Friday, November 27, 2015

Clean Energy Could Fuel Most Countries by 2050, Study Shows

Workers walk among newly installed solar panels at a solar power plant in the Zhouquan township of Tongxiang, Zhejiang province. (Credit: Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
A new study claims to leave little room for doubt that the world can run 100 percent on renewable energy, and it even maps how individual countries should best make this transition—by mid-century.

The main barriers to overhauling the global energy system "are social and political," said Mark Z. Jacobson, lead study author.  "They aren't technical or economic," added Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.

Jacobson and his Stanford colleagues published the analysis in a draft paper online to coincide with the start of global climate talks in Paris on Nov. 30.  In those vastly complicated negotiations, most of the world's nations have agreed on at least one thing: keeping the earth's warming to within 2-degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels—a target that scientists agree is relatively safe for the planet––will require a wholesale transformation of the world's energy economy.

The paper, which will likely be submitted to scientific journals for publication next year, offers detailed roadmaps showing how most countries can make the switch to run entirely on clean energy across all sectors, from electricity to transportation to agriculture, as early as 2050.

Focusing on the 139 countries with available 2015 energy data, researchers first used computer models to calculate how each nation's energy demand and mix would change by 2050.  This so-called "business-as-usual" scenario was based on the assumption that the countries would continue to rely on conventional fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.

Next, the researchers determined how each country could meet its future energy demands using only renewable sources.  Under this "wind, water and solar" scenario, every country's ideal renewable energy mix was calculated based on its existing energy infrastructure and available clean energy resources, such as sunlight and wind.  The researchers concluded that making this switch would lower a country's total energy demands because clean energy sources are more efficient than fossil fuels.  They also concluded the transition would curb global warming, create jobs, and reduce air pollution, which, in turn, would boost public health.

Take the United States, for example.  By pursuing business as usual, the U.S. would require a total power load of 2,310 gigawatts by 2050.  Under a clean energy scenario, however, the country would need only 1,296 gigawatts of power, the study said.  Most of the energy would come from onshore and offshore wind (48 percent), utility-scale and rooftop solar (40 percent), and a mix of other sources, including hydropower, geothermal and wave energy.  The estimated total electricity, health and climate cost savings of this transition would amount to about $8,000 per American per year (in 2013 dollars).

Read more at Clean Energy Could Fuel Most Countries by 2050, Study Shows

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