Marilyn A. Brown, Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology
Mega projects are always risky, and the stakes riding on the new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle couldn’t be higher.
With the cancellation of VC Summer’s nuclear construction project in South Carolina on July 31, Georgia’s plant Vogtle is now the only nuclear plant under construction in the U.S.
Since about 2007 natural gas prices have plummeted as a result of “fracking.” The cost of wind and solar power has also declined remarkably, and eliminating the wasteful ways we use electricity continues to be a vast and cheap energy resource. So, if the original decision to build two new reactors were made today, Georgians would not be debating two new units at plant Vogtle. But with so much construction already accomplished and with Georgia Power’s $4.5 billion estimated cost-to-complete, the “go” decision now is clear…the project should be finished. It is the least-cost option, and it will add significant reliable baseload generation.
When I was appointed to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors in 2010, the fate of TVA’s partially-finished second reactor at Watts Bar in Tennessee was uncertain. The goal of reliable and affordable electricity (along with environmental stewardship and economic development) dictated TVA’s decision to complete, and late last year, the Watts Bar 2 reactor began commercial operation. Today, 40% of TVA’s electricity is generated by its nuclear fleet, its rates remain low, and its CO2 emissions are half what they were in 2005.
Brown doesn’t think the industry will welcome the dismantling of the plan. “Executives at utilities I talk to would prefer to have a standard,” she says. “If they were given a choice, I don’t know that the policy they would pick is the Clean Power Plan. But they definitely want to have policies in place so that they can have greater certainty about future investments.” Continue Reading
"If the Clean Power plan were allowed to continue, it would have gotten the U.S. seven percent of the way to its 26 percent reduction goal under the Paris agreement, according to Marilyn Brown, a Georgia Institute of Technology professor and energy policy expert. The same goes for Obama’s fuel ...."Continue Reading
...“Market forces, particularly with gas prices being so low, have created a great deal of momentum in the right direction,” said Marilyn Brown, a professor at Georgia Tech's School of Public Policy. “But those are all really short-term advances. The question is, what are we going to be able to do to meet the longer-term goals? There's so much uncertainty.” ... Read the entire article here.
Peak Temperatures Will Push Electric Grid to the Brink in an Ever-Warming World
Rising temperature could cost U.S. utilities as much as $180 billion this century due to greater electricity demand.
The study doesn't calculate the expected effect on emissions from the additional capacity. But even if renewable sources like solar and wind power and low-carbon but controversial nuclear energy are part of the mix, the scenarios Hausman laid out are likely to mean more carbon emissions, said Marilyn Brown, who studies energy markets at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
"I'm not sure I'd want $180 billion worth of new power plants just to meet this load," Brown said. "I'd rather shrink that by managing demand as much as possible."
Improvements in efficiency and more use of renewable power could go a long way toward blunting that expected spike, Brown said. New federal standards for air conditioners went into effect in 2015. Roofs that reflect rather than absorb solar radiation and something as simple as planting more trees for shade can help keep buildings cool without relying on electricity, she said.
"There's no CO2 penalty for shade trees," Brown said.
The U.S. strategy for attacking climate change focuses heavily on increasing efficiency and promoting more renewables to meet future demand. And the U.S. Department of Energy has called for spending between $300 and $500 billion to update the grid for the 21st century. On top of that, the rapid drop in the price of solar power has piqued many consumers' interest, opening up an opportunity for many homeowners to reduce their dependence on existing utilities.
"Professor Marilyn Brown talks about demand side management and her new book, Green Savings: How Policies and Markets Drive Energy Efficiency.
Energy efficiency is often viewed as a cost rather than an economic opportunity. Marilyn Brown, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy, addresses these and other common misperceptions about energy efficiency and provides a roadmap for implementing demand side management (options for reducing electricity consumption) as a frontline strategy for addressing global climate change, improving energy security, supporting grid reliability in her new book, Green Savings: How Policies and Markets Drive Energy Efficiency. Co-authored with Iowa State University Professor Yu Wang, ‘Green Savings’ offers insight into energy resource planning; evaluating emerging technologies; policymaking from local to global levels, and user behavior.
Dr. Brown talks discusses her book and energy efficiency trends with the Strategic Energy Institute." Continue Reading the entire interview here.
Marilyn Brown, the project’s lead researcher and the Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems in the School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech tells Think Progress, “To minimize costs, the country needs to reduce its coal consumption more rapidly, continue to expand its gas-fired power plants, but temper this growth with aggressive policies to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy.”