Energy systems that do not rely on fossil fuels and will ultimately be needed to limit the magnitude of future climate change. Switching from one fossil fuel to another having lower emissions (e.g., from coal to natural gas for power generation) also remains an important near-term option. Increasing the efficiency of power generation (for example, by adding combined-cycle technology to natural gas-fueled plants) can also contribute to lower carbon emissions per unit of energy produced. However, greater use of technologies with low or zero emissions would be needed to dramatically reduce emissions. These technologies include nuclear energy—which currently provides about 20 percent of U.S. electricity generation—and technologies that exploit energy from renewable resources, including solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geother-mal energy.
Renewable sources currently account for only about 5 percent of total electricity generation, but there is potential for growth. Many will require advances in technology that optimize performance and lower cost in order to be widely adopted. Both renew able and nuclear technology have the potential to provide a large fraction of U.S. electricity supply, but there are a number of distribution, cost, risk, and public acceptance issues that remain to be addressed.
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