100% renewable energy for US: Fact or fantasy?

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What would it take to power the entire U.S. economy on renewable resources alone?

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rainbow-pooping-unicorn-100pct-renewable-320x219What would it take to power the entire U.S. 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 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:


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.

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.

This article originally posted at ilsr.org. For timely updates, follow John Farrell on Twitter or get the Democratic Energy weekly update.

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  1. onesecond 4 years ago

    We have a choice right now. Going 100% renewable, creating jobs, savings, health benefits and an undestroyed environment OR destroying the global ecosystem and human civilisation due to lazyness and vested interests. Really shouldn’t be a hard choice to make but given the profound stupidity of humans I fear for the worst.

    • Mike Dill 4 years ago

      1. Wind is already cheaper than FF and Nuclear in the US.
      2. DG solar is already cheaper than even grid electricity in some places.
      3. Batteries are getting cheaper (and lighter) and electric cars are here and getting MUCH better.

      I fully expect all surface transportation will be electric in fifteen years without ANY government intervention due to the economics.
      For electric planes to work we need about 500Wh/kilogram, which is not a legal thing but a physical thing. I do hope that we get a Tesla airplane….

      Mandating things that are not possible seems to be the way that some people want to think.

  2. Pedro 4 years ago

    Air transport would be a hard one to come up with a solution. An aerospace engineer friend of mine did some research into the feasibility of nuclear powered aircraft. Massive planes that land very rarely. I was not convinced in what is safer nuclear powered subs or aircraft.

    The obvious solution is to have a very fast intercontinental train network

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