New study lays out roadmap to switch a 100% clean energy future generated from renewable energy such as wind, water and sunlight for all purposes by 2050.
In a briefing to the U.S House of Representatives last week, Mark Z. Jacobson Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Stanford University presented his research showing the world currently has the technology available to achieve a 100% clean energy future generated from renewable energy such as wind, water and sunlight for all purposes by 2050. However, policy-makers around the world must have the courage to make big changes to energy infrastructure.
Jacobson’s said to achieve this goal, the plan must be to electrify everything. Thereby eliminating combustion (the burning of fuel) as a source of energy, pollution, and inefficiency. The proposal relies a holistic approach to storing and retrieving renewable energy to ensure grid stability is maintained.
For example, heat from rooftop solar collectors and large solar plants would be stored deep underground and used for heating homes in winter, while excess solar electricity can be used to make ice for cooling when prices are higher.
Excess wind and solar power can produce more electricity by driving turbines in concentrated solar power (CSP) and hydropower plants, and used to drive the energy-intensive process of harvesting hydrogen from water. Hydrogen fuel cells would provide yet more storage capacity, along with powering vehicles.
Jacobson’s study found, the business, health, plus climate costs of a 100 percent clean and renewable energy system were more than 60 percent lower than those of a business-as-usual system.
Switching to 100 percent clean energy would prevent four to seven million premature deaths each year globally from pollution associated with fossil fuels. By comparison, about six million people die prematurely each year from smoking, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Globally, the transition to clean, renewable energy would create more than 20 million more jobs than would be lost in the transition. It would also stabilize energy costs, thanks to free fuels such as wind, water and the sun; reduce terrorism risk by distributing electricity generation; and eliminate the overwhelming majority of heat-trapping emissions that contribute to climate change.
Jacobson calculated that just 0.3 percent of the world’s land footprint would have to be devoted to energy production under a 100 percent clean energy scenario. That is less than the size of Madagascar.
The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences