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Amreica’s Enery Future: Technology and Transformation
this chapter, and additional ones are described in Part 2. But because the following barriers crosscut many of the technologies examined in this report, the committee considers them to be impediments to future deployment success:
Lack of private-sector investments for technology deployment, ranging from relatively low-cost energy efficiency devices to capital-intensive facilities, because of uncertainties about a technology’s return on investment, its viability and cost-effectiveness, the future costs of fuels, and other raw-material and construction costs. The mobilization of trillions of dollars of new capital between now and 2050 will be needed to transform our nation’s energy system, but such capital may be difficult to obtain from the private sector if the noted uncertainties are not attenuated. The current economic downturn further complicates matters: the limited availability of resources, especially capital, and the reduction in energy demand may be additional barriers to new-technology deployment.
The low turnover rate of the energy system’s capital-intensive infrastructure, which makes rapid change difficult. Failure to take advantage of windows of opportunity to deploy new technologies as infrastructure turns over could lock in older technologies for decades, and this difficulty is compounded by the long lead times for deploying new technologies, especially capital-intensive technologies. Thus, there is a premium on modifying or retrofitting existing infrastructure and on pushing new technologies to be ready for deployment when assets reach the end of their service lives. There are some technology “lock-ins,” however, that might not allow for future modification or improvements. Examples include new coal plants that cannot be easily retrofitted with CCS19 and new buildings that are not designed to use energy efficiently over their lifetimes.
Resource and supply barriers to technology deployment. They range, for example, from the limited availability of industrial capacity and skilled personnel for deploying the technologies to the availability of the biomass needed to expand the domestic production of liquid fuels.
This problem is not restricted to the United States alone. It will be an especially critical issue in countries, such as China, that are building new coal plants at very high rates.