Quotes from Experts

Shifting to renewables amid surging gas prices

A transition to renewable energy would make the U.S. less vulnerable to fossil fuel price shocks. Given the current disruption in energy markets, SciLine asked experts about practical ways to accelerate a shift to renewables.

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March 9, 2022


What practical steps can U.S. households take to reduce reliance on natural gas and petroleum?


Kyri Baker, Ph.D.

“For U.S. households to reduce reliance on natural gas, a couple things they can do are the obvious things like buy rooftop solar, get an electric vehicle, but also things like electrify. So electrification refers to replacing natural gas versions of appliances with their electric counterparts. So you can think of gas furnaces being replaced by electric heat pumps, natural gas stoves being replaced by induction stoves. So all these things will help the home stay at a low carbon footprint, it’ll be more energy efficient, and it will help reduce reliance on gas and oil.” (Posted March 9, 2022 | Download Video)

Kyri Baker, Ph.D.
Assistant professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Jeremy Firestone, Ph.D.

“Certainly some of the easy things to do are efficiency upgrades in your home or with your vehicle—getting a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Ideally, you’d want to move towards an electric vehicle because that will get you off petroleum altogether—it won’t get you off of natural gas. Switching your heat from natural gas to a heat pump would be a good way to go, too.” (Posted March 9, 2022 | Download Video)

Jeremy Firestone, Ph.D.
Professor, School of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware

Kenneth Gillingham, Ph.D.

“So for petroleum, the biggest uses are driving and flying, driving being the largest. And for driving, you could switch to an electric vehicle, you could drive a little bit less, walk, take public transportation. That would also save you some money at the pump. Alternatively, when we’re talking about flying, you could fly a little bit less, make use of these amazing video features that everyone’s so used to now. And for natural gas—natural gas is a little bit harder because you’re often using it for heating and for cooking. So there it’s difficult in the short run to do a whole lot except keep your thermostat down just a little bit, allow it to be a little bit cooler. Another thing you could do is you could go ahead and look into options. There are air-source heat pumps that are a longer-run option but they’re very, very cost effective in most places.” (Posted March 9, 2022 | Download Video)

Kenneth Gillingham, Ph.D.
Professor of economics, Yale School of the Environment, Yale University

What practical steps can U.S. utilities take to reduce reliance on natural gas for electricity generation?


Kyri Baker, Ph.D.

“U.S. utilities can reduce a lot of reliance on natural gas for generation by investing in renewable energy solutions. So, stuff like community solar or utility-scale solar and wind are obvious examples of how utilities could reduce carbon footprints and reliance on natural gas. Another thing they could do also is invest in infrastructure. So, it’s not just about generation and demand, it’s also about the wires, the poles, the transformers that help the generation get to the demand. So, we have areas of the U.S. where there’s a lot of wind and solar resources, but there’s not a lot of demand, so we could do things like start building more wires to pipe that generation to where it needs to go.” (Posted March 9, 2022 | Download Video)

Kyri Baker, Ph.D.
Assistant professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Jeremy Firestone, Ph.D.

“The first thing they could do is either build out solar themselves, or, depending on their structure, procure it from companies that build wind and solar. I would say focus on building out electricity transmission rather than natural gas pipelines. And then really work with their states to devise electricity rates that incentivize people to buy electric vehicles and to put solar panels on their roofs. And then also seek to advance justice so that all homeowners, not just middle-class and upper-middle class, can take advantage of these.” (Posted March 9, 2022 | Download Video)

Jeremy Firestone, Ph.D.
Professor, School of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware

Kenneth Gillingham, Ph.D.

“Electric utilities often rely on natural gas as one of the core fuels that can ramp up and down easily. And thus it makes it a little more bit difficult to get off of natural gas for electric utilities. They can look to build out more renewables, that is a substitute—it’s not a perfect substitute because it’s not dispatchable in the same way, there is intermittency—but it is a substitute and at moderate levels of renewables that’s not a problem at all. And it’s quite a cost-effective approach too, renewables are getting to be quite inexpensive today.” (Posted March 9, 2022 | Download Video)

Kenneth Gillingham, Ph.D.
Professor of economics, Yale School of the Environment, Yale University

What government incentives would be most effective in accelerating a transition to renewables?


Jeremy Firestone, Ph.D.

“I would start with taxing carbon, and then on the flip side is to have a national portfolio of renewable energy credits, like we do in a lot of states. We want to continue to advance electric vehicle tax credits, including allowing people to spread those credits over multiple years—and even allow an earned income tax credit, so that that’s available to all people, not just those in the upper and middle classes. For large-scale renewables, we want to expand investment tax credits—that helps bring down the costs of very capital-intensive technologies. And certainly, things like transmission reform would go a long way to helping to move transmission out, which is really critical for solar and wind.” (Posted March 9, 2022 | Download Video)

Jeremy Firestone, Ph.D.
Professor, School of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware

Kenneth Gillingham, Ph.D.

“The first and most direct way to accelerate a transition to low-carbon and cleaner sources of energy would be to put a price on carbon, this would raise the price of fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide emissions. And that would be the most straightforward way of doing it.” (Posted March 9, 2022 | Download Video)

Kenneth Gillingham, Ph.D.
Professor of economics, Yale School of the Environment, Yale University

What current technologies have the most promise to provide renewable alternatives to fossil fuels relatively quickly?


Kyri Baker, Ph.D.

“To reduce reliance on fossil fuels relatively quickly is going to be pretty challenging because some clean energy sources like nuclear power just are going to take decades to install and come online and go through all the permitting and paperwork. What we can do now is focusing on the sources of energy that are pretty fast and easy to install comparatively, which are the things like wind and solar and distributed energy resources. So distributed energy resources are smaller-scale battery systems, rooftop solar systems—individual consumers can get these up on their roof in less than a year, versus utility-scale solar which still takes quite a bit of permitting and paperwork.” (Posted March 9, 2022 | Download Video)

Kyri Baker, Ph.D.
Assistant professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Jeremy Firestone, Ph.D.

“Well, what’s great is that we have the technologies in hand. So, certainly wind and solar, geothermal is going to be quite valuable in the areas where it is, and electric vehicles. We’re going to see a very large rollout of electric vehicles. So we’ve basically got all of the tools we need. We just need the willpower.” (Posted March 9, 2022 | Download Video)

Jeremy Firestone, Ph.D.
Professor, School of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware

Kenneth Gillingham, Ph.D.

“Solar and wind energy already are less expensive, or as expensive, on par with fossil fuels in most places around the U.S. and around the world. Thus, they’re going to be the bulwark. You can very cost effectively add much greater levels of renewables to our electricity system without it even raising rates and costing more—you’re even going to be saving money in many cases. So they will be the bulwark and the first place I’ll expect to see large increases in cleaner energy coming on.” (Posted March 9, 2022 | Download Video)

Kenneth Gillingham, Ph.D.
Professor of economics, Yale School of the Environment, Yale University

Creative Commons LicenseThe text and video on this page are licensed as Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0. Journalists are free to use any text or video on this page with or without attribution to SciLine.

Kyri Baker, Ph.D.


Jeremy Firestone, Ph.D.


Kenneth Gillingham, Ph.D.

Kyri Baker, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Dr. Baker leads one of the Artificial Intelligence and Electric Power Grand Challenges for the Electric Power Research Institute, for which she receives compensation.

Jeremy Firestone, Ph.D., professor, School of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware

Dr. Firestone previously served as director of First State Marine Wind, LLC, which owns and operates the wind turbine adjacent to the University of Delaware Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, Del. FSMW is effectively majority owned and controlled by the University of Delaware, with Siemens-Gamesa Renewable Energy as a minority owner. The wind turbine is used to power the university’s Lewes campus, with any excess electricity sold to the city of Lewes at market wholesale rates.

Kenneth Gillingham, Ph.D., professor of economics, Yale School of the Environment, Yale University

Dr. Gillingham is an energy and climate economist and conducts research and policy work on energy markets and transitions. He was previously a senior economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers. His funding primarily comes from the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and National Science Foundation. He has consulted for or otherwise engaged with the Center for Applied Environmental Law & Policy, Center for Sustainable Energy, Connecticut Green Bank, Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, Electreon, MetroMile, Toyota Research Institute, and Aramco Detroit Research Center.