Can renewables become the dominant source of electricity in Canada and the USA?

Overview

On September 24th & 25th, 2014, TISED and Institut de l’énergie Trottier (IET) at Polytechnique Montréal co-hosted events on exploring the potential for renewable energy penetration in Canada and the USA. We were honored to have experts from MIT and the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA) speaking at these events and sharing their insights on critical issue related to renewable energy. Learn more about these events and renewable energy below!

"Prospects and Challenges for High Penetration of Renewable Energy", John Reilly, MIT 

Abstract

Renewables electricity sources are a seemingly attractive low-carbon option to substitute for coal or gas generation.  Regional availability of high quality wind and solar resources varies, but at least in the United States, most regions have significant resources.  Expanding the options to biomass, hydroelectricity, and geothermal creates greater opportunities.  A recent NREL led study concluded that high penetration renewable scenarios were technically feasible, and while the cost of electricity was higher than today it was not out of line with other estimates the electricity price impacts of reducing US carbon emissions.  The cost per MWhr of installed capacity of wind and solar have come down substantially in recent years, and further reductions are foreseen.  The bigger challenge with intermittent renewables is matching an intermittent and uncertain supply with load.  to some extent the supply of solar and wind vary in complementary ways, biomass, hydro, and geothermal offer the possibility altering dispatch, and options exist for energy storage.  Further grid integration and additional transmission can also play a role one evening out supply and demand by taking advantage of geographic anti-correlation. While those options were all considered, back-up fossil generation capacity also played a substantial role.  The study addressed grid integration issues while highlighting the need for further investigation of the details of grid management with dispersed and variable renewable resources.

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About John Reilly

John ReillyJohn ReillyJohn Reilly is the Co-Director of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and Senior Lecturer in the Sloan School. Dr. Reilly received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.  His Ph.D. thesis developed and exercised a global energy model to study CO2 emissions and climate change.  This has led to a career aimed at understanding global environmental change.  He joined MIT in 1998 as Associate Director of the Joint Program, after working at the Institute for Energy Analysis, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the US Department of Agriculture. His research spans many aspects of global change, from economics of mitigation and impacts to integrated assessment, including detailed examination of alternative technologies such as renewable sources of energy supply, distributional effects of carbon pricing, air pollution control costs, valuation of health and agricultural impacts of air pollution, agriculture, land use change, biofuels, water resource modeling, and studies of uncertainty in future climate. [Website]

 

"Vision 2050: The Future of Canada's Electricity System", Jim Burpee, CEO, Canadian Electricity Association 

Abstract 

By 2050, the majority of nuclear and fossil fueled (coal, oil, gas) generating stations operating today will be life expired.  There are a number of academic and other groups doing studies that suggest what the generation mix in 2050 could look like, but few describe what will make those potential futures a reality.  CEA's Vision 2050, rather than predicting the future, discusses the key factors that will shape the future and makes recommendations on how to achieve a path to a lower carbon economy in North America, while balancing reliability, affordability and sustainability.  While 2050 may seem like a long way off into the future, the reality is that decisions made in the next 10 to 15 years will determine what our electricity system will look like in 2050.

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About Jim Burpee 

Jim BurpeeJim BurpeeJim Burpee was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA) in February 2012. As President of CEA, Mr. Burpee acts as spokesperson on issues of national concern to the electric utility industry. Jim Burpee has a long history with both the Canadian and global electricity industries. He worked for Ontario Hydro and its successor company, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) for over 31 years. He worked in a senior executive capacity for over half that time in a number of roles, including having responsibility for all of OPG’s non-nuclear generation fleet, Energy Markets, and Corporate Development. He also has three years of senior executive experience in Ontario Hydro/OPG’s nuclear generation business at both Bruce and Pickering Generating Stations. Most recently, Jim served as Chief Executive Officer at Bridge Renewable Energy Technologies Inc., a company which marketed Biomass Gasification Electricity Systems primarily in the developing world. Jim joined CEA to stay involved with the business and influence policy in Canada. He is committed to expanding the role of the energy industry in Canada and Canadian electricity in the North American market. Jim currently sits on the board of the Energy Council of Canada, and served as a Director on the board of the Canadian Electricity Association from 1993 to 2008, including one year as Chairman. He is a member of Professional Engineers Ontario and the Institute for Corporate Directors. Jim graduated from the University of Toronto with a BASc in Mechanical Engineering. He is married and the proud father of two sons. In his spare time he enjoys skiing and golfing. [Website]

 

"Rapid Innovation and Growth in Renewable Energy", Jessika Trancik, MIT

Abstract

Renewable energy technologies have sustained high growth rates over the past 30 years [1], with solar and wind energy production growing at roughly 30% per year, due to a combination of technology cost improvement and public policy incentives. This presentation will share new research that has uncovered reasons for these unprecedented fast rates of improvement, and has probed the prospects for renewable energy to produce a significant share of global electricity. This is a critical time in the development trajectories of clean energy technologies, and in global efforts to mitigate climate change. As the data suggest, a technology transition may be within reach. Read more: Trancik, J.E., 'Back the Renewables Boom', Nature, Vol. 507, 2014, pp. 300-302. 

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About Jessika Trancik



Jessika TrancikJessika TrancikJessika Trancik is the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Professor in Energy Studies in the Engineering Systems Division at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research centers on evaluating the environmental impacts and costs of energy technologies, and setting design targets to help accelerate the development of these technologies in the laboratory. This work involves assembling and analyzing expansive datasets, and developing new quantitative models and theory. Projects focus on electricity and transportation, with an emphasis on solar energy conversion and storage technologies. Professor Trancik worked previously at the Santa Fe Institute and at Columbia University's Earth Institute. She earned a B.S. in materials science and engineering from Cornell University, and a D.Phil. in materials science from the University of Oxford. [Website]

 

 

Event hosts

These talks are brought to you by the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design (TISED) at McGill University and the Institut de l’énergie Trottier (IET) at Polytechnique Montréal.

Event poster

Poster for Sept 24 and Sept 25 MIT & CEA talks