The problem of replacing our dependence on fossil fuels is complex. In Thinking Critically About Sustainable Energy (TCASE) #12, a checklist was provided to allow assessment of energy transition plans. The sort of questions listed in TCASE 12 are critical for evaluating the feasibility of future scenarios, like the ones from the recent IPCC report on renewable energy.
However, we also need to assess the capabilities of individual technologies to mitigate CO2 emissions, effectively (and economically). The following is a list of criteria that can be used to determine the relative viability of various alternative technologies. This comes from the work I had published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Energy (with colleagues Martin Nicholson and Tom Biegler):
Proven: Has the technology been used at commercial scale?
Scalable: Can the technology be built in sufficient quantity to replace significant proportions of existing fossil-fuel generators?
Dispatchable: Can the output be allocated by the system operator to meet the anticipated load?
Fuel supply: Is the energy source reliable and plentiful, even when, as with some kinds of renewable energy, it varies with time?
Load access: Can the generator be installed close to a load centre?
Storage: Does the technology require electricity storage in order to deliver a high capacity factor?
Emission intensity: Is the emission intensity high, moderate or low (as defined in the table below)?
Capacity factor: Is the capacity factor high, moderate or low (as defined below)?