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Published on March 1st, 2016 | by John Farrell


100% Renewable Energy: Fact Or Fantasy?

March 1st, 2016 by  

Originally published on ilsr.org.

What would it take to power the entire US economy on renewable resources alone?

Three big things:

  1. Only build wind, solar, or hydro power plants after 2020
  2. Reduce energy use compared to business as usual by 40%
  3. Electrify everything

It’s the last that may be the most complicated, since it means a complete overhaul of the way we do everything from heating homes to moving people. Mark Jacobson, author of a seminal study on the transformation, doesn’t mince words about its complexity:

The recommendations — indeed, all 28 — would require coordinated action from Congress, federal agencies, state legislatures, and local officials. Together, they represent an unprecedented level of government activism, a skein of incentives, mandates, standards, and laws unmatched in U.S. history.

This timeline illustrates the challenge of electrification:

electrification timeline for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 ilsr

Want the whole story in short? I gave this summary presentation of the challenge to a group of clean energy allies in late August 2015 (100% renewable in 15 slides):

SlideShare Preview
100% Renewable Energy by 2050: Fact or Fantasy from John Farrell

Hat tip to David Roberts for making this data accessible, and to Mark Jacobson at Stanford for the deep dive into how it can happen. I’m just here for the visual flair.


70%, 80%, 99.9%, 100% Renewables — Study Central

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

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

Getting To 100% Renewable Energy In the US

State-By-State Plan To Bring US To 100% Renewables By 2050 Unveiled By Researchers

100% Renewable Energy — How To Get There (Mark Z Jacobson Video)

Powering The World With Wind, Water, & Sunshine (Mark Z Jacobson Video)

Photo Credit: author unknown

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About the Author

directs the Democratic Energy program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His seminal paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (energyselfreliantstates.org), and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at jfarrell@ilsr.org.

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