Econintersect: Mark Jacobsen, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, is developing state-by-state plans for converting all electricity production to renewable sources, completely doing away with combustion sources (fossil fuels) and nuclear reactors.
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The first state plan to be completed is for New York. It calls for fossil fuels to be eliminated by 2050, including energy for transportation and building heating and cooling. A substantial portion of the plan focuses on improving the efficiency of energy production as well as end use.
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One critical discussion of the plan has been presented by environmental activist Andrew Revkin at The New York Times. Revkin questions the assumptions of the plan and makes a wish that “such indirect costs were integrated better” into how plan decisions were made.
The distribution of energy production sources in the plan:
- 40 percent offshore wind (12,700 turbines),
- 10 percent onshore wind (4,020 turbines),
- 10 percent concentrated solar panels (387 power plants),
- 10 percent photovoltaic cells (828 facilities),
- 6 percent residential solar (five million rooftops),
- 12 percent government and commercial solar (500,000 rooftops),
- 5 percent geothermal (36 plants),
- 5.5 percent hydroelectric (6.6 large facilities),
- 1 percent tidal energy (2,600 turbines) and
- 0.5 percent wave energy (1,910 devices).
A number of commentators question feasibility because of prohibitive energy storage costs for variable levels of production over time. In an interview Jacobsen had this to say:
If you get the [power] transmission grid right you don’t need a whole lot of storage. By combining wind and solar and geothermal and hydroelectric, you can match the power demand. And if you oversize the grid, when you’re producing extra electricity you use it to produce hydrogen [for fuel-cell vehicles and ships as well as some district heating and industrial processes]. You can also spread the peak demand by giving financial incentives [for consumers to use power at off-peak times]. Some storage certainly would help; we have storage in the form of hydrogen and in concentrated solar power plants. There are many ways to tackle the indeterminacy issues.
The authors of the New York plan say they are nearly done with a California plan. A plan is also underway for Washington state. Eventually they authors hope to complete a plan for every state.
Editor’s note: The comments at The New York Times (article by Revkin) are interesting but it is clear that most (if not all) had not read the full research paper at Energy Policy.
- Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight (Mark Z. Jacobsen, Robert W. Horwath, Mark A. Delucchi et al, Energy Policy journal, 13 March 2013)
- A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables (Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, Scientific American, 15 June 2010)
- How to Power the World without Fossil Fuels (Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, 15 April 2013)
- Can Wind, Water and Sunlight Power New York by 2050? (Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times, 12 March 2013)
- Atmosphere/Energy (Stanford University website)
- When Costs Outweigh Benefits: Accounting for Environmental Externalities (Nicholas Epstein, Chicago Policy Review, 15 February 2012)
- Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy (Nicholas Z, Muller, Robert Mendelsohn and William Nordhaus, American Economic Association, August 2011)