One hundred percent of the world’s energy can be obtained via renewable energy. There are no technical, financial, space, nor resource barriers.
Political will is the only thing preventing a 100% renewable world from happening.
There are numerous academics, consultants, nations, and other groups that have put forth various 100% renewable energy scenarios. Though there are so many scenarios, I’ve found it difficult to find them at times due to the vagaries of search engine optimization. I also have a feeling that certain vested interests such as the nuclear and fossil fuel industries would prefer you not read them. So I decided to write this post to make it easier to find these resources.
Here is a list of various 100% renewable energy research papers, presentations, scenarios, and other interesting information:
- Transnational Renewables: Low Cost but Totally Renewable Electricity Supply (2006, PDF) Dr. Gregor Czisch of Germany is one of the earliest proponents of a 100% renewables based energy supply, and has also done major works on the creation of ‘supergrids’ to allow for efficient transmission of energy over long distances. One of the unfortunate problems the English speaking world faces is that experts such as Dr. Czisch and many others do not publish all their studies in our language and therefore leading countries such as Germany’s vast and pioneering know-how is effectively limited in distribution.
- IEER & NPRI: Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy (2007) The landmark work by Dr. Arjun Makihijani is available as a free downloadable PDF book. Written in 2007, the scenario shows that the USA could eliminate carbon emissions and nuclear power within 30 to 50 years – the barriers are not technical nor economic, only political will is a barrier.
- Scientific American: A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030 by Mark Z. Jacobson & Mark A. Delucchi (2009, PDF)
This was the cover article in Scientific American for the November 2009 issue. The article is a good overview of Delucchi & Jacobson’s landmark work. The plan calls for all energy to be supplied via wind, water, and solar power, hence it is often called the WWS (Wind Water Solar) scenario. Water in WWS includes geothermal as well as hydro power. Energy efficiency also plays an important part. Various low emissions energy sources were evaluated and prioritized. Cost of renewable energy is less than providing energy via nuclear or fossils. The peer reviewed studies by Delucchi and Jacobson are also available at Jacobson’s Stanford website. There are also a number of great video presentations by Dr. Jacobson online. Here is one from Stanford:
- Greenpeace: The Energy [R]evolution (2010) Greenpeace has put together a scenario for 95% or more of energy worldwide by 2050 to be created via renewable energy and energy efficiency gains. According to the scenario there are enormous economic benefits including the creation of millions of jobs to be gained. Like in other scenarios, there are no technology revolutions necessary to make this happen – all the technology has already been developed and is proven in the real world.
- PWC: 100% renewable electricity – A roadmap to 2050 for Europe and North Africa (2010, PDF) Experts at Price-Waterhouse found that a 100% renewable electricity system for all of Europe and North Africa would not only be possible, it is also cheaper than a the ‘business as usual’ scenario that we currently face. The PWC scenario focuses on an intercontinental ‘SuperSmart Grid’ with a scale up of all forms of renewable energy.
- EREC: RE-thinking 2050 – A 100% Renewable Energy Vision for the European Union (2010, PDF) The European Renewable Energy Council created a 100% renewable energy scenario for the EU which also confirms that there are vast economic benefits to switching to a carbon free future. The report states that millions of jobs would be created by the new renewable energy industries as well as enormous environmental and other social benefits.
- BZE: Zero Carbon Australia 2020 (2010) Beyond Zero Emissions came up with this scenario for a 100% solar and wind powered Australia by 2020!
- WWF: The Energy Report – 100% Renewable Energy by 2050 (2011)
This study by the WWF also calls for a 100% renewable energy world, but with a slower rollout schedule. Calls for 4 trillion dollars per year in savings!
Thanks to Karl-Friedrich Lenz at the superb Lenz Blog for pointing out the EU’s Roadmap 2050 plan (2010). Although not a 100% renewable energy scenario it is important as the European Union leads the world in the shift to renewable energy. There is an overview video at Roadmap 2050 which is well done and easy to understand.
There are many more scenarios out there! Please let me know if you find any in the comments and I will add them.
It seems that the common theme is that a 100% renewable world in indeed possible, viable, and in fact, cheaper than our current energy mix over time. As political will is the only thing stopping a 100% renewable energy world, why not contact your representative in government and let them know you want it to happen?
As always, looking forward to your feedback!