Bill Gates on 60 Minutes: “We Won’t Solve Climate without Innovation”

February 14, 2021

Gates is a good messenger for a strata of society that might not hear this message otherwise.

Fumdamentally, Gates is in agreement with me, and I think, most mainstream engineers, that we can definitely see our way to 80 percent or so of energy production with renewables, solar and wind primarily.
After that, the view gets fuzzy, and the imperative of innovation is clear.

I would say that, as I was told not long ago by NREL researcher Paul Denholm, if you go back 15 years, it was hard to see the way clear to 80 percent renewable. They were looking at more like 15-20 percent. But in the meantime technological improvements have changed that picture radically for the better.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):

Only in the past decade has the widespread adoption of renewable energy sources become an economic possibility, said Paul Denholm, a principal energy analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). He joined NREL 15 years ago and, at the time, he and other analysts were busy plotting a path to 20% of the nation’s energy supply coming from renewable sources. Now, they’re aiming much higher.

“The declining cost of wind and solar and now batteries makes it conceivable to consider 100% renewables,” he said.

NREL’s Renewable Electricity Futures Study estimated that 120 gigawatts of storage would be needed across the continental United States by 2050, when the scenario imagined a future where 80% of electricity will come from renewable resources. The country currently has 22 gigawatts of storage from pumped hydropower, and another gigawatt in batteries.

A massive increase in storage, and transmission, would also make difficult bottlenecks like this weekend’s energy crunch in Texas much more manageable. (see elsewhere on this page)

Below, Gates on how to restore trust in Science:

3 Responses to “Bill Gates on 60 Minutes: “We Won’t Solve Climate without Innovation””

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    I think the path to 100% clean safe renewable energy by 2030 is pretty clear.

    Declaring a climate emergency globally, and acting like it is;
    Diverse complementary variable, dispatchable, and near-dispatchable clean safe renewable energy;
    Electrifying primary energy;
    Updating & upgrading transmission grids
    Distributed generation;
    Storage in pumped hydro and batteries, including EVs, especially public mass transit EVs;
    Demand response;
    Wiser lives;
    Some overbuilding of generation capacity, as we have now with fossil & fissile fuels;
    Coordination of building, grid, nationalizing & shutting down fossil & fissile fuels by federal governments;

    The innovation that’s needed could be done with a few focused Manhattan-style projects:

    Floating wind technology (to make it work in deeper water);
    Battery chemistries tailored to EV vs grid use;
    Improvement of solar PV power & efficiency;
    Improvement of CSP storage length;
    Improvements in the efficiency and speed of high speed rail.

    Replacements for, and more ecological, emissions-free production of steel, concrete, other metals already exist; they’re not used because they threaten the profits of the oligarchy. Nationalization by governments around the world are a better response than waiting and hoping someone will come up with “innovation” in the next 2 years that can be implemented in time to decarbonize 90% by 2030.

  2. neilrieck Says:

    I have always been pro-nuclear, but his comment about using “liquid sodium” to cool the fuel bundles seemed like an engineering contradiction. I run into the same dogma whenever someone brings up Thorium fueled reactors.

    p.s. IIRC, his Natrium reactor was “supposed” to be built in China but that was cancelled as soon as Trump soured relations between the east and west. Now with Trump gone, Gates should attempt to revive that project with China.

  3. pendantry Says:

    Innovation is essential, yes. But not just technological innovation; we also need innovation to address the sociological and economical ‘norms’ that have led us to these dire straits in the first place.

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