world-run-clean-energy

The World Could Run on 100% Clean Energy by 2030 Using Existing Technology (Video)

The technology needed to power the world with clean energy already exists — it just needs to be brought to scale over the next 20-40 years. This isn’t the musing of some pie-in-the-sky renewable energy utopianist, either; it’s the conclusion of a recent study by a two university researchers. Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson and UC-Davis researcher Mark A. Delucchi have just published a paper in Energy Policy arguing that it’s not lacking technology that’s holding us back from a clean-powered future — it’s social and political will.

In the paper, they lay out a vision of how 90% of the world could get its energy from solar and wind plants, and the remaining 10% would be comprised of a mix of hydro, tidal, and geothermal power. Jacobson explains the vision in this brief video:

As Jacobson notes, millions of people still die from the pollution emitted by coal-burning power plants every year, and of course, and then there’s that tiny problem of global climate change. In other words, there’s reason enough for the world to embrace some such plan to drastically change its energy supply.

Beyond what’s mentioned in the video, the vision put forth by the researchers extends to transportation, too — all of our vehicles should be running on clean power, too, of course. Here’s a breakdown of the blueprint, as explained by Standford University News:

The world they envision would run largely on electricity. Their plan calls for using wind, water and solar energy to generate power, with wind and solar power contributing 90 percent of the needed energy. Geothermal and hydroelectric sources would each contribute about 4 percent in their plan (70 percent of the hydroelectric is already in place), with the remaining 2 percent from wave and tidal power. Vehicles, ships and trains would be powered by electricity and hydrogen fuel cells. Aircraft would run on liquid hydrogen. Homes would be cooled and warmed with electric heaters – no more natural gas or coal – and water would be preheated by the sun.

Following this road map, all new energy generation would come from already-existing clean sources — wind, water, and solar — by 2030. Bundling energy sources, and instituting efficiency measures could reduce the world’s energy demand by some 30% — to around 11.5 terrawatts. And by 2050, all of the coal plants would be converted or taken off line entirely. There would then be enough capacity to run the world on clean energy by 2030, and dirty energy sources could be eliminated altogether by 2050.

But then there’s that gaping lack of societal, political, and let’s not forget, commercial will. The sort of will that entrenched fossil fuel industries have no interest in promoting. And that’s why, perhaps, this can be filed under ‘Utopian vision’ after all — a planet free from human-generated carbon emissions, in under 40 years no less, would take the sort of global mobilization and cooperation that’s rarely been seen in a single society, let alone a planet.

It’s also interesting to see how more and more visions of clean energy utopias are emerging in response to the climate crisis — blueprints for worlds and societies that run exclusively and entirely on renewable power. These sort of utopias are a departure from the more traditional social utopias — but perhaps it would follow that once dirty energy were eliminated, and one of the major engines of global consumption sated, perhaps a more egalitarian social order would follow?

Regardless, these scientists make it clear — we could enact a plan like this. It’s entirely possible. It’s not technology that’s lacking — it’s our collective desire to live sustainably.

Image: Power & Energy

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant is a founding editor of the Utopianist.. When he's not helming the Utopianist, he is TreeHugger's politics writer, contributes the Getting Samy Out of Burma column to GOOD.is, and freelances for the likes of Salon and Paste. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

17 thoughts on “The World Could Run on 100% Clean Energy by 2030 Using Existing Technology (Video)

  1. Yours is an Utopian idea Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi. Even simple Solar Cooker has not reached people in developing countries. Renewables can only supplement conventional energy but not replace them. Only this THINK BIG ideas in Renewables are coming from West but not from East. It is political will that determines the success of any technology. With Change of Political parties in parties often policies are left out. Let us be neither optimistic nor pessimistic but realistic.

    Put the RENEWABLES to WORK: To get inexhaustible, pollution-free energy which cannot be misused.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP),India
    Wind Energy Expert
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

  2. Yours is an Utopian idea Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi. Even simple Solar Cooker has not reached people in developing countries. Renewables can only supplement conventional energy but not replace them. Only this THINK BIG ideas in Renewables are coming from West but not from East. It is political will that determines the success of any technology. With Change of Political parties in parties often policies are left out. Let us be neither optimistic nor pessimistic but realistic.

    Put the RENEWABLES to WORK: To get inexhaustible, pollution-free energy which cannot be misused.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP),India
    Wind Energy Expert
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

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  6. Have any of the renewable energy fans looked at the size of the installations required to provide all this electricity? I quote figures from existing sites. Sinkin solar site in Oregon, classed as 200 MW site requires 200 acres of land. Shepheards Flat wind farm 845 Mw takes up 30 sq. miles of land. When you factor in efficiency, turbines currently averaging 19.6% and solar 19% ,in new condition,you are going to need a lot of land. Paolo verde nuclear plant just recently opened is rated at 3,875 Mw with an efficiency rating of over 90% covers 6.25 sq. miles. To match this output Sinkin would need 282 sq. miles, about the size of New York. S Flats would require about 460 sq. miles, close to the size of Los Angeles. Both these renewable installations are set in the most favourable sites for their needs, so you cannot apply the principle to the entire world. California maintains a green energy policy and is down to Gas only of the fossil fuel burners. Except of course this is not strictly true, as due to shortfall in electrical supplies they are forced to buy in oil,coal,gas and nuclear generated electricity from neighbouring states. So worldwide what do we do, have a lottery and say OK you can have green energy, topped up from next door. Next door you have to generate by conventional means and suffer all the pollution. Meanwhile the Biomass is gradually burning it’s way through the worlds forests. If it takes Germanys new power plant in Hamburg 11,000 tons of coal per day, imagine how many trees that is? OK replace trees with Maize, so where are we going to grow our food then? It may sound like I am a committed backer of nuclear. Not absolutely true, but basically I see no alternative to reduce carbon emissions NOW, although it is probably too late to stop major climate change NOW. What was Kyoto about? It was not about renewables per se, the words were REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS. If the Anti Nuclear people took off their blinkers, got into some serious research of deaths from the various methods of generation, they would see nuclear at the bottom of the list and the FEASIBLE alternatives, coal,gas, oil, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Someone ask these 2 bright scientists to give out a simple set of statistics to prove their case.

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