Luminary presentation: There are four pathways to a carbon-free grid in the U.S. by 2050

How do we get to a carbon-free electric grid in the U.S. by 2050? That is an important question, and Julia Hamm set out to address it in her luminary presentation in the Decarbonizing the Grid knowledge hub at DISTRIBUTECH International 2020.
Hamm is president and chief executive officer of the Smart Electric Power Alliance (formerly the Solar Electric Power Association), and she talked about how we can make a “thoughtful and smart transition,” while limiting any unintended consequences.
She reported that one in four Americans live in a city that has made a commitment to clean energy. And several utilities are making commitments to carbon-free energy as well.
Xcel Energy was the first major utility to announce such a commitment, Hamm said. The utility has a strong base of wind and solar resources, so she says its challenge will be how to get from 80% to 100%. Another example is Arizona Public Service, with the newest announcement just last week. That utility is retiring its last coal plant by 2031. (For more statistics on utilities and their carbon-free commitments, SEPA’s website features a utility carbon reduction tracker.)
In its work, SEPA has identified four pathways to a carbon-free grid, Hamm said:
“- Utility business models
“- Regulatory innovation
“- Grid integration
“- Transportation electrification
On the last point, Hamm said the electrification of the transportation sector is “the opportunity of the century for utilities.”
Hamm’s remarks, and her vision for the future, sparked lively engagement from the audience, with time running out before the questions did. In fact, she had quite a lineup of DISTRIBUTECH International attendees waiting for her to exit the stage.
Sessions in this Knowledge Hub will continue over the next two days, along with engaging discussions in the four other Knowledge Hubs at DISTRIBUTECH International. Make sure to check them out while you are in San Antonio.
Elizabeth Ingram is a content director for Clarion Energy.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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