Eliminating fossil fuels from the US power sector, a key goal of the “Green New Deal” backed by many Democratic presidential candidates, would cost $4.7 trillion and pose massive economic and social challenges, according to a report released by energy research firm Wood Mackenzie.
That would amount to $35,000 per household, or nearly $2,000 a year for a 20-year plan, according to the study, which called the price tag for such a project “staggering.” The report is one of the first independent cost estimates for what has become a key issue in the 2020 US presidential election, with most Democrats proposing multi-trillion-dollar plans to eliminate US carbon emissions economy-wide.
Front-runner Joe Biden’s plan to get to zero emissions, for example, carries a $1.7 trillion price tag, while Beto O’Rourke’s proposal comes in at $5 trillion.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the authors of the “Green New Deal,” a non-binding Congressional resolution, put the cost of a comprehensive climate solution at around $10 trillion.
Recent research showed that most Americans back “aggressive” climate change action like that proposed by Democrats, but that support falls off dramatically if they sense the initiatives would cost them.
Wood Mackenzie’s report focuses solely on what it would cost to green the US power sector, a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – but does not include costs for other sectors like transport, agriculture or manufacturing.
The report said the transition would require “a complete redesign of the power sector” to adapt to a system of mostly intermittent resources like wind and solar energy that rely on the wind blowing and sun shining to generate electricity.
It estimated that 1,600 gigawatts of wind and solar capacity would have to be added, at a cost of around $1.5 trillion. That’s more than 11 times the nation’s current wind and solar capacity. And, while the costs of wind and solar have come down, a sharp increase in demand could strain supply chains and send prices of key materials like steel and copper upward.