The Future of Low-Carbon Electricity

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We review future global demand for electricity and major technologies positioned to supply it with minimal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: renewables (wind, solar, water, geothermal and biomass), nuclear fission, and fossil power with CO2 capture and sequestration. Two breakthrough technologies (space solar power and nuclear fusion) are discussed as exciting but uncertain additional options for low net GHG emissions (“low-carbon”) electricity generation. Grid integration technologies (monitoring and forecasting of transmission and distribution systems, demand-side load management, energy storage, and load balancing with low-carbon fuel substitutes) are also discussed. For each topic, recent historical trends and future prospects are reviewed, along with technical challenges, costs and other issues as appropriate. While no 3 technology represents an ideal solution, their strengths can be enhanced by deployment in combination, along with grid integration that forms a critical set of enabling technologies to assure a reliable and robust future low-carbon electricity system.

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