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Renewable Energy

How We Transform the World to
100% Clean Renewable Energy

Feb 1, 2018
by Tish Levee

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by Tish Levee

His license plate reads WWS ERA, which stands for Mark Z. Jacobson’s predicted era of Wind, Water, and Solar energy. Dr. Jacobson, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford and director of its Atmosphere/Energy Program, spoke at the Praxis Peace Institute in Sonoma on January 4th—an event co-sponsored by Sonoma Clean Power. In 2011, withMark Ruffalo and Josh Fox, he formed the Solutions Project, (http://thesolutionsproject.org), a political advocacy group, combining presentations of science, business, culture, and community to develop a 50-state renewable energy plan.

About 200 attendees heard Jacobson speak on “Transforming Counties, States, and Cities to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy for all Purposes.” Initially he painted a pretty grim picture of what could/would happen by 2050 if we continued BAU (Business as Usual). According to Jacobson, by then air pollution will cost the world’s economies $20-25 trillion/year in health care costs AND global warming will cost $25-30 trillion/year. That’s trillions folks. Some of the consequences of such climate change include mass famine, drought, severe flooding, plagues, poisoned oceans, record heat waves, and yes, wildfires. In addition, fossil fuels are a finite resource; increasing their use will inevitably mean shortages and rising prices.

Wind - Water - Solar

The solution he offered is transforming the world’s entire energy to WWS, Wind, Water, Solar, in all sectors. Electrifying electrical, transportation, heating and cooling, and industry, and then making the electricity that fuels these sectors renewable is the solution. 

He shared about many innovations that are in place right now or ready to go, many of them storage options for WWS. One story really struck me. The community of Drakes Landing, a development of 52 homes in Okotoks, just south of Calgary, stores summer’s solar heat in rocks underground (which reach 80° celsius); the heat is returned to the homes for heating and water heating during the bitter Canadian winter.

While Sweden, Germany, and Denmark have used similar systems, Drakes Landing is a North American first. It’s also 90-98 % efficient compared to 50-60% in these European countries. Homes in Drakes Landing, built to high energy-efficiency standards with solar heating, produce one to two tonnes a year of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the average Canadian home’s six to seven tonnes. This was just one example Jacobson gave of a cheap storage method (less than $1/kilowatt hour versus $300/kWh for battery storage.)

While the capital costs of renewables are often cited as a barrier to wide-spread acceptance, after a one-time building cost, they are virtually free. In contrast, fossils fuels that have a low one-time building cost have mining/drilling costs that last forever PLUS the cost to the economy of their emissions. In 2012, his team developed a road map for 139 countries representing 99% of global emissions. In the study’s projections, they found the average cost of renewable energy was similar to the cost for conventional energy, but when the health and climate costs of conventional energy were figured in, it was almost four times more expensive than renewables.

Dr. Jacobson emphasized that we have the technological and economic resources to transform the world to 100% clean, renewable energy. What we need now is the will to do so. Interestingly, we don’t need everyone to believe in climate change, either. A recent survey by Denmark’s Orsted of 26,000 people in 13 countries showed 82% wanted to see renewable energy even though only 66% saw climate change as a global problem.

The good news—what you can do to help.

According to the Sierra Club, 54 cities have committed to 100% renewable energy, as have 104 companies, representing 67% of the largest corporations. Many states have stepped up to the plate, especially after the President announced the US planned to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords.

New York, Massachusetts, and California all have bills in their legislatures to help move them to 100% renewable energy. Currently AB 1745, which would mandate the sale of zero emissions’ vehicles in California by 2040, needs to make it out of the Transportation Committee so it can be voted on. You can help by contacting your representative and others on this issue; also ask their support of SB100, which would mandate that California’s energy supply be renewable by 2046. For more information on how you can help, contact Center for Climate Protection’s Jock Gilchrist at 707-525-1665 X 123. His email is jock@climateprotection.org. 

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