Researchers have outlined a new and comprehensive plan that details how 139 countries can be powered by 100% renewable energy by the year 2050.
This is perhaps one of the most effective ways to change the world: by showing others how to do it. Back in 2015, Stanford's Mark Z. Jacobson and his colleagues published a plan that details how the US can transition to 100% clean energy on a state-by-state basis. Now, Jacobson has done it again, but this time on a much larger scale.
According to this new plan, 139 countries can transition to renewable energy by making infrastructure changes. These changes involve the electrification of each country's energy sector, as well as transportation, industry, agriculture, forestry, heating, and cooling. The energy data of the 139 countries were made available by the International Energy Agency (IEA), leading the researchers to include these countries in the plan.
Electrification and renewable energy are key to the study. For one thing, both will make things run more efficiently, thus reducing power demand. Such a transition can generate 24 million jobs worldwide, reduce air pollution-related deaths by four to seven million less deaths each year, stabilize energy prices, and save $20 trillion each year in health and climate costs.
The researchers evaluated each country's raw renewable resources; how many wind, solar, and water energy generators are necessary to achieve 80% renewable energy by 2030; how much space these generators would require; and how the plan can reduce the demand for energy.
According to the findings of the study, places with a larger territory, like the US or China, have a better chance of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050. Smaller, more densely populated, and water-locked countries like Singapore, meanwhile, might have a harder time making the transition. This is because countries like this might need to invest in offshore solar in order to achieve their clean energy goals.
Weaning countries away from dependence on fossil fuels can have more effects than the ones outlined above. For example, it can make countries less dependent on each other for fossil fuels. It can also reduce international conflicts over energy. After all, if everyone can rely on their own resources, there's no need to fight over them.
Of course, there have been other studies on the benefits of transitioning to clean energy. However, what sets this new study apart is that it doesn't just examine how clean energy benefits the environment and climate. It also examines how it can benefit the economy as well as international relations.
One criticism of the goal of 100% wind, solar, or water energy is that it discounts clean coal, biofuels, and nuclear energy. However, it's for good reason. Clean coal and biofuels, for one thing, emit 50 times more carbon than wind, solar, or water energy. Nuclear energy, meanwhile, takes a decade or two to plan and operate, and thus can be expensive. There's also the risk of nuclear meltdowns.
If anything, the study presents action items and concrete solutions as well as projected benefits. Hopefully, the outlined plan can make countries see that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is both feasible and beneficial.
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