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Published on January 23rd, 2016 | by Rogier van Rooij


The Solutions Project: How 139 Countries Can Hit 100% Renewable Energy

January 23rd, 2016 by  

The idea of hitting 100% renewable energy (yes, energy, not just electricity) scares a lot of people. That is, a lot of people don’t think their cities or countries can achieve 100% renewable energy. However, a leading energy researcher at Stanford has led teams of researchers in order to practically show how 139 different countries could go 100% renewable.

You can find the results of each of the plans right here.

Netherlands 100 percent renewable energy

Based on research done by Stanford University, led by Mark Z. Jacobson, The Solutions Project is popularizing the maps and plans. It has created infographics, like the one above, highlighting which future energy mix will theoretically be the best to achieve the zero-emission target for each of these 139 countries. On the main page, there’s an interactive infographic. Hover over it, and you get the basic data for each of the countries.

By clicking on one of the nations, many more details are revealed. Fascinating numbers included newly created employment that would theoretically result from the switch to renewable energy, current and future energy costs, and health benefits resulting from the proposed transition.

For the United States, The Solutions Project even created a plan for each separate state, showing at an even more detailed level what a transition to clean energy could look like for the organization’s home country.

US 100 percent renewable energy

The data is not just based on energy usage for electricity generation, but for all-purpose energy use. That means it covers energy demand for demand for transportation, heating, industry, and agriculture.

The research on which the roadmaps are developed is conducted using a consistent methodology across all countries and with the goal of minimizing emissions of both air pollutants and greenhouse gases and particles. Many factors were taken into account, such as future energy demand, costs, and land use availability. And demand as well as potential supply are projected in 15-minute segments all throughout the year.

100 percent renewable energy Canada

Although the project convincingly shows how we can generate enough renewable energy for our complete energy consumption by 2050, it is less certain how we get to that future for each specific sector. Cars will switch to electric drivetrains, for which renewable electricity can be generated, but when will the kerosene-powered aviation sector be able to transition — this is a much harder case.

But The Solutions Project’s maps do give a comprehensive look at what our energy future might look like. By spreading the positive impact of such a transition, The Solutions Project might even bring the carbon-neutral future sooner. That is, of course, the aim.

Related articles:

Renewable Energy Is Possible, Practical, & Cheaper (Than Nuclear Or Fossil Fuels)

How The US, UK, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, & Italy Can Each Go 100% Renewable

Getting To 100% Renewable Energy In the US

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About the Author

Optimistic, eager to learn and strongly committed to society's wellbeing, Rogier van Rooij wants to share with you the latest cleantech developments, focussing on Western Europe. After graduating cum laude from high school, Rogier is currently an honours student at University College Utrecht in the Netherlands.

  • Rebecca

    I feel like Geothermal could be a lot bigger than it is projected, there are lot of drilled holes already from oil and gas that could be used for Geo. I feel like this could be an inexpensive option…

  • philofthefuture

    Exactly! A lot of growth has to happen and that will take decades. We can eventually get there but it will not be tomorrow or next year or next decade.
    There is a lot of solar in this country but as an energy mix it is a rounding error. That will improve over time but again, not any time soon.

    • Bob_Wallace

      One percent is not a rounding error. It’s one percent of the electricity we produce. In a short number of years one percent will grow into two percent. Then three, four, five,…..

  • Bob_Wallace

    We don’t have to put ourselves into meaningful debt.

    With wind and solar, with financing, dropping to and below the cost of paid off thermal plants and gas turbines build more wind and solar will not bring new costs to the market. Some of the current spending will get shifted from opex to finex.

    Then add in the plants that are aging out. We’re going to be replacing them and that’s financing that is unavoidable.

    The average lifespan of a US coal or nuclear is 40 years. Look how old our coal and nuclear plants are. And the graph is a few years old.

  • Steven F

    look at this plan for zero emissions for Australia:


    The plan utilizes a mix of renewable energies to meet austrailia’s current energy demand. And it doesn’t need efficiency to do it. There is more than enough land available in austrialia to produce twice the power needed.

    Efficiency is not required to go to 100% renewable.

    many reports do however list effiency in part ecause in many places today already have mandatory efficiency policies, and because efficient devices are today completely replacing older inefficient devices. Examples are:
    -Improved fuel efficiency for cars and trucks.
    -Improved efficiency standards for home appliances, refrigerators, air conditioners.
    -LEDs replacing incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.
    -Electric cars replacing gas cars
    -Improved building codes that require more insulation or changes in building construction that reduces energy consumption in new homes.

  • Mike Gitarev

    I’ve checked Latvia which already have 70+% from large hydro and is far north from sun – they projects 12.2% hydro and . Are they offer latvians to destroy all dams, or they are just incompetent at all?

    • Frank

      You got a link? This says 51% cogeneration for electricity, and that isn’t even total energy.

    • vensonata .

      Check if it is 70% of electricity or 70% of energy. Big difference. Notice that Canada is 60% of electricity from hydro and the prediction is 17% of all energy in the report.

      • Mike Gitarev

        Electricity. Yes, heat at winter will multiply required electricity enough, I was wrong.

  • Necro Nomaken

    The only fundamental flaw in getting any country to 100% renewables in a timely manner is that corrupt governments exist.

  • Freddy D

    Yes, indeed, I also take it as preliminary, for what it is – a quick calculation showing technical feasibility to generate 100% of the world’s electricity, and ultimately generate 100% of the world’s energy needs with renewables. The actual implementation mix might end up to be different somewhat, but it clearly dispels myths that it’s technically impossible. It also serves as a starting point for more detailed planning and proposals.

    • Rick Thurman

      Some caveats about any such plans:
      1. How much room do they give for international trade in energy, especially with expansion of grids to potentially continent-scaled markets?
      2. Demographic changes are already moving in opposite directions in different areas of the world. Without immigration, Europe’s population will almost certainly shrink, while other regions will expand — even with continuation of the already near-global trend of falling birth rates.
      3. I haven’t looked at any of these plans close enough to know if they even try to accomodate regional-scale forecasts of climate change. The only thing certain in that area is that historical records (like the kind financiers like to see in business models for power generation?) won’t be replicated. Of course, it’s quite possible that any changes in weather patterns will give new power-generating opportunities to replace what they take away.

      Probably the main point would be to note general patterns for what’s possible technically with each technology per each climate-type, latitude, etc., then note how far we might expect cost/ productivity curves to evolve as markets for each approach expands. Then try to get some idea what the general possibilities are for each region, no matter what climate changes show up.
      Another general point to get a grasp of would be to relate the energy demands per area, per given settlement densities, and relate that to the energy supplies likely regionally available per each technology. Rural and suburban density areas can probably figure out all sorts of alternatives, no matter what; urban density areas, once over a certain size of city and scale of multi-city region, will need to be ready to import power under a variety of circumstances, again no matter what.
      The world’s population mainly lives in about a dozen major core regions — it might help to think in terms of these whole regions, instead of individual countries or provinces (even though that’s where policy comes from).

  • Mallu

    Here again this plan as all other 100% RE plans have the same fundamental flaw in their design in order it to work energy consumption must be cut by 26% by 2050 not stay the same not increase drop. Atleast this one is a bit more realistic than the greenpeace 100% scenario that require a 50& cut. I have never come across a 100% RE plan were energy consumption stays on the same level or even slighlty increase.

    • Freddy D

      Todays technology wastes 80% of the energy as heat in ground transport and over half in wasted heat in electrical generation. With renewable, much less wasted as heat.

    • vensonata

      “Flaw” …you mean, sensible goal, don’t you? They all have the sensible goal of increasing efficiency anywhere between 25 and 50%.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        Lowest hanging fruit is conservation of energy used. Lighting used to be 20% of our electricity use. LEDs alone will can cut that down to a quarter of what it was. 15% less electricity used. CFLs have already had an impact. …and that’s just one example. Heat pumps…

        • Jens Stubbe

          Actually LED’s will cut energy consumption much more because they are also used for displays and less heat from LED’s limits the energy expenditure for air conditioning.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Both good points.

    • No way

      I don’t see a problem with that. The EU goal is a 20% reduction of energy use by 2020 and 27% by 2030.
      Then you have extremely inefficient countries like the US that could easily cut 50-70% of the energy use if they could get to the same efficiency levels as for example Germany.

      50% as Greenpeace suggests would most likely be too much. But Greenpeace has always been crazy and borderline terrorists so it’s hard to take anything they say seriously anyway.

      • Mallu

        Amory Lovins said in 1978 that the only thing that the US has to do to get rid of nuclear power is to switch to low energy light bulbs and industry only has to is a few minor changes on motor control chips and low and behold you got rid of Nuclear. The problem with cutting energy useage is the same as saving money. Every time you save money or energy you invent 10 ways to consume it. The only reason electrical use in germany is lower than the us is because its so expensive for household consumers. How are you going to change a steel mill for instance that consumes wast amounts of electricity you might get a percent here or there but is no silver bullet. Also in all of these 100% re scenarios developing countries only get a quarter or half the amount of energy than developed countries, now why is that? I might be able to buy a 100% re scenario if it could somehow even be able to say that we consume the same amount in 2050 as now or one that actually would be able believe it.

        • Mike Shurtleff

          “Every time you save money or energy you invent 10 ways to consume it.”
          True that …unfortunately. Still, especially in the USA we could save more without effecting our quality of life. We do have CAFE for mpg improvements and modern USA building standards are far better for energy use than in the past. With modern electronics I wonder if we won’t be able to do more with less going forward. Growth was decoupled from energy consumption for the first time globally in 2014 (I think it was 2014).

          “f it could somehow even be able to say that we consume the same amount in 2050”
          Well the predictions here are lame. We will be able to consume more.
          Solar PV, with battery storage, will be providing most of power in the USA by 2030. We have the solar resources to do this, costs are becoming competitive and will be lower soon especially at end-of-grid where no other source can compete. Solar PV will out compete Wind for grid source power in some sunny areas. Wind is already the lowest new source of power on the grid …and still dropping in cost …by 2030? …by 2050? …Solar PV, Wind, Storage, and EVs are disruptive tech, wait and see, lowest cost of all by wide margin coming soon.

          • Mallu

            “Solar PV, with battery storage, will be providing most of power in the USA by 2030” now tell me how on earth will that be possible with current rates of battery production ie 35GW per year. I’m sorry but that is is a pure fantasy. Germany gets 7% of its electricity from solar and it is not expected with current growth rates to get much more. The US alone consumes over 4000TWH of electricity a year. Just for Tesla’s megafactory to produce 1TW of storage would take 28 years. Double to 70GW 14 years, double that 140GW 7 years double that 3,5 years or 280GW. So just to get 2000TW of storage capacity

            that is rougly half would take an eternity. Not to mention the fact that you never be able to produce those quantities in the first place since you never be able to extract enough war materials in a timely fashion. In order for the US alone to build enough battery capacity to have a hope in the world to reach the target would require production figures of 250TW per year. Not to mention that Solar PV instalation rates would have to increase to a factor 50. Then you still have the rest of the world.

          • Bob_Wallace

            ” tell me how on earth will that be possible with current rates of battery production ie 35GW per year.”

            Why would you assume battery production will not grow? We’ve got at least three battery manufacturers moving into the ‘gigafactory’ range at the moment. We have brand new battery manufacturers entering the market.

            Obviously multiple ‘gigafactories’ can be built at the same time. In terms of total US/world construction a dozen gigafactories would only be a blip on the radar.

            Don’t overlook the fact that our thermal plants are aging out and will have to be replaced (below). We can replace them with RE for less money than with new FF plants.

            Or cars wear out. We replace them, on average when they are 13 years old. Manufacturing batteries and electric motors is simpler and will be cheaper than manufacturing internal combustion engines and all their supporting systems.

            Simply by switching what we manufacture and put into use can move us from FF to RE/EVs.

          • Freddy D

            CAGR – compound annual growth rate. Just like solar has grown 30% per year since the 1970s, that means the decimal point slides over one position (1000% growth) every few years. Hasn’t slowed down yet. Same can happen for batteries.

          • philofthefuture

            I’d be willing to be in less than five years hydrogen storage will be far less than the equivalent in battery storage. You don’t even need a fuel cell just burn it like natural gas to drive a generator. All the technology is already mature and well understood.
            The EU is going this route so it will be interesting to see which technology wins.

          • Mallu

            I am not assuming that battery contruction will grow, I am simply pointing out that if you wish to run the system on PV/wind and battery storage you will need to create a hundred fold increase in battery production just to have a hope to reaching your targets. One would need to priduce batteries a rate of 1TW or more per year or 28 gigafactories, Thats not impossible but the problem then comes from where do get the raw materials since at current extraction rates there wont be enough raw materials to meet that demand. Plus also then comes the question of cost battery prices will then go up not down since the demand for raw materials have gone up and so has their price. As for saving energy, it makes very little differnce what the savings a household can muster since industry is the biggest consumer of electricity and there you simply cant cut electricity consumption for a steel mill by 30%, the laws of physics prevent you. Also for battery production we are only talking here for the US if you wish to run the rest of the world on the same system you need atleast 10TW of battery storage a year. The numbers just dont ad up.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Which raw materials will we run out of?

            Gigafactory 1 is designed to produce 35 GW per year. To produce 100 TW would take 286 ‘gigafactories’. That’s just over one factory per country. We’re not likely to build one in Liechtenstein but large countries could easily host a dozen.

            That number is a bit off. Over time battery capacity will almost certainly increase so we’ll likely need fewer than 286 GFs.

          • Mallu

            Currently the US has acording to this website a bit under 100MW of battery storage capacity, ie nothing in big picture when you reach 1GW you might have something to cheer about. I am not saying that we dont have enough raw materials, what I am saying is that we simply cant dig enough of them to meet the demand if you seriously are looking at making industrial scale battery storage. Besides one gigafactory is 5 billion a piece, assuming that you streamline the cost to 4 billion. That multiplied by 286 would be an investment of 1,1 Trillion dollars aprox, lets make it an even trillion. So currently there is nowhere nere enough battery capacity to meet demand in this century at the current rate. Yeah good luck, it looks like the US will be burning coal and natural gas for years to come.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We can’t dig enough stuff to manufacture millions of EVs a year but we can dig enough stuff to manufacture millions of ICEVs a year?

            We’re (almost certainly) in the beginning of a transition away from fossil fuels and to renewables. Basically that means that we will continue to make stuff like we have in the past but make different stuff.

          • philofthefuture

            Actually decades to come. 😀 This will be a marathon, not a sprint, the costs are far too substantial, not to mention ironing out all the technical innovation required.

          • eveee

            Maybe you need to look at how new technologies are adopted. Their growth rates increase rapidly as they near the stage of replacing existing means.

            ” It took most of 100 years for landlines to achieve market saturation. Cell phones, on the other hand, reached that point of diminishing demand in just 20 years. Smart phones are on track to cut that time to 10 years and tablet devices could prove even faster than that when the dust settles.

            Clearly, technology adoption records are being set for speed to market saturation as innovative technologies hit the market. Part of the trend comes from the reduced reliance of newer innovations on so-called “last mile” support like the laying of electrical and telephone cables across the nation.”



          • philofthefuture

            Batteries are great for overnight or load shifting and perhaps a cabin out in the boonies but they are not viable for long term storage.

            I have 30KW of solar, 27KW out the inverters. On a cloudy day that can drop to 2700W and cloudy days can last for weeks. That means the battery bank would have to be over 10x what is needed for overnight.

            But it’s even worse than that. I bank the excess with the utility in the summer and withdraw it in the winter. That means either I need over 10x in solar so I don’t have to bank it or at least 10x MORE in batteries to season shift.

            To my knowledge there is only one viable medium that can be stored for months and that’s hydrogen. Create hydrogen with excess solar in summer and bank it for winter. Increasing storage is then not adding bank after bank of batteries but just a larger storage tank.
            Now that a permitted hydrogen house is a reality, this is far more likely than trying to size an appropriate battery bank. Even if the hydrogen cycle conversion is only 50% efficient it would still be far cheaper than a battery bank with the same viability.

          • Calamity_Jean

            “…cloudy days can last for weeks. That means the battery bank would have to be over 10x what is needed for overnight.

            But it’s even worse than that. I bank the excess with the utility in the summer and withdraw it in the winter. That means either I need over 10x in solar so I don’t have to bank it or at least 10x MORE in batteries to season shift.”

            If you’re grid connected, you buy wind electricity from your utility at night and during the winter when it’s plentiful and cheap. The only reasons for batteries are to have them act as a whole-house uninterruptible power supply or to let your house use battery power when utility “juice” is expensive.

            “To my knowledge there is only one viable medium that can be stored for months and that’s hydrogen.”

            Well, there’s bio-methane from sewage and garbage, and fuel ammonia.

          • philofthefuture

            Both wind and solar are intermittent. There will be times when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Assuming 100% carbon free that means storage. I don’t think there is enough garbage to supply the amount of power needed to cover those times. 😀
            A lot of land fills, including ours, have already been tapped so they can’t be counted as additions, they are already spoken for. Since the EU is going hydrogen I’m placing my bets with them. 😀 With FCV’s beginning production and at a lower price point than Tesla with a comparable range and 5 minute refill, hydrogen infrastructure will happen.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Have you noticed the absolute lack of love that the Mirai is receiving? Enthusiasm is absent.

            Actually the filling stuff is a bad feature. Who wants to go to a filling station when you can just plug in when you park?

          • philofthefuture

            It is one of the first FCV’s meant for production. Even today EV’s aren’t exactly flying off the shelves. Time will tell but the EU and Japan are betting big on FCV’s. That plugging in trick only works for short range in town situations. If you want to make longer trips, it’s longer recharge times.
            The last thing on earth I’d do is bet against Toyota. Don’t forget, this administration killed support for FCV’s. The reason I heard, (hearsay admittedly), is if they both came out at the same time EV’s would never get off the ground.
            There is infrastructure being deployed all over the US for EV charging. There is also a build out for hydrogen refueling, just far more limited. If I recall there should be a west coast corridor set up to go from LA to Seattle. They are also working on home refueling as part of a hydrogen integrated house. The first legally permit approved hydrogen house was announced some time ago, so hydrogen will happen here despite lack of federal support.
            Just to one up you, why plug in if you can fill your tank from home! 😀
            Seriously, only time will tell. If hydrogen takes off successfully in the EU and Japan it will be impossible to ignore. On the other hand one can’t discount they may be building another Concorde, great concept but total economic disaster. I just have to think Japan and the EU aren’t stupid, Toyota in particular.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Seems to me that you are ignoring the inefficiency of using hydrogen as a storage technology. If we were to use hydrogen then we would have to install 2x to 3x as many solar panels and wind turbines than what we’d need for EVs.

            And you seem to be ignoring the cost of hydrogen infrastructure. Moving to FCEVs would mean electrolyzer plants, compressors, a very large transportation system (hydrogen is only 1/10th as efficient as gasoline in terms of volume), and fueling stations. Those costs will have to be rolled into the cost of hydrogen.

            If EVs and FCEVs came out at the same time, at the same price then FCEVs would have a hard time selling because it would cost 3x, 4x or more to drive mile.

            Quicker refueling on long drive days is a very minor advantage. It’s offset by the need to refuel the rest of the year.

            I wouldn’t assume that Toyota knows best. At one time Detroit knew best and they dropped the ball. And I certainly wouldn’t assume Japan always gets it right, they’ve proved they don’t a few times.

          • Calamity_Jean

            “Both wind and solar are intermittent. There will be times when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.”

            The wind never stops blowing. It just changes its location. (And where it will be can be predicted with very good accuracy up to 36 hours in advance.) By having numerous wind farms distributed over a wide geographical area, we can be reasonably sure that we will catch wind power where it is occurring at any particular time. Similarly, the weather on any particular day isn’t going to be cloudy everywhere, some places will have plenty of sun. If every location can produce more power that it needs when the weather is favorable, it can share the temporary excess with other locations that are having a temporary shortage.

            In addition, sun and wind are strongly anti-correlated. Sunless days are almost always windy, windless days are almost always sunny. Every region will produce some power every day. Storage of power for weeks or even days at a time is unlikely to be needed, at least until the power system as a whole is 80% or more renewables. We can worry about that when it’s closer to happening.

            Storage of energy for transportation is a different issue, not really connected with the anticipated problem of “when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.”

          • Bob_Wallace

            “To my knowledge there is only one viable medium that can be stored for months and that’s hydrogen.”

            Let’s increase you knowledge.

            There’s pump-up hydro. We’ve been using it for a hundred years. There are flow batteries. They’re just now coming into use but they are for real and they can store very large amounts of energy for less money than hydrogen. Inexpensive, reusable chemicals stored in simple non-pressurized tanks.

          • jimW1

            have you talked to your insurance co about hydrogen ? Pls see GreenNH3

          • Bob_Wallace

            So how is ammonia in terms of efficiency? If you start with 100 kWh of electricity how many end up as kinetic energy moving you down the road?
            We know that hydrogen is pretty sucky. And H2 is a step on the way to NH3, is it not?

          • jimW1

            GreenNH3 found ways to make the fuel using much less energy, like a tree doing photosynthesis nice and slow, no big energy surges. It is 50 cents a liter and zero emissions, do you know of a better fuel for jets and semi trucks ? If you fly or eat bananas you should be figuring ways to help these poor GreenNH3 scientists. The newspapers and media wont even report it ?? What a waste..

          • Bob_Wallace

            Can it be produced for 50 cents a litre at volume?

            Is it actually being produced for 50 cents per litre or only being done on paper?

            Is it a realistic cost projection or based on something like “free electricity” which we often see with synthetic fuel schemes?

          • philofthefuture

            Hydrogen is no different than natural gas. Both are lighter than air and will readily dissipate into the atmosphere. The explosion hazard is no different than natural gas, put either in an enclosed space and ignite a spark the same thing happens.
            Propane is far more dangerous because, like gasoline, it is heavier than air. That means it does not readily dissipate and will concentrate in low spaces. I have propane now, so if anything using hydrogen would be safer.
            The key in either case is permitting and inspection so assure the installation meets safety standards. Everything I do, including my DIY solar is permitted and inspected for that reason. In short the insurance company cares about one thing, does it meet code.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            “now tell me how on earth will that be possible with current rates of battery production ie 35GW per year.”
            Exponential growth. Production of batteries is accelerating at an extreme rate. Bob has already mentioned gigafactories. Huge pent-up demand and lithium battery technology is here now, as evidenced by Tesla selling out for 1.5 years of their gigafactory production in 1 week …at prices higher than they need to be. High profit margin will mean funding for increased growth.

            “Germany gets 7% of its electricity from solar and it is not expected with current growth rates to get much more.”
            California has 7% now and Solar PV installations are increasing. Germany is a lame example. They have about the same Solar resource as we do here in Washington state. The worse solar resource in the contiguous 48 states. Then there’s the example of Australia, Hawaii, and Chile where with great solar resources and high cost of electricity, so no-brain that they will have large percentage Solar PV power.

            “The US alone consumes over 4000TWH of electricity a year. Just for Tesla’s megafactory to produce 1TW of storage would take 28 years.”
            That should be 1 TWh and yes, 28 years. They are already planning on building 10s of gigafactories.
            You don’t need 4000TWh of battery storage. Solar PV fits the main part of our load, the daily peak, in the whole southern half of the USA and in most of the World. You only need enough to help with the Duck Curve, 6pm to 10pm in the evening. Also, there’s more wind at night and wind turbines will continue to be built since they are now the lowest-cost source of grid electricity (excepting hydro). To do 50% Solar PV in the USA we probably only need a few 100TWh, doable.
            …especially since we already have a lot of NG power. This can be used as filler for Solar PV, so batteries are not even required for 50% from Solar PV.

            “that is rougly half would take an eternity”
            Nope, you’re over estimating what’s required and exponential growth of production will continue. The economics are there for Solar PV and coming for batteries.

            “you never be able to extract enough war materials in a timely fashion”
            Lithium’s not a problem, there’s plenty of it and you don’t need that much per battery.
            Silicons not a problem for Solar PV. Lot’s of that and FBR process has gotten the prosuction cost down to $7/kg.

            “Solar PV instalation rates would have to increase to a factor 50”
            According to wikipedia global electricity production in 2008 was 2.3 TW, averaged rate of delivery over the year. 2.3TW = 2,300GW.
            Global Solar PV production/installation was close to 58 GW per year in 2015. Global Solar PV production/installation was about 3.8 GW in 2007.
            That’s an increase of 58 / 3.8 = 15 times in eight years.
            If we do that in the next 8 years and the 8 years after this then we’ll be producing/installing Solar PV at:
            58 GW x 15 x 15 = 13,050 GW = 13 TW per year.
            Using a capacity factor of 20% that would make:
            0.20 x 13 TW = 2.6 TW of new Solar PV electricity sourced PER YEAR. More than 50% PER YEAR.
            Exponential growth deliver the unexpected.

            Solar PV production/installation seems to be slowing down some right now. I think we’re transitioning from incentivized growth to purely economically driven growth. I think costs will reach 50% of the cost of end-of-grid growth for much of the world soon. This is the recipe for disruptive growth, disruptive replacement of of other energy sources because of cost savings. Already starting to happen in Australia, Hawaii, and Chile.

            One thing for sure. You’re linear production figures are very wrong. Exponential growth is surprising. One of the reasons disruptive growth is disruptive. People don’t see it coming. They don’t think in exponential terms.

          • Mallu

            All that requires that these scenarios work, menaing that you need alot more than just those 10 gigafactories around the globe and then build them at an enourmous rate to keep up demand. Also you have to take into consideration that batteries have a lifespan of aprox 10 years if you are lucky that means that in order to keep the exponential growth, battery production must grow exponentially and then double from that just to keep the growth going and still be able to replace the units that need replaicing. Same goes for solar right now things are now slowing down. If it dosen’t pick up well as Stu put in the Hangover: “You are S&%t out of luck”. Also with solar you have the lifespan to take into account 20 years pessimistic 30 years optimistic. There you run into the same problem as with wind. production must grow exponentially and when you reach the top then double it just to be able to replace them.

            This brings me back to my original point of the need of all 100% RE Scenarios and their apparent inability to meet energy demands without cuts to consumption. If energy consumption increases by lets say 5% from now in 2050, will these plans work? No is the answer it will fail, the same way as if solar isntalation rates and wind turbine instalation rates wont grow massively in the next 10 years renewable energy will face the same faith as nuclear did alot of promise but in the end just fell short. And that would be a shame for the climate if it fails especially since there is no back up plan, nuclear being to expensive and climate change can only be fixed if the budgetary needs are met.

          • philofthefuture

            Solar lifespan is indefinite. They do not typically go bad, they just lose efficiency. Most are warranted for 85% efficiency after 25 years. That doesn’t mean they stop working it just means they’ll likely drop to 70%+ after 50 years. They don’t die, they just fade away!
            They may be so cheap after 25 years and perhaps more efficient so it would make economic sense to replace them, but it would not be necessary.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Not 10 gigafactories, ten’s’ of gigafactories.

            Tesla Powerwall has 10 year warranty when deep cycled once per day. 10 x 365 = 3,650 cycles
            Obviously they will last longer. I’ve read 5,000 cycles normally. 5,000 / 365 = = 13.7 years
            Just like EVs, many people will purchase more than they need just for night time use, so their depth of discharge will typically be much less. Their batteries will last much longer.
            No, I don’t think you’re going to see a huge number of replacements for over 15 years, past 2030.

            “Same goes for solar right now things are now slowing down. If it dosen’t pick up well as Stu put in the Hangover: “You are S&%t out of luck”. ”
            Funny movie, enjoyed it too. …and yet Stu does just fine. Maybe the cup isn’t half empty here.
            Solar production/installation has slowed down before during the purified silicon shortage. Others predicted for solar back then. That’s not what happened. Solar PV prod/install bounced back. Cost of purified silicon is much lower than it was before that happened and there is plenty. …however, it looks like we will have some over-demand for silicon wafers this year. In between we had over production of Solar PV, with many companies going out of business. Gee, guess what the well documented pattern of growth is for a disruptive technology? It oscillates between over-production and over-demand …just like we’re seeing. Wind has been doing the same.

            “Also with solar you have the lifespan to take into account 20 years pessimistic 30 years optimistic.”
            As philofthefuture has pointed out, there are 25 year warranties for Solar PV panels. You can expect them to last 30 years with some loss of efficiency. Many will still be outputting electricity after 50 years. There aren’t a lot of Solar PV panels of that age yet, but over 40 years has been documented. If you are around the middle of the typical sigma curve for disruptive growth, then replacement of some panels is not going to be an issue. Solar PV panel production/installation will just saturate a few years later. Your s-curve will be a little taller. Exponential growth is an incredible thing.

            I’m not talking about 100%. I’m talking about 50% by 2030, maybe I’ll give you five and make it 2035. Maybe 70% or 80% by then with Wind included. By then we’ll already be starting to see signs of market saturation. Product/Install will be slowing down. I don’t know how close we’ll get to 100% or when.

            “If energy consumption increases by lets say 5% from now in 2050, will these plans work? No is the answer it will fail,”
            OK, you really don’t get this exponential growth thing. No, you’ll only need a very short additional time to capture that additional 5%. You’re going to reach very high production rates. Did cell phones fail to saturate the market because the market suddenly started to include millions (billions?) of customers in the developing world? No. Same with Solar PV panels. Please read this article:
            http://www.pv-tech.org/guest_blog/100gw_of_demand_and_the_coming_inflection_point_in_the_us_solar_market – November 2011
            “100GW of demand, and the coming inflection point in the US solar market”
            I consider it to be the most important one I’ve read about Solar PV. Storage will be similar, but will initially achieve very high rate of growth due to pent up demand. This article makes two important points with respect to Solar PV:
            1. Most people do not understand the effect of exponential growth, also called geometric growth.
            2. Solar PV production/installation will grow exponentially as the cost declines linearly.
            What I don’t think the author of that article understands as well, is that you must reach below the cost of the incumbent technology to see a truly disruptive displacement of that technology. I use 50% of the incumbent tech cost, a rule of thumb a friend of mine taught me, a Carnegie Mellon MBA. Solar PV is already there at the end-of-grid in Australia, Hawaii, and Chile. In Australia this has caused their Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who fought Solar PV, to be ousted. In Hawaii, this has caused HECO, one of their utilities blocking Solar PV, to be ordered to change their approach by the State Supreme Court and their State Governor has drafted a plan for 100% renewable energy. Expect this to happen in more and more places as the cost of Wind, Solar PV, and Storage continue to decline.

            “battery production must grow exponentially and then double from that just to keep the growth going and still be able to replace the units that need replacing”
            I’ve already explained that you are over-geusstimating this problem. Please also notice this from the article I referenced:
            “Non-linear systems are often difficult to understand. The famous “penny game” is a good example. In this game, a hypothetical person is given one penny (or one euro cent) on the first day, two pennies on the second day, four pennies on the third day, etc., and then asked to guess the total value of the pennies at the end of one month. Very few people guess correctly – US$21 million – or appreciate that 75% of that value is created on the last two days.”

            NOTICE THAT:
            “75% of that value is created on the last two days”
            That is part of what exponential growth does for you. Most of the production is at the end of the exponential growth. If you need four times as much as you thought at the beginning, then you only need to keep growing for a very short additional time …in the case of Solar PV production, for a few short years.

            You think we’re going to fail at this. I don’t agree. Smile the cup is half full and there’s a clear cool running stream right around the corner. 😉

          • Bob_Wallace

            It’s unlikely that we’ll be replacing many EV batteries. With today’s technology Tesla is talking 200,000 miles before 80% capacity is reached. With normal driving that’s 15 years and it’s time for the car to become a ‘utility’ car. With well over 150 miles of range left the car will be very useful for many drivers and they’ll commute the car into the ground.

            Now, try this. Think about what we’re driving now – ICEVs. Each one has a big hunk of complex machinery pushing it down the road. Each year we have to build those engines and systems plus we have to build some replacement engines for the ones that burn out before the body is used up. We’ll have a transition phase during which we’ll build battery factories and close engine factories.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “I think we’re transitioning from incentivized growth to purely economically driven growth.”

            Good observation. We’re reaching a mile marker. Time to start unbolting the training wheels. That’s good.

          • eveee

            Why don’t you read up IEA and see why they think solar will be the dominant form of energy in 2050. They must have some reason for it.

          • Guest
          • Mike Shurtleff

            Good link. Thank you. I’ll recalibrate on that one.

          • Jens Stubbe

            You are extremely optimistic with storage and solar and very pessimistic with wind. I do not see a future with grid scale storage at all. Storage is in the hype phase and will predominantly be a behind the meter phenomenon or something you do as grid deflectors. Wind is by far the cheapest new source of power generation and the cost are dropping while the capacity factor is growing. Coal would die immediately without the lavish subsidies and the only sensible way to substitute coal is wind power.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Not, really pessimistic about wind. I think it will be one of the big players. I’m just not emphasizing it. Solar PV will be bigger. It can compete at the end-of-grid where cost advantage is much greater. Wind, not so much …in micro-grids maybe.

            You already have storage on the grid. It is going to be much, much cheaper than it is now. Costs have not even come close to catching up with production costs right now and even those are still dropping rapidly. Storage compliments Solar PV in large areas of the world. Both are commodities that can be produced in large factories at lower and lower cost. Both can compete at the end-of-grid where the cost advantage is greater. Expect a heck of a lot of Solar PV and battery storage in areas of the world with good solar resources. This is already happening in Australia, Hawaii, and Chile. In some areas the grid will simply no longer be viable. We’re already seeing this in Australia. Don’t under estimate the ability to generate power at the point of use. Look ma no grid!

            “the only sensible way to substitute coal is wind power”

            That is changing very fast. Yes, we’ll have a lot of wind. It may still be the cheapest source for the grid and the grid will still be used in many areas.
            In other areas, most Solar PV will make more sense, with or without grid …depending.

          • Jens Stubbe

            The majority of electricity is spent by businesses and a great deal by city dwelling people where there is no room for solar behind the grid, so the majority of electricity will permanently be delivered by the grid. You are absolutely right in assuming that wind is confined to grid scale whereas solar is totally distributable with great advantages for all kinds of applications including those you high light. I have solar and wind on my boat (and Diesel engine, gas stove, gas heating and landline current when I dock) but my house is right next to an 1100 year old church on one side and a city park on the other side, and built in a style I would not compromise with solar panels.

            I think wind power will be the obvious choice and besides wind is probably the only source of energy generation that has a real chance of becoming cheap enough to substitute crude oil combined with excess CO2 as the basis for the petrochemical industry.

            I do not see grid scale storage as something that will ever be a mainstay in the electric grid I do however see a good future for behind the meter storage and potentially virtual grid scale storage as a sensible strategy where owners of domestic batteries sign up to be controlled to regulate the grid.

            The areas envisioned by you where the grid will stop operations will probably be away from densely populated areas.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Thanks for the response. Interesting to discuss with you. We differ in degree. I’m more solar and less wind. You’re more wind and less solar. Think we both agree RE will dominate, no?

            I would not say no room for solar in cities and for businesses. When was the last time you flew into Los Angeles or Honolulu? There’s a heck of a lot of unoccupied roof space down there …huge warehouse roofs.
            You could be correct that more grid energy may come from wind. Solar PV can also be used for grid. I’m still bullish on Solar PV, bith on and off grid Globally Solar PV has been growing faster and is about to bypass Wind for annual production & installation. Cost of Solar PV is coming down more rapidly, as well. It’s not far behind Wind. I do think it’s very difficult to call the source of grid electricity cost race between Wind and Solar PV. You think Wind has the clear advantage. I don’t know about that yet.
            There are some large areas with excellent Solar PV resource, but not a lot of wind. To be sure the opposite is also true, particularly for far Northern or Southern latitudes. Seasonal storage is the toughest to solve. I suspect there are simply more good Solar PV areas close to humans than Wind.

            I think you are going to have grid scale diurnal storage of Solar PV power in areas with good solar resource, poor wind resource. I think we agree there will also be home Storage for Solar PV installed by those in good solar areas, with homes that have good access (exposure) to direct sun light. I agree, this will be more common in less densely populated areas.

          • Jens Stubbe

            I take a lot of interest in solar and would love to see it overtaking wind on cost but despite the huge potential for improved solar performance I think that wind due to at least equal potential and inherent cheaper grid integration (only requires HVDC grid infrastructure whereas solar requires storage) will prevail. I do not see electric storage as instrumental for renewable grid except if you opt for solar as the dominant generation technology.

            Two three years from now I suspect that the hype around storage will settle.

            I am so old that I remember the hydrogen hype in the nineties but still I expect Synfuels based upon hydrogen and CO2 to be one of the key power dumps for excess electricity.

            We are very close to the price point where wind power combined with excess CO2 can take on crude oil head to head as the cheapest source for the petrochemical industry.

            Seen from the renewable industries it would open a market that is factors bigger than just the electric grid.

          • Bob_Wallace

            My take is that wind will grab a lot of the market simply because the wind blows many hours of the day. Solar will supply a lot of midday demand but it doesn’t produce early and late in the peak demand hours.

            Both wind and solar are likely to be built in large amounts, both will be ‘overbuilt’ before large scale storage comes into play.

            My guess.

            BTW, solar may turn out to be cheaper than wind. If we structure deals so that they are both paid off in 20 years then there will be additional years of production with very low operating costs. Solar’s operating costs will be lower than wind’s and solar’s almost free electricity years longer.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Thanks for chiming in.

            “Both wind and solar are likely to be built in large amounts, both will be ‘overbuilt’ before large scale storage comes into play.”
            Same as I said above:
            “I simply disagree. It is already clear lithium and a few other chemistries will be able to reach a few cents per kWh, when used for daily storage with Solar PV. This insures very large scale of usage in homes and businesses.” imho
            What you said may turn out to be true for the grid.

            Don’t forget:
            Significant cost advantage for Solar PV and for Storage at end-of-grid …competing against retail cost of electricity at point of use on homes and businesses.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m questioning end-user solar and storage. The average US monthly electricity bill is $100. Some high users may find it worth their while to install, but will a lot of people?

          • Mike Shurtleff

            I skipped over this one. It’s a good point. I think the 50% cheaper rule will hold, in other words: If we can get to half the cost for Solar PV + Storage, then it will happen …even if people are only saving $50 per month. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my current opinion.
            I think Solar PV can reach 4c/kWh and Storage can reach 2c/kWh. Combined they can be less than 6c/kWh and you’ll have added protection from power loss.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If solar reaches 4c, storage 2c and wind drops under 3c (as expected) then the retail cost of electricity will drop which will make the $100/month average utility bill lower.

            I’m certainly not against end-user solar and storage but I don’t see the economics working on that side of the meter as well as it will work on the utility side.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Good first point. Wind could dominate. We’ll see what happens. Excellent race to have.

            “I do not see electric storage as instrumental for renewable grid except if you opt for solar as the dominant generation technology.”
            Solar PV will dominate in some areas. How many compared to wind? Will wind dominate where Solar PV is in combination with wind?

            “Two three years from now I suspect that the hype around storage will settle.”
            I simply disagree. It is already clear lithium and a few other chemistries will be able to reach a few cents per kWh, when used for daily storage with Solar PV. This insures very large scale of usage in homes and businesses. Some is already being used for grids, but I’m not as sure of grid use. 28.8% wind in 2014 for Iowa, but not much storage has been necessary. You could be more correct than I about the grid. Again, we’ll see.

            “I am so old that I remember the hydrogen hype in the nineties but still I expect Synfuels based upon hydrogen and CO2 to be one of the key power dumps for excess electricity.”
            Me too. Agree completely on synfuels. Pumped hydro and/or synfuels make sense to me for seasonal storage.

            Renewables are already going to be bigger than the electric grid. EVs! 60% of global oil use is for light truck and cars. EVs are going to completely replace that with electricity …electricity from renewables.
            I do see your point here about synfuels replacing oil use for plastics, fertilizers, jet fuel, etc. Harder for me to see the economic case for this yet, but I agree this is very possible. People seem to be forgetting right now that we are running out of cheap, easy to recover oil. Other mined sources are significantly more expensive.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Pumped hydro and/or synfuels make sens e to me for seasonal storage.”

            And possibly flow batteries. Cheap chemicals stored in simple non-pressurized tanks.

            I don’t think we’re talking seasonal storage but deep storage for periods which both the wind and Sun are slacking off for several days in a row.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Agree, several different storage technologies are likely to fill different storage needs. Storage does not look like a one-size-fits-all problem to me.
            I tend to overlook flow batteries in my comments, because I’m heavily focused on Solar PV + daily cycle battery as next step in home/business Solar PV. Lithium looks good for that, but there are other chemistries competing. You’re right, flow batteries could be next step beyond daily storage, filling in for a few days of cloudy weather on irregular basis, hybrid battery …or maybe one chemistry does do both jobs?

          • Bob_Wallace

            We’ve got a guy who posts here who claims to work with flow batteries and claims they can do it all. I’m not sold yet but I’m willing to leave the door open.

            Hypothetically flow batteries and pump-up could do pretty much all the storage work. Both can respond quickly and can store large amounts of energy for decent price. I don’t see lithium-ion or another chemical battery as a ‘deep storage’ solution. They may turn out to be best for grid smoothing and short cycle storage.

            It might be 20 years before we need an appreciable amount of deep storage. I have no idea what our options might be then.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Yes, bink. I too want to see what cost point vrb comes in at. I already think he has a very good argument about multiple uses making them more valuable for grid use.

            Pump-up can certainly do a lot, but is not available in all areas. Maybe I’m wrong on that and HVDC has the reach. Certainly we could trade pumped-up hydro storage in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, for Solar PV from California. The entire west coast of the USA could be run that way. (BC might not want to play. They already have a huge amount of hydro. Why would they need the Solar?)

            15 years 😉
            …and yes, that’s a lot of time with current pace of battery development and innovation. Options could be very different by then.

            Don’t forget that Solar PV + storage is happening right now. Tesla Powerwall, Sonnen, and others are already going after 6pm to 10pm neck of duck curve in California. Solar PV in California continues to grow. Harbinger.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We’ve already got PuHS in SoCal. And a proposed major facility.

          • philofthefuture

            You are right about batteries, hydrogen is a much more viable storage medium. On the other hand, solar is now the cheapest according to sources I’ve read. Solar is decimating the peaking market as it can always come in as lowest bidder.
            Solar is also much more incremental and requires virtually no maintenance. In addition rooftop solar is expected to greatly accelerate as there is little impediment to it’s use, such as land acquisition, environmental impact statements, etc.

          • Jens Stubbe

            I do not find hydrogen interesting due to the huge problems of storing hydrogen. I like Synfuels where you also capture excess carbon dioxide much better. The process is now 60% efficient and can yield clean water and numerous minerals, salts and metals as well. Solar is roughly three time as expensive per kWh than wind and the cheapest solar versus the cheapest wind is roughly four times as expensive. The gap is however closing and solar tend to produce more valuable electricity. However wind has much larger capacity factor and the annual fluctuation is smaller when you move away from equator.

            Batteries and solar go together well because they are both scalable and thus possible to use as distributed power generation.

          • philofthefuture

            Hydrogen is already being produced and stored. Texas has over 1800 miles of hydrogen infrastructure. It is also the way the EU and Japan are headed.
            Synfuels require hydrogen and since you don’t want to use coal or natural gas as the other feed stock, that leaves biomass. That has not worked out so well. Exxon has been working on biofuels for years, (for obvious reasons), but so far a miracle has not occurred. 😀
            Here’s the thing, a lot of companies and countries are betting on hydrogen. Since cars, fork lifts, busses, and light rail projects are already running it’s not likely hydrogen will fail. The EU is already deploying refueling stations so they are putting their money where their mouths are. When Toyota, the car maker that owns the hybrid market, says it’s going hydrogen it would be foolish not to take them seriously.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “When Toyota, the car maker that owns the hybrid market, says it ‘s going hydrogen it would be foolish not to take them seriously”

            That would be Toyota who builds a few FCEVs, basically by hand. They seem to not have enough faith in their creation to set up a real assembly line.
            And Toyota who recently told their dealers to stop selling their FCEV, largely because Toyota hasn’t bothered to create a fuel infrastructure.
            That Toyota?

          • Mike Shurtleff

            “You are right about batteries, hydrogen is a much more viable storage medium.”
            Maybe for seasonal storage, but not for daily storage of Solar PV. Cost of battery storage is set to drop dramatically soon.

            Wind is cheaper than Solar PV as source of electricity to the grid.

            “In addition rooftop solar is expected to greatly accelerate as there is little impediment to it’s use…”
            You are ignoring a bigger factor: cost advantage, i.e. power savings cost margin, is much greater at the end of the grid. Electricity is very roughly twice the cost for homes and business at the end-of-grid, retail cost. Wholesale cost of electricity is much lower.

        • Jenny Sommer

          No. Electricity use in Germany isn’t lower due to higher prices.
          It’s just a whole different culture. People in the US living a similar lifestyle will consume just as little power.
          Just compare use in different countries. Just because electricity is cheaper in Austria people still don’t waste it.

          The 100% scenarios call for all energy including heating and cooling to be electric by 2050.
          Naturally there is about 30% increase in efficiency when you go from burning to wind/PV.
          It says 20% hydro for Austria which is at ~70% now.

          • Jens Stubbe

            Heating based upon electricity is 3-5 times more energy efficient than burning fossils to produce heat.

            In the big picture we do however have to assume that the world economy will grow as it has ever done and that means that even with the multiple gains on higher efficiency there will be twice the energy consumption by 2050.

            Not really a big deal in my book and certainly not a challenge that cannot be met.

        • Steven F

          “Every time you save money or energy you invent 10 new ways to consume it.”

          Replace every time with sometimes. Saving energy most of the time does not result in increased energy use. For example I replaced all the bulbs in my house with LEDs and then installed a few more to improve the lighting. Even with the improvements I am using less electricity to light my place I could install more LEDs to get my lighting power consumption up to were it was But if I did I would have to put on sunglasses inside my home. Why would I want to do that.? Another case to consider is cars. Someone could replace there gas guzzler with fuel efficient car. They then could drive more to keep there fuel consumption up. but doing that requires more time driving. Going from a car that gets 20 mpg or less to a car that gets 60 would require 3 times more driving time to keep the energy use flat. for many people that would require 3 hours of the day of driving. Most people don’t have 3 hours a day available for more driving. Even if they did why would they want to drive more instead of playing with the kids or spending more time with the wife? Again why would someone do that?

        • Bob_Wallace

          ” Every time you save money or energy you invent 10 new ways to consume it.”

          The very abused Jeavons Effect.

          With price drops we may see some rise in consumption but there are only so many lights one is going to turn on at a time and only a limited number of TVs one will watch at the same time.

          • Jan Veselý

            Any model, including Jevons’ paradox model is highly dependable on assumptions. f.e. Jevons’ paradox (secretely) assumes that there are some unfulfilled energy consuming needs which can be utilized after that someone get some extra money via efficiency.
            Does this occurs in modern society? I doubt so. What your boss have and you don’t?
            After 2000, all modern objects of desire in fact lowers the energy consumption. The time of refrigerators, cars, AC, TV and 300W PC computers ended.
            Whole Jevons’ paradox is about market share. It was natural that coal consumption rose thanks to efficiency because it was the able to disrupt long range transport, iron making, lighting, etc.

        • Jan Veselý

          Just for you information: A textbook about metallurgy from 1985 says: To produce 1 kg of steel you need to burn 1 kg of coal. From 2005: To produce 1 kg of steel you need to burn 0.6 kg of coal.
          Today, they are well under 0.5. And my hometown’s steel mill just announced that they finished a blast furnaces’ upgrade where about third of the coke (burn parts of the coal to produce better coal) is to be replaced by coal dust. It’s another huge energy saving. And they are still wasting incredible amounts of heat.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        Except for predictions of growth in Solar PV production, where only those crazies have been correct.

      • vensonata

        “Greenpeace has always been crazy and borderline terrorists…” My kind of people alright.

    • Frank

      Freddy D is right. The way total energy consumed is counted is “funny”. Let’s say you have a 40% efficient coal plant, and you put a million BTU’s of coal into it, you will get 400,000 BTU’s of electricity out of it, they add 1 million to total energy. If 2 million BTU’s of solar energy hits 20% efficient solar pannels you also get 400,000 BTU’s of electricity, but only 400,000 BTU’s of electricity are added to the total instead of a million, so if you replace that coal fired electricity with solar, the BTU count in the total energy usage goes down by 60% cause of the way they count.

      • Bob_Wallace

        The graphic below illustrates how much primary energy is lost as heat. As we move from FF to RE we don’t need to replace what is wasted, only what we use.

        • Freddy D

          Yes, and notice that with today’s technology, about 60% of the total energy of 98quadrillion BTU in the US is wasted heat. New technologies cut that wasted heat by approx. 70%, so with no changes in economic uses of energy at all, just by switching from burning stuff to new technology, the energy system efficiency goes way up. Every time you fill up your car with gasoline/diesel, remember that 80% of that money was wasted as heat.

          We haven’t even entered the discussion about zero-energy building techniques, regenerative braking, etc, which completely change the amount of energy needed to live a comfortable, fun, and productive life.

  • JamesWimberley

    Aviation. Heavy trucks. Shipping. Cement. Primary iron. Agriculture and other land use. Sequestration. These are the areas where we don’t have ready-made technical solutions, only pathways that look OK in principle. Moniz and his counterparts in the EU and other countries really need to shift research funds into the hard problems, away from essentially solved ones like electricity generation and nearly-solved ones like ev light vehicles.

    A thought experiment in support. Imagine technical progress stops completely in wind, solar, and batteries. We are stuck for 50 years with exactly the technology we have now. Can we get to 100% renewable electricity and light vehicle transport? Sure. It will mean some minor inconvenience on car range. We can still cash economies of scale, so prices keep falling. It would all be quite affordable.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Aviation: Move a lot to high speed rail. Fuel at least some with biofuel.

      Heavy trucks: Electrify rail. Move most of our freight to electrified rail. Use battery powered trucks (and battery swapping) for the ‘last 100 miles’.

      Agriculture: Some can be electrified. Battery swapping again. Methane digesters with tractors run on the methane.

      These are solutions in hand right now.

      • philofthefuture

        Never happen for aviation, way too expensive and not at all versatile. Electrified rail might be interesting, it may be way cheaper to just use fuel cells though. Stringing wires all over creation is super expensive and a third rail is a major safety hazard.
        Battery swapping is a dead end, more likely fuel cells. Many fork lifts already run on fuel cells.
        Batteries are just not that viable, even doubling their energy density makes them a little less not viable. The EU is betting on fuel cells, we should be too. It’s the closest thing to having all the advantages of fossil fuel.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Unless someone comes up with much cheaper, low carbon fuel then fuel cells are going to be limited to a few unusual niches.

          Some forklifts run with fuel cells because fuel cells were a better option than batteries at that point in time. Don’t count on batteries staying the same, they are likely to develop and take that market away.

          Battery swapping is hardly a dead end. It’s the way to recharge in two minutes.

          The EU is betting on fuel cells? How did you determine that?

    • Freddy D

      and progress continues. The point is that nearly all electricity, building heating and light ground transport could be done with today’s technology and further advances would help fill in these other areas. Hydrogen could resolve a lot of this if environmentally friendly and economical hydrogen could be made because with cheap hydrogen synthesized jet fuel and diesel becomes pretty easy. Again, R&D needed, but it has potential along with other pathways.

      • philofthefuture

        The absolute biggest impediment is people want all this NOW! That is absurd. This will all come to pass but it will take decades. The EU is taking the lead on hydrogen, we’ll see how they do.
        The good news is if they develop it, we can come along a couple of years later at a fraction of the cost. Let them pay the development costs for a change.

    • philofthefuture

      They are going the fuel cell route, that is a solution.

  • Kraylin

    The article mentioned the challenge of switching aviation from something other than fossil fuel. As far as I know there is currently no alternative not even in the concept phase. Well I suppose there is the solar flight around the world but that is a 2 man aircraft…. not sure that’s scaleable to 200 passenger commercial planes.

    Not to discredit the goal of 100% renewable but maybe that isn’t quite necessary. If we were to get to say 90-95% renewable and certain outliers (like aviation) could still use traditional fuels. I assume that drastic change would still stop the reported negatives of high fossil fuel usage.

    • Matt

      Aviation bio-fuel is already here just not scaled. I know Boeing is pushing it because as we have moved to heavier oil, the quality of jet fuel has dropped. Resulting in more engine issues. The bio-fuel is “sweeter” and does’t have those issues. If I wasn’t under the weather, I would find the story on this site with that information.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Both military planes and private airliners have flown using biofuel.

      There are short range battery powered planes.

      Musk has talked about battery powered flight once batteries get to around 400 watt hours per kg.

      “Seeo submitted batteries for official testing late last year, claiming an energy density of 220 watt-hours per kilogram. CEO Hal Zarem told GigaOm’s Katie Fehrenbacher that the company had “started working on a second-generation battery” which will have an energy density of 400 watt-hours per kilogram, claiming that the company’s current batteries were at 300 watt-hours per kilogram. ”

      ” According to Tesla’s Elon Musk, the concept of battery-powered transcontinental airplanes becomes “compelling” once batteries hit 400 watt-hours per kilogram
      400 watt-hours per kilogram:


      • Bob_Wallace

        Then there’s the potential to move people out of airplanes and on the ground. For moderate length trips we can use high speed rail. Faster maglev could move even more travel out of planes.

        And, hopefully, the Hyperloop will work. If it does we could replace a large percentage of air travel with electrified ground transportation. We might still need planes for travel to/from islands and we might need them to make short jumps over the Atlantic and Pacific at high latitudes. Take the ‘loop to Anchorage and then fly to mainland Asia in order to get back into the ‘loop.

        • Rick Thurman

          Even a little further out, microwave thrust is one possibility to electrify the power supply for launching passengers and freight into space — so even that sector isn’t immune to more sustainable pathways.

      • Peter

        Elons talk about long range battery powered aircraft is one thing I don’t really get, especially since he also seems to mention them being supersonic.

        400 watt hours is about 1,5 megajoules. The latest airliners have a lift to drag ratio of around 20 which means that the horizontal force needed to maintain cruising flight is about 0.5 newtons per kg. Since work is force times distance, an airplane consisting of 100 percent batteries, and having no energy losses whatsoever, could at most travel 3000 kilometers on one charge. And if supersonic, you would probably need to halve that lift to drag ratio unless there’s been some major progress in supersonic aerodynamics that I’ve missed.

        • vensonata .

          Electric can fly at higher altitudes. No resistance.

          • Frank

            How do you figure? No resistance, no lift, and no thrust. All airplanes push air. Unless you plan to power it with an electric railgun.

          • vensonata

            Musk himself talks about Electric planes and why he thinks it will work. He is really talking high altitude virtually friction free flight. Something like the hyperloop. After working on rockets, I think air flight must seem simple to him. You will have to look around on the web for an interview with him about why he thinks it will work. I myself am no expert in this area, but was intrigued by Musk’s explanations.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            No, use rockets for hypersonic flight. No friction in space. Don’t know if you can do this in more environmentally friendly way with lower CO2 output. Rail launch?

          • Mike Shurtleff

            See comment below.

          • Peter

            Yes, the drag is lower at higher altitude but so is the lift. You therefore need a bigger wing with the end result that the lift to drag ratio of the wing itself remains unchanged. You do get lower drag from the fuselage so the total lift to drag ratio improves, but not by as much as it might first appear.

            I redid the calculation using the specs of the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. It has a lift to drag ratio of 37 and a fuel fraction of 85 percent. Using the same value of 400 watt hours per kg, a battery to motor efficiency of 95 percent and a propulsive efficiency of 85 percent I get a range of about 3650 km. Pretty impressive actually and almost enough to fly all the way across the United States.

            It seems a bit pointless though since hydrogen fuel cells should be superior. Even if you assume that you need three times as much electricity as input to get a given amount of output electricity using fuel cells instead of batteries, the weight savings using hydrogen should more than compensate and give a lower total energy requirement. If you use liquid hydrogen you also get access to a coolant that is so cold that superconducting motors becomes possible. I don’t know if that would actually be practical or not, but it’s such a neat synergy that I can’t help but hope that it would be. 🙂

        • J999

          How do you get your figure of 0.5 N/kg? Should it not be 1/20, that is, 0.05?

          • Peter

            The lifting force equals the weight of the airplane, that is, the mass times the acceleration due to gravity. It’s around 9.8 m/s^2 on earth, or 10 m/s^2 rounded up. So the required lift is therefore about 10 N/kg.

          • J999

            Got it! Thanks for that. I forgot to multiply by g; as you can tell, my high school physics is pretty rusty.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Think you’re missing the obvious: hypersonic rockets in low space, not planes. Virgin Galactic goes from New York to Paris, instead of just landing in same place. Problem: big terrorist or surprise attack implications …same for supersonic flight.

          • Peter

            Rocket flight using ballistic trajectories require very high velocities to get intercontinental range, not much less than what’s needed for actually getting into orbit. I don’t see it as a realistic travel method for the foreseeable future, except for extremely niche high value cargo where delivery time is of the utmost importance. Which is how they’re currently used when I come to think about it…

          • Mike Shurtleff

            I’m sorry, I was reading an article about a new supersonic plane design and was thinking of that when commenting here. Virgin galactic would be better than that, but doesn’t have much to do with electric flight.

    • Freddy D

      Fair enough. I take the Solutions Project as a simple, clear message to dispel myths that the world can never fundamentally change the energy mix to massively renewable. It’s not really a prescription for every nook and cranny of the economy, but is best taken in the spirit you mentioned – the 80-90% solution. It will take the world a couple decades or longer to even get to 80%. Technology will be much further along by then in storage, potentially hydrogen production, hyperloops, and much more. So I’m willing to focus on the heavy hitters – electric generation and ground transport – while these solutions go through R&D stage.

      Hydrogen, by the way, is probably the best potential for aviation. Split water with renewable power, direct-air-capture CO2, and make jet fuel with the same chemistry as jet fuel today. Could burn it in an 1972 freighter DC10 by the way. Hydrogen manufacture has to improve to make this viable.

      • Ernie

        Hydrogen is at best, a method of storing energy (and not a very good one, I might add). To make it back into liquid fuel the way you propose would be massively inefficient, especially considering that “direct air capture of CO2” is also highly energy intensive. It’s the reason carbon capture at coal powerplants is stupidly more expensive than solar and wind.

        Considering the developments that have been coming out of battery research, I’d say this would be a pointless exercise to even consider within 10 or 15 years.

    • Harry Johnson

      We can only hope we get to 90% renewable energy by 2050.

      • philofthefuture

        It won’t even be close. China won’t even peak till 2030 and they won’t just throw away their coal plants. Ditto for India. In the developed world we might get there but that depends on a number of innovations.
        The biggest is hydrogen fuel cells and generation/storage/infrastructure. Until we can use excess solar and wind to generate hydrogen in the summer in order to burn it in winter we’ll have to use natural gas. Batteries are not the least bit viable for long term storage.
        That being said, the developing world will still drive CO2, regardless of what we do.

        • Calamity_Jean

          “China won’t even peak till 2030….”

          They promised to peak by 2030, but it appears that they are hoping and planning to peak much earlier.

          • philofthefuture

            Considering the fact that they already lied about how much coal they are currently using, I’m not sure I’d even trust the 2030 number. EVERYBODY knows they’ve been fudging the numbers on their economy and now on their coal use. That puts the onus on them to step up. The fact they said ‘around’ 2030 gives them a lot of wiggle room.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Local governments in China were underreporting coal use. More specifically, not reporting output from illegal coal mines.

            The Chinese government reported the problem and corrected their numbers back to year 2000.

            China’s coal use is falling. It’s just falling from a higher number than what had been in use.


          • Calamity_Jean

            Well, they have already cut their coal imports, hurting the Australian economy. The Chinese rulers are desperate to cut their air pollution, they don’t like breathing that crap any more than anyone else does. They could install stack gas scrubbers like the US and other nations did in the 1960s, but with the way solar and wind have fallen in price it’s cheaper to use renewables.

          • philofthefuture

            Three points:
            1. Their pollution solution has been to move coal plants down wind from major cities. This was covered some time ago I think on HP.
            2. A couple of years ago they announced the opening of 200 new coal mines. That’s 2 with two zeroes.
            3. Their economy is collapsing, (and taking much of the world down with it).
            It’s nice to think the best of a situation but that has to be tempered with facts.
            When millenium’s weren’t buying cars, many thought a sea change was happening. It turns out they weren’t buying because they had huge debt and no jobs. When they get jobs then they do get cars.
            During the recession homes began to shrink and the tiny house movement took off. Again many thought a sea change was happening. As above it was just an affordability issue. It was announced yesterday that new home sizes now average higher than before the recession, something like 2750.
            As any scientist will tell you, correlation does not equal causation. 😀

          • Bob_Wallace

            1. Move some coal plants. Install a lot of wind, solar and hydro. Move drivers into EVs.

            3. China is transitioning their economy from export to internal consumption. GDP will drop some but still be an exceptional ~5%. (Try to avoid hyperbole.)

          • philofthefuture

            I guess it all boils down to how much you trust China, given past performance I don’t. 😀 That 5% number comes from them, I don’t even trust that!
            In the end nobody knows what they will do but them. We ALL know what they should do. Time will tell.

          • Calamity_Jean

            1. Moving coal plants won’t solve the problem. Too many of their cities are right on their east coast, with nothing downwind but ocean. Now they are doing something else.

            2. More coal isn’t doing the job for them anymore. They are closing coal mines now.

            3. No it’s not. It’s just growing slower.

            It’s fun to think the worst of a situation but that has to be tempered with facts, also.

          • philofthefuture

            I know moving plants won’t, but it does solve a PR and unrest issue for them. They aren’t in power to do what we want, they are in power to do what they need.

            They are still building coal plants. Hunt down IEA projections.

            Check their stock market performance and what it’s done to the world markets. They are growing because THEY say so? Not trusting a regime that has been caught lying about a number of things including their economy and their coal use is not pessimism, it is realism.

            I am a scientist, that makes me a realist. If anything I lean optimist but from an entire career of experience, it ALWAYS takes longer than the PR people say.

            Fusion is a prime example, how many decades have they been saying it’s just a few years away? Remember when nuclear would be ‘too cheap to meter’? I could list a number of similar rose colored projections as could you if you thought about it a bit.

            I am near 100% sure the US can go 100% as with many countries. Perhaps by 2050. I do think the EU hydrogen solution is superior and think we will eventually end up with that.
            2050 is a nice goal to reach for because it is possible, but it’s a stretch. That’s a good thing. If people think with some effort they can achieve something they will put forth that effort.
            Personally I don’t think there’s a chance China will make it, nor likely India. Could they? Of course. Should they? Of course. But could + should doesn’t = would! 😀
            The housing and auto examples I stated were not unbridled pessimism, they were unbridled optimism. What actually came to pass were neither optimism nor pessimism, just reality. Reality that proved unbridled optimism.

          • Bob_Wallace

            How about you give us a fact based argument for why hydrogen is a better solution than electricity.

          • Calamity_Jean

            You said

            “They are still building coal plants. Hunt down IEA projections.”

            So I found this, dated December 2015: http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2015/december/global-coal-demand-stalls-after-more-than-a-decade-of-relentless-growth.html where it says:

            “…official preliminary data indicate that a decline in Chinese coal demand occurred in 2014 and is set to accelerate in 2015. A decline in coal consumption in China for two consecutive years would be the first since 1982.”


            “New Chinese hydro, nuclear, wind and solar are also significantly curtailing coal power generation, driven not only by energy security and climate concerns but also by efforts to reduce local pollution.

            Given the strong rebalancing of China’s economy, the report also presents an alternate scenario in which Chinese coal demand has already peaked.”

            so I think you’re mistaken. It doesn’t really matter whether the Chinese are building coal plants. What matters is how much coal they are burning, and whether that amount is going up or down. Building new coal plants might even reduce their coal use, if they are starting to use newer more efficient plants and closing old inefficient and high-pollution ones.

        • Bob_Wallace

          China seems to have already hit peak coal. China has also closed over 10,000 coal plants. China says they are serious about being a leader in the fight against climate change and that means that they will burn less fossil fuels.

          India, to me, seems to be in the struggle of changing directions. Some countries will get going in the right direction sooner than others and some will stumble from time to time, but overall the world is turning to renewable energy. The starting rates will be slow but that’s how change starts. Slow and then it accelerates.

    • Jens Stubbe

      Synfuel is a drop in substitute for any hydr carbon fuel.

      Why bother with less than 100% renewable energy. It is cheap and it is clean and it will limit the GHG damages to the global climate.

      • philofthefuture

        Synfuel is ANYTHING but cheap. If it was Exxon would be all over it.

    • Foersom

      > As far as I know there is currently no alternative not even in the concept phase.

      Airbus works on electric aircraft. The E-fan is a flying concept, but range and carrying capacity is a long way off:


  • Freddy D

    Is this new? Wasn’t clear in the article. The Solutions Project, at least for the 50 US states, has been around for some time now. Maybe the world-wide version is new?

    The Solutions Project is a wonderful piece of work because it’s easy to understand and fun, practical, and helps educate people on the fact that renewable primary generation is very feasible.

    • The 139 countries aren’t brand new, but were never covered here and I’ve never seen them covered elsewhere either. They were released a bit under the radar.

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