs connected to the implementation of this new energy infrastructure.
Also, as I’ve recently blogged about, power companies will save massive amounts of money by investing in distributed energy systems and taking on more residential solar. This will allow them to avoid costly further investments in large power plants, grid maintenance, and transmission costs. Microgrids are both cheaper and more resilient. Power companies will be able to both save money and provide for a more sustainable future at the same time.
Hopefully the life of natural gas as a bridge fuel will be as short lived as possible. The world is ready for electric everything; homes, commercial buildings, and transportation.