Thursday, January 07, 2016

100% renewable energy for Canada (and the world)

Stanford University engineering professor Mark Jacobson has followed up on his ambitious 2009 plan for the world to get all of its energy (including transport, heating fuel and electricity) from wind, water, solar and other renewable resources by 2050.
Although the plan seemed hopelessly radical and fanciful at the time, the world's perceptions of renewables and our understanding of the potential consequences of global warming have changed so much in the intervening 6 years, and particularly in the last year or two, that it is now considered quite mainstream. But more importantly, Jacobson has now fleshed out his plan and provided detailed scenarios for no less than 139 countries (smaller countries, like Singapore and Gibraltar, just do not have the land to provide their own renewable resources, and must needs import much of their power).
His scenario for Canada in 2050 includes 21.2% from solar power, 37.5% from onshore wind power, 21% from offshore wind, 2% from wave energy, 1.9% from geothermal, 16.2% from (existing, not new) hydroelectricity, and 0.2% from tidal turbine power. He estimates this would generate 293,000 construction jobs and 463,000 full-time operation jobs (to be provided largely by retrained oil and gas employees), and result in $107.6 billion in avoided healthcare costs per year and 9,598 avoided deaths from pollution each year.
Interestingly, Jacobson's model does not even require nuclear power, which, although clearly much better than gas or coal, still results in 9 - 25 times more carbon emissions and air pollution than wind and solar power per unit of energy generated (and which also has other drawbacks in terms of potential for catastrophic accidents and security breaches, radioactive waste and cost).
Jacobson's goal is to get to 80% renewable energy by 2030, and 100% by 2050, a goal he sees as eminently technically and economically practical. However, whether it is politically tractable, as he himself admits, is a quite different question.

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