Interview Regarding REmap 2030 (in which I’m the Interviewee)

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REmap 2030

A very well-published and insightful writer, Scott Thill, recently reached out to me to pick my brain about REmap 2030. His questions were so good (imho) and I spent so much time on the answers that I figured it would be worthwhile to publish both here. Check them out below (subheadings and images adding), and give Scott a hand by clicking on over to his site or following him on Twitter.

Clean Energy Now vs Climate Catastrophe Later

climate change action costs climate change inaction costs

SH: I’ve long argued that investment in renewables will save us far more money than simply paying for whatever catastrophic climate change throws at us, which is like taking a bushel of money and just setting it on fire. Any idea how much money we’re losing on that plan? Do you think can we break the stigma of investing in planning for the worst and hoping for the best?

ZS: I completely agree. I haven’t seen anything lately, but a 2005 study projected the cost of climate inaction to be more than twice the cost of climate action + climate damages we’ve already essentially locked in. Since then, the effects of global warming have come faster and stronger than projected, and the expected effects of global warming have gotten worse. Meanwhile, we’ve been slow to implement the necessary solutions. In other words: the cost of implementing solutions as quickly as possibly is insignificant compared to the cost of not implementing these solutions.

REmap 2030 vs Other Scenarios

renewable energy 2030 projections

SH: Where do you think this roadmap stands in comparison to others out there? Any stark differences?

ZS: This is a great question, in my humble opinion. Projections vary wildly based on assumptions used. Projections are used by different companies and organizations in order to not only prepare for the future but to also try to shape it. I noticed while scrolling threw the REmap 2030 summary of findings (before the official release) that REmap’s overall projections fell approximately halfway between projections from Exxon and projections from leading environmental nonprofits (WWF & Greenpeace). At lunch with Dolf Gielen, Director of the IRENA Innovation & Technology Centre, I asked him why IRENA’s projects were so much lower than WWF’s & Greenpeace’s (it’s quite obvious that Exxon’s would be on the pessimistic end). His answer was that those more optimistic projections assumed a much greater increase in energy efficiency. The renewable energy growth projections were actually very similar.

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that REmap 2030 is clear in stating that our energy future can be much cleaner if we are willing (or eager) to retire fossil fuel plants early, if there are breakthroughs in technology (expected), or if certain shifts happen at a faster pace (such as electrification of transportation, which I think is a bit underestimated in the REmap 2030 report). Overall, though, I think what Dolf said is quite accurate: this is an ambitious but realistic projection. It leaves room for positive surprise, but it also leaves a buffer for difficulties along the way.


SH: Given the land crunch we’re already having because of climate change’s droughts and floods, do you find the biofuel component of the roadmap optimistic? Any innovations in that sector that don’t require land as much as discarded feedstock? It seems like a dead end compared to solar and wind.

ZS: I have to say that I love your questions! Exactly the sort of things that came to my mind. Regarding biofuels, I’ll admit that I’m not a fan. As you note, they come with a host of issues regarding our food supply, water supply, and climate. I was disappointed to see such high biofuel growth in the report. However, just a few days after writing about the report, I happened to find out about what looks to be a truly exciting development in the biofuel arena. Boeing, Masdar Institute, and a number of other “Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium” partners have discovered a type of plant that can be used for high-quality biofuel, can be grown in the desert, can be grown with seawater instead of much more limited freshwater, and can use aquaculture waste as fertilizer. They hope to commercialize this type of biofuel within 4-5 years. The entire story is exciting, in my opinion, but it’s also worth noting that part of Boeing’s drive for a better biofuel comes from performance problems they and others in the airline industry are noticing from increasingly common shale and tar sands oil. They genuinely want to move beyond oil to a genuinely sustainable biofuel. We’ll have to see if this new biofuel source (halophytes) is as good as it sounds, but I’ll admit that I am hopeful. I don’t know if the folks at IRENA knew about this biofuel development when writing the report, but I wouldn’t be surprised — IRENA’s headquarters are going to be in Masdar City, within just a short walk of where this research is centered.

Great questions = lengthy responses. 😀 Thanks and hope you can use all of this!

Image Credits: IRENA & Skeptical Science

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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11 thoughts on “Interview Regarding REmap 2030 (in which I’m the Interviewee)

  • I’m also not a fan of biofuels, but desert grown, sea water fed plants sounds interesting. Make sure and keep us up to date on that!

    • Will do. The only biofuel I’ve really gotten excited about.

      • I am surprised you haven’t done an article on Coolplanet Biofuels. If their system is as extraordinary as it appears it will be a real game changer and very exciting. There are plenty of dead trees that could provide the feedstock for a gasoline replacement and it also makes biochar. All a bit too good to be true but so far it looks real. They have signed a deal to use pine beetle killed trees in colorado.

    • My question about biofuels is more in regards to emissions than generation. I agree that there are some questionable biofuel generation methods but I’m confident that the market will sort most of those out. Emissions on the other hand…I have not seen much data on it but I am curious about them. Do biofuels, when burned (and created for that matter), generate emissions? I’m assuming yes, so…what type of emissions and how do they compare to petro emissions? If it’s just a 50% reduction, that would only be worth pursuing if (and only if) they worked with the existing global internal combustion engine fleet of vehicles (gas and/or diesel). Developing a tech that reduces emissions but requires new vehicles does not have the ability to make much of an impact imho.

      I see the evolution of cars moving from gas to electric with several stop gap technologies needed to make near term improvements in efficiency (hybrid, range extended electrics, biofuels?, etc) to get us through the transition. Perhaps I have just been listening to Carlos Ghosn too much?

      • Vehicles burning biofuels are going to create CO2 just like those using petroleum. The difference is the carbon is already above ground and in the carbon cycle. The carbon from petroleum was safely below ground. So in terms of atmospheric carbon biofuels are much better.

        In terms of particulates and other health damaging emissions, don’t know the answer.

        Well, the answer is to move as much transportation as possible to electricity and generate that electricity from renewable sources.

      • Another way to say what Bob did: Biofuels are net carbon neutral, or should be if produced using green electricity.

        • Thanks, these responses help. I’m still in the Solar + EV camp but biofuels feel like more viable stop gap solutions now 🙂

          • In also in the EV camp, but What about things like helicopters and planes? It seems doubtful that they will be replaced with batteries soon. Or trains, or cargo ships. But if they can run on cheap, CO2 neutral bio fuel… Everybody wins.

          • Trains can be run on electricity.

  • I love your excitement in responding to the questions 🙂 Great to see you pouring out your wealth of knowledge to others in yet another forum.

  • HI Zachary,

    Please consider researching, and then persistently reporting on how the deliberate burning of wood is harming the environment, and the public health as well.

    Also help readers understand that it is us, as citizens, that must demand our lawmakers to phase-out the out-of-date cultural practices of using wood stoves, fireplaces, fire pits and the burning of yard debris.

    ~ Best of health ~
    Deb Marchant’ with “Citizens for a Wood Smokefree City of Shoreline, Washington”

Comments are closed.