NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Economics of Renewable Energy

Geoffrey Heal

NBER Working Paper No. 15081
Issued in June 2009
NBER Program(s):   EEE

Greater use of renewable energy is seen as a key component of any move to combat climate change, and is being aggressively promoted as such by the new U.S. administration and by other governments. Yet there is little economic analysis of renewable energy. This paper surveys what is written and adds to it. The conclusion is that the main renewables face a major problem because of their intermittency (the wind doesn't always blow nor the sun always shine) and that this has not been adequately factored into discussions of their potential. Without new storage technologies that can overcome this intermittency, much of the decarbonization of the economy will have to come from nuclear, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and energy efficiency (geothermal and biofuels can make small contributions). Nuclear and CCS are not without their problems. New energy storage technologies could greatly increase the role of renewables, but none are currently in sight.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15081

Published: Geoffrey Heal, 2010. "Reflections--The Economics of Renewable Energy in the United States," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Oxford University Press for Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 4(1), pages 139-154, Winter.

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