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The World Can Run on Renewables – Here’s How

Solar panels, wind turbines and hydrogen storage on grass against a blue sky backdrop
Author: Samuel Beckingham
Updated: Jan 03, 2024
4 minutes read

Professor Mark Jacobson, of Stanford University fame, has published a new book that explains how the world can operate on 100% renewables and take control of the climate crisis. He is a firm believer in transitioning away from fossil fuels completely, as combustion is seen as the main problem. Going further, Jacobson argues that carbon capture is a needless and expensive avenue to pursue.

Standout Claims

According to the book, the world can rapidly receive cheap and abundant power from solar, wind and water. As a byproduct, relying on these renewable resources provides energy security at a global scale and removes emissions from energy production.

On the other side are technologies that are deemed to be a waste of time, including new nuclear power, carbon capture and biofuels. They are described as being way too costly without being able to guarantee a reduction in bills and provide clean energy.

“We have the technologies that we need. We have wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, electric cars. We have batteries, heat pumps, energy efficiency. We have 95% of the technologies right now that we need to solve the problem. The missing 5% is for long-distance aircraft and ships, for which hydrogen-powered fuel cells can be developed.”

Professor Mark Jacobson

100% Renewable Energy

While the shift to 100% renewable electricity would be easier to achieve, Jacobson is talking about all energy to come from renewable sources. Currently, fossil fuels provide around 80% of all energy, so to shift away from this would be a massive undertaking.

As Professor Mark Jacobson has published many academic papers and many cities looking to achieve 100% green power have implemented policies with his findings, he certainly is an influential character.

The Proof

There is controversy about his work. Some researchers have suggested his papers are flawed and Jacobson responded by filing a $10 million lawsuit against them. This was dropped at a later date though. To prove he’s right, he published this new book with a clear view to 100% renewable energy.

As electrified technology is much more efficient, a lot of the energy isn’t wasted as heat like with fossil fuels. With better efficiencies comes lower energy bills, which everyone can benefit from. Jacobson claims savings of 63% can be seen on average.

With better insulated buildings and halting fossil fuel drilling and mining, energy use can drop by 56% from 2035 to 2050. Combine this with the cost-effective wind and solar technologies and average bills will fall by 63%.

Different Approaches

According to Jacobson, the first approach that most people take is to try everything. This avenue focuses on channelling funds into new technologies that might work a decade down the line, but that’s way too long to wait. Meanwhile, these crucial funds could be diverted to tried and tested reliable infrastructure that will make a meaningful difference.

Jacobson’s approach is to simply deploy as much of what we already have as quickly as humanly possible. As the technologies get rolled out, improvements will be seen. With around 7 million people dying every year from air pollution, these solutions need to be rapidly deployed.

Energy Storage Is the Solution

One of the main arguments often used against a fully renewable grid is that it can’t cope with demand all of the time as supply is intermittent. Fossil fuels have been used because you can control how much energy you need quickly, burning them when demand spikes.

Providing there’s enough energy storage, there’s little reason why a grid can’t cope with becoming fully electrified and running solely from renewable sources. Multiple sources need to be able to cope with demand at different stages, and at varying speeds in order to be effective.

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