Nuclear energy is noted as the largest carbon-free contributor to the power grid in the U.S. To date, it has struggled when competing with low-priced natural gas and without the support of RPS programs, especially compared to other renewable energy sources. Nuclear power provides balancing and reliability benefits that other technologies (including solar and wind power) often struggle with. To exclude nuclear power from a clean energy strategy is a quick way to hamper the effectiveness of the initiative, as the complexities of a fully solar or wind-powered grid are difficult to overcome. But when we think about cars and transportation in general, the two main forms of energy remain fossils fuels, with a steady growth of electric vehicles.
But electricity generation doesn’t just happen on its own. That energy needs to come from somewhere, and if you are powering your electric vehicle with coal or gas-powered generation plants, then that electric vehicle isn‘t quite as carbon friendly as you might have been led to believe.
That’s why nuclear power is playing a major part in a carbon-free transportation future. As America’s largest source of carbon-free power, nuclear energy facilities will play an important role in powering our rapidly growing fleet of EVs without emissions. In response, electric utilities that operate nuclear power plants are investing in a range of initiatives to pave the way.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) predicts global electric vehicle (EV) sales will surge from 1.1 million in 2017 to 30 million by 2030, creating significant additional demand for the electricity to charge them. BNEF predicts that EVs could capture 50 percent of the new car market by 2040. Demand for E-buses is growing even faster than electric cars, BNEF said. And the growth in all types of EVs will increase demand for carbon-free generation, of which nuclear is the largest source.
Because nuclear plants generate massive amounts of reliable, emissions-free power and operate at night when EVs are often charging, they are an important part of the infrastructure for charging EVs in a clean and low-emission fashion. It’s not difficult to see that if your electricity comes from zero-emission sources such as solar, wind, hydro or nuclear power, your vehicle will run much cleaner than those powered by fossil fuel sources. Electric cars charged with energy from fossil fuels inevitably have a carbon footprint approaching cars that run on gasoline.
With the knowledge of what nuclear power can bring to the table to increase our ability to provide carbon-free power to the grid, indirect connections to carbon-based power sources need attention. It’s not only about what kind of car we drive but how we power our way of life. Nuclear energy makes sure that electric vehicles deliver their full potential as clean alternatives for the transportation sector and that can make a big difference in the overall energy market.
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