Not only is transitioning to 100% renewable energy possible, but the benefits far outweigh the costs and obstacles.

Is It Possible for the World to Run on 100% Renewable Energy?

Megan Ray Nichols | Schooled By Science

Several countries around the world have nearly reached the goal of using 100% renewable energy. Iceland, Norway, occasionally Denmark and one state in Austria have figured out a way to use renewable sources to meet the majority, and at times all, of their respective country’s energy needs without resorting to the usage of fossil fuels.

So is it possible for the rest of the world to also attain this? The answer is yes.

 

Major Players

Of the 195 countries in the world, 139 are responsible for producing nearly 99% of global carbon emissions. If these countries switched to 100% renewable energy sources, global carbon emissions would be eliminated. But how could they do this?

According to Mark Jacobson, a professor at the Stanford School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences, along with 26 of his colleagues, these 139 nations could transition to 100% renewable energy. In fact, they could do it by 2050 — without millions of people being out of work.

In his study, Jacobson used a computer model to analyze the amount of available renewable energy resources in these countries. He determined there are enough to meet the energy demand and keep the power grid stable.  

 

Plan of Action

Wind, solar, hydro, wave, tidal and geothermal power were the primary renewable sources analyzed. Solar and wind power make up the bulk of the proposed renewable contribution at 58% and 37% respectively. Existing energy storage facilities would be used for excess power storage. Newer storage solutions, such as solar power and hydroelectric storage can meet fluctuating needs. This model demonstrated there would be no need for any nuclear power, carbon sources or natural gas.

Initially, 80% of businesses could be transitioned by the year 2030 to renewable sources. By 2050, the remaining 20% could be reached.

 

Challenges

Transitioning a global energy grid isn’t without challenges. The estimated cost to implement this change is 64.4 trillion dollars, or 1.6 trillion dollars per year. While this figure may seem impossible, advocates argue the future savings will offset the upfront investment.

Fossil fuel lobbyists and government policies also pose a challenge. A complete transition to renewable energy eliminates profits for the fossil fuel industry. Lobbyists will push back to ensure this change doesn’t happen. Government policies are a threat as well. Switching over the entire energy system requires the majority of government players to agree to avoid a standstill.

Citizens will need to be onboard. One part of changing to renewable sources is the individual responsibility to limit energy consumption and focus on conservation.

 

Environmental Impact

Renewable energy would reduce the reliance on large grids and distribution lines. This lowers the number and the severity of power outages, and it increases resilience to natural disasters and flooding. Localized energy enables more countries to be energy independent, which might eliminate war over energy resources. Decentralized energy sources would also cut-down on the threat of terrorist attacks as resources are spread out over larger areas.

Additionally, each year, 3.5 million people die from air pollution. Renewable energy sources don’t produce carbon emissions or the air pollution that causes so many fatalities. This could result in potential savings up to 23 trillion dollars in healthcare costs for citizens falling ill from pollution-related diseases.

Renewable energy is more efficient than fossil fuel. It also requires less work to generate the same amount of power. The lower work-energy ratio for renewables can result in 42.5 percent less power usage. This figure includes the energy used for mining fossil fuel materials.   

 

Economic Benefit

Renewable energy has many economic benefits. The construction of new energy facilities would result in nearly 24.3 million jobs. The reduction in global warming and climate change effects would result in 28.5 trillion dollars in savings. This helps to offset the costs of the renewable energy transition.

Ultimately, if this change were implemented by 2050, reduced electricity costs would amount to a savings of 85 dollars per person per year. The savings for the reduction in climate change and air pollution impacts results in 5,800 dollars per person per year. Across all 139 countries, the average yearly savings for fuel will amount to 170 dollars per person. This doesn’t include the savings for air pollution damages — 2,880 dollars per person per year, or climate change damages — 1,930 dollars per person per year.

According to this plan, the transition to renewable energy wouldn’t stifle economic growth — it would encourage it.

What does it all mean? It means not only is transitioning to 100% renewable energy possible, but the benefits far outweigh the costs and obstacles.

 
About Megan Ray Nichols
Megan Ray Nichols is a blogger and freelance science writer. She posts weekly on her blog, Schooled By Science, about the latest news in science and technology. When she isn’t writing, Megan enjoys reading and hiking.
 
 

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