Study: Avoiding blackouts with 100% renewable energy

From STANFORD UNIVERSITY and the “pie in the sky dreams” department comes this study

Stanford engineers develop a new method of keeping the lights on if the world turns to 100% clean, renewable energy

Researchers propose three separate ways to avoid blackouts if the world transitions all its energy to electricity or direct heat and provides the energy with 100 percent wind, water and sunlight. The solutions reduce energy requirements, health damage and climate damage.


Renewable energy solutions are often hindered by the inconsistencies of power produced by wind, water and sunlight and the continuously fluctuating demand for energy. New research by Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, and Aalborg University in Denmark finds several solutions to making clean, renewable energy reliable enough to power at least 139 countries.

illustration of solar array, wind turbine and hydrogen storage unitsStanford’s Mark Z. Jacobson says a new study shows that it is possible to transition the entire world to 100 percent clean, renewable energy with a stable electric grid at low cost. (Image credit: Getty Images)

In their paper, published as a manuscript this week in Renewable Energy, the researchers propose three different methods of providing consistent power among all energy sectors – transportation; heating and cooling; industry; and agriculture, forestry and fishing – in 20 world regions encompassing 139 countries after all sectors have been converted to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Jacobson and colleagues previously developed roadmaps for transitioning 139 countries to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2050 with 80 percent of that transition completed by 2030. The present study examines ways to keep the grid stable with these roadmaps.

“Based on these results, I can more confidently state that there is no technical or economic barrier to transitioning the entire world to 100 percent clean, renewable energy with a stable electric grid at low cost,” said Jacobson, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “This solution would go a long way toward eliminating global warming and the 4 million to 7 million air pollution–related deaths that occur worldwide each year, while also providing energy security.”

The paper builds on a previous 2015 study by Jacobson and colleagues that examined the ability of the grid to stay stable in the 48 contiguous United States. That study only included one scenario for how to achieve the goals. Some criticized that paper for relying too heavily on adding turbines to existing hydroelectric dams – which the group suggested in order to increase peak electricity production without changing the number or size of the dams. The previous paper was also criticized for relying too much on storing excess energy in water, ice and underground rocks. The solutions in the current paper address these criticisms by suggesting several different solutions for stabilizing energy produced with 100 percent clean, renewable sources, including solutions with no added hydropower turbines and no storage in water, ice or rocks.

“Our main result is that there are multiple solutions to the problem,” said Jacobson. “This is important because the greatest barrier to the large-scale implementation of clean renewable energy is people’s perception that it’s too hard to keep the lights on with random wind and solar output.”

Supply and demand

At the heart of this study is the need to match energy supplied by wind, water and solar power and storage with what the researchers predict demand to be in 2050. To do this, they grouped 139 countries – for which they created energy roadmaps in a previous study – into 20 regions based on geographic proximity and some geopolitical concerns. Unlike the previous 139-country study, which matched energy supply with annual-average demand, the present study matches supply and demand in 30-second increments for 5 years (2050-2054) to account for the variability in wind and solar power as well as the variability in demand over hours and seasons.

For the study, the researchers relied on two computational modeling programs. The first program predicted global weather patterns from 2050 to 2054. From this, they further predicted the amount of energy that could be produced from weather-related energy sources like onshore and offshore wind turbines, solar photovoltaics on rooftops and in power plants, concentrated solar power plants and solar thermal plants over time. These types of energy sources are variable and don’t necessarily produce energy when demand is highest.

The group then combined data from the first model with a second model that incorporated energy produced by more stable sources of electricity, like geothermal power plants, tidal and wave devices, and hydroelectric power plants, and of heat, like geothermal reservoirs. The second model also included ways of storing energy when there was excess, such as in electricity, heat, cold and hydrogen storage. Further, the model included predictions of energy demand over time.

With the two models, the group was able to predict both how much energy could be produced through more variable sources of energy, and how well other sources could balance out the fluctuating energy to meet demands.

Avoiding blackouts

Scenarios based on the modeling data avoided blackouts at low cost in all 20 world regions for all five years examined and under three different storage scenarios. One scenario includes heat pumps – which are used in place of combustion-based heaters and coolers – but no hot or cold energy storage; two add no hydropower turbines to existing hydropower dams; and one has no battery storage. The fact that no blackouts occurred under three different scenarios suggests that many possible solutions to grid stability with 100 percent wind, water and solar power are possible, a conclusion that contradicts previous claims that the grid cannot stay stable with such high penetrations of just renewables.

Overall, the researchers found that the cost per unit of energy – including the cost in terms of health, climate and energy – in every scenario was about one quarter what it would be if the world continues on its current energy path. This is largely due to eliminating the health and climate costs of fossil fuels. Also, by reducing water vapor, the wind turbines included in the roadmaps would offset about 3 percent of global warming to date.

Although the cost of producing a unit of energy is similar in the roadmap scenarios and the non-intervention scenario, the researchers found that the roadmaps roughly cut in half the amount of energy needed in the system. So, consumers would actually pay less. The vast amount of these energy savings come from avoiding the energy needed to mine, transport and refine fossil fuels, converting from combustion to direct electricity, and using heat pumps instead of conventional heaters and air conditioners.

“One of the biggest challenges facing energy systems based entirely on clean, zero-emission wind, water and solar power is to match supply and demand with near-perfect reliability at reasonable cost,” said Mark Delucchi, co-author of the paper and a research scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. “Our work shows that this can be accomplished, in almost all countries of the world, with established technologies.”

Working together

Jacobson and his colleagues said that a remaining challenge of implementing their roadmaps is that they require coordination across political boundaries.

“Ideally, you’d have cooperation in deciding where you’re going to put the wind farms, where you’re going to put the solar panels, where you’re going to put the battery storage,” said Jacobson. “The whole system is most efficient when it is planned ahead of time as opposed to done one piece at a time.”

In light of this geopolitical complication, they are also working on smaller roadmaps to help individual towns, many of which have already committed to achieving 100 percent renewable energy.

Additional co-authors of this paper are Mary A. Cameron of Stanford and Brian V. Mathiesen of Aalborg University in Denmark.


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February 8, 2018 1:00 pm

If wishes were unicorns……

Reply to  Latitude
February 8, 2018 1:40 pm

Isn’t this the guy suing other scientists for showing his previous paper was crap?

Reply to  billw1984
February 8, 2018 1:51 pm

I do believe you are correct.
I bet this work is up to the same standard as that.

The Dismal Science
Reply to  billw1984
February 8, 2018 2:06 pm

Yes – they found basic errors in his work. When they pointed it out, in a peer reviewed paper, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the same prestigious journal that released Jacobson’s study, he freaked and sued them for libel ($10 million in damages).
The big disagreement was Jacobson’s use of hydropower, which backs up the proposed grid system by dispatching power when wind and solar can’t cover demand. Jacobson’s supplementary details list an installed hydropower capacity of 87.5 gigawatts for 2050, essentially the same as it is today. But elsewhere, he includes a chart showing 1,300 gigawatts of hydropower dispatched, which is roughly 15 times the installed capacity. The modeling error makes the entire system fall apart. Jacobson described this as an “intentional assumption.” His idea is that the annual flow of water through U.S. hydropower facilities has to be held constant, but it is possible to increase the power by upgrading turbines at existing dams.This explanation, and associated costs, do not appear anywhere in the original article or its supplement. But Jacobson says he explained his thinking to the journal, they went ahead and published a critique of the hydro modeling anyway. Jacobson says that amounts to a false claim.
As a person who has actually worked on such projects, Jacobson’s assumption and explanation was ….childish, and displayed a basic misunderstanding on how hydro power works, and the potential for upgrades. I’d say, if we were lucky, we might squeeze out another 10 GW from the existing hydro system. That only leaves us around 1200 GW short of our goal.
I’d have peruse the paper thoroughly, but given the fact that Jacobson previously beclowned himself, first by his poor modeling and assumptions, then filing a lawsuit when challenged, my guess the new paper will show similar deficiencies.
I think the problem with Jacobson is fairly basic – he sets forth with a conclusion (100% renewable power is both feasible and desirable) and then tries to fit the data to the conclusion. When you have decided your conclusion, you are prone to making elemental mistakes in logic and math as part of your analyses.
My observation is fairly simple 1) if 100% renewable power is both feasible and desirable then certainly some country or state will implement such a system. So far no one seems to think it can be done, except on a small scale. 2) Penetration of renewable power into the marketplace gets exponentially more difficult the closer you get to 100% renewable. Because of that, it is easy to think, after the first 5 or 10 or 30%, that the rest will be easy. It is much more likely that it will be hard, very very hard. And very costly. And probably unnecessary – I am perfectly happy with a system that is 60-80% renewable, and that would likely accomplish most of our goals.

Reply to  billw1984
February 8, 2018 2:07 pm

Funny comments about the guy in this tweet. Might have to click on the date to see them.

Bryan A
Reply to  billw1984
February 8, 2018 2:21 pm

I believe that a large part of his Hydro Assumptions lay in his belief that they would be able to Add Additional Hydro generators to existing facilities. One major problem to this non-solution is that it takes additional water supply to turn the additional turbines. Most Hydro facilities are designed with the amount of water behind the dam as a major factor to release rates needed to turn the generators over a period of time. If you quintuple the generator count, you also quintuple the amount of water flow to produce electricity. This effectively causes the water behind the dams to drain 5 times faster so the dams would only be able to produce power for 20% of the time they normally would or run out of water 5 times faster. (Glad I proof read this, I missed my “o” in Generator Count”. Dangerous misspelling)

Reply to  billw1984
February 8, 2018 2:57 pm

I would assume that when they built the dam, they sized the tube that carries water from the dam to the turbines based on the number of turbines being built at the time.
To add more turbines, they would need to increase the size of that tube.
I’m guessing that at most dams, this will not be easy or cheap.

Reply to  billw1984
February 8, 2018 5:33 pm

Mr Dismal, thanks. Nice analysis. However i take exception to your 60%-80% goal as feasible. as you point oit it gets exponentially more difficult as you go from 10%-20%-30% etc. Add to the dispatchable spiinning reserve that the grid operator must maintain and the costs to the consumer and economy skyrocket.. And without dispatchable backup (fast spinup or spinning) then blackouts are certain during heavy loads periods.
But back to Jacobsen, it is my opinion that someone (with a sizeable investment agenda and portfolio) must be paying him nicely to publish such easily rebutted junk.

Reply to  billw1984
February 8, 2018 6:29 pm

Someone suggested solar to replace the power in Puerto Rico. Image what would happen to their grid with even a cat 3. Power lines wouldn’t be a problem because there would be no power generation left.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  billw1984
February 8, 2018 7:00 pm

Even if they could quindectuple the flow of water through hydroelectric dams (Sue me, I never get to use that word), there’s the problem of flooding downstream. You would literally be opening the floodgates to near-disastrous levels. The devastation would be horrifying.

Bryan A
Reply to  billw1984
February 8, 2018 8:09 pm

You would need to build a lower containment lake that pumps the water back into the dam during low cost times

The Dismal Science
Reply to  billw1984
February 8, 2018 10:28 pm

Let me clarify – I would be thrilled to get to 60-80% renewable. Likely? Not really. Beyond 30% things start getting pretty ugly. Personally I think 100% is…insane. but I think 60 to 80% might be possible…barely.
Re. hydro power, there is about 10 GW we could get from powered dams, and perhaps another 10 GW from powered dams that are upgraded (more efficient new generates and what not). And that is pretty much it.
One thing Jacobson doesn’t get – renewable power is a lot like farming. Or gold mining. If I were to calculate out all the gold in the united states, and then assume it will all be someday mined, you’d say I am nuts – some of the gold (most of it actually) is not concentrated to be worth mining. or it is located in places I can’t mine, Or too deep. Actual recoverable resources are a much much smaller number. Jacobson always starts his calculations off from the size of the total resource, not acknowledging that a very large fraction of that resource will never be exploited.

Reply to  Latitude
February 8, 2018 2:08 pm

Dream on at our expense and peril. These Warmers are a danger to civilization and all aspiring human beings or as Unicorn brain PM Trudeau said all “People Kind”
PS – Effective Immediately – All Manhole covers are now Peoplehole covers. Coming soon to your home town!!!

Reply to  TG
February 8, 2018 2:38 pm


Greg Woods
Reply to  TG
February 8, 2018 3:15 pm

Michael Peopple?

Reply to  TG
February 9, 2018 3:49 am

Manhole covers? What we used to call pantyhose? Geoff

Joe- the non climate scientist
Reply to  Latitude
February 8, 2018 2:22 pm

If Jacobson actually knew what he was talking about, most every utility company would be trying to hire him since his expertise would generate millions in profits for the utility company.
There would actually be an extremely high demand for his expertise

Reply to  Joe- the non climate scientist
February 9, 2018 1:58 am

another instance of “i don’t know how to do it, so I teach”

Bryan A
Reply to  Latitude
February 8, 2018 2:24 pm

I thought there were over 205 countries in the world.
I guess he can supply 100% erenewable energy for 67% of the world. What about the other 33%

Reply to  Latitude
February 8, 2018 2:48 pm

Calling all unicorns, much help neededcomment image

Reply to  icisil
February 9, 2018 6:51 am

Hey… Not quibbling too much, but the MTOE calculations are kind of wrong … or at least misleading. If for instance, 1 TOE is by definition, 41.868 GJ of thermal energy, computed with the 38% OECD “world average thermal energy plant” heat→electricity conversion, it is 4,419 GWh. This is a good reference point, since for the most part, we’re working with electrical power. Yes, there are process heating and other direct heating uses, but relatively small compared to electricity.
Working with that, 4,419 GWh/MTOE, then backward calculating the various other energy sources
1,000,000 T oil, 41.868 GJ/T, 38% Carnot conversion to elec… = 4,419 GWh 0.531 GW nuclear plant, 95% uptime/full production is 4,419 GWh/year630 ea, 2 MW wind turbines, 40%-of-full-power duty cycle. Wind caprice. 4,419 GWh/year6,835 ea, 295 W panels, 25% insol/weather/diurnal production, year average… 4,419 GWh/year.
That — at least to me — seems more rationally normalized. ESPECIALLY in a world-of-the-future (which is the point of this article) where we go 100% to renewable / storable / pipe-able. Just saying.

Reply to  Latitude
February 8, 2018 2:59 pm

Another problem is that his model assumes that you can ramp up hydropower output on a moments notice.
This may be true for some dams, but not for all of them.
Many dams have recreational sites downstream from them. At such sites you have to put out a warning telling those downstream to get to higher ground before water flow can be increased.

Reply to  Latitude
February 8, 2018 9:34 pm

The unbelievable complexity of attempting to make all of these unreliable or semi-reliable energy sources try to cover each other would make this overall system entirely unworkable and a net failure. We would be spending half our time repairing the multiple, complex, widely separated systems Just imagine the infrastructure!) and the other half of the time in the dark. No thanks.

James Bull
Reply to  Latitude
February 8, 2018 10:28 pm

My first thought on this daydream was it would require a world organisation and control of the grid and us little ones for it to work, meaning that even if it didn’t work we’d never hear about it.
James Bull

Reply to  James Bull
February 9, 2018 9:52 am

James Bull –
” . . . . meaning that even if it didn’t work we’d never hear about it. ”
Too right.
If it didn’t work [and it will not work], we will, at best, be in the dark, with the Net dead.
Worst case scenario – WE will be dead.
WE – ‘us little ones’ (beautiful phrase); not the global elites and their few hundred million slaves and concubines.
I certainly hope never to have to keep warm – even in South London – for a winter on renewables.
It’s dark a lot in winter.
And if the winds aren’t too great for generation, there may be a blocking high and no discernible wind at all, even during the day.
Auto – amazed at what unutterable piffle can be published!
[Is it because his middle initial is ‘Z’? So was John DeLorean’s – John Zachary DeLorean] [De Lorean?]

Reply to  James Bull
February 10, 2018 2:32 pm

I think we need to separate the ‘Is it possible to achieve at any cost?’ from the ‘What will it cost?’
Is it possible? Yes. Arizona takes up 114,000 sq mi. With average insolation of about 6 KW per sq meter per day, that’s about 74,000 GW per hour average. Put in a 10% factor and you still have over 7,000 Gigawatts (per hour averaged over 24 hours).
As for storage, forget the batteries pipe dream. But you can store heat and you can store electricity through raising weight up a mountain (WUWT had an article on this). Storage might ‘use up’ half, so now you’re down to 3,500 GW.
Current US usage of electricity is around 500 GW. So, at least it is possible to generate the electricity, storing the excess until it’s needed. Possible – Yes. This is nice to know, since in a couple of hundred years we may run out of fossil fuels.
As to what it would cost, there are several possibilities, although I can’t imagine it being economically worthwhile in today’s real world.
(I think my numbers are correct. Please tell me if I’m wrong.)

February 8, 2018 1:02 pm

I guess they live in the Matrix. Models, models based on models and more models creating a virtual reality. At current energy growth rates I think the entire land masses of the Earth will have to covered with solar panels to make this work.
But then, we only need to run air conditioning since heating will no longer be required anywhere, especially in the tropical north and south poles.

Reply to  rbabcock
February 8, 2018 2:50 pm

My question on the modeling is why he felt it necessary to create fictional weather projections to determine how much energy renewables could be producing.
What is wrong with using existing weather data? not good enough?
Did his weather prediction model provide more sunshine, wind or rain?

Reply to  rocketscientist
February 8, 2018 3:14 pm

According to models weather will become more extreme. Maybe he thinks he can harness all that energy from hurricanes and such.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  rocketscientist
February 8, 2018 7:01 pm

Now, I will say he does need a model to find the worst case. I’ve been burned before by running on existing data and then finding that it wasn’t representative of how bad things can get.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  rocketscientist
February 9, 2018 12:09 pm

Good call. Modelled weather has an interesting habit of producing convenient spatial and temporal anti-correlations and lack of extended periods of low wind/clouds that don’t hold up with real weather data, which leads to a gross under-estimate of the amounts of backup capacity required. I found this looking at AEMO’s 2012/13 100% renewables study with input from RAM consulting, which has also been used as the foundation of much work by Blakers.
Still, I don’t suppose the data are available for proper examination.

Reply to  rocketscientist
February 10, 2018 5:29 pm

A few years ago, I looked at actual data coming in from Germany’s energy efforts as there was quite extensive documentation being kept, in the best Germanic fashion. The numbers were discouraging, with long periods in which solar and wind combined for pitifully low output. The only real hope for 100% “sustainable” sourcing would have to rely on very-long-distance transmission lines.
Folks like Jacobson thought that undersea cables would be a rather straightforward solution for this need, I tried to point out that there are reasons why the US, Russia, and China are in a race to develop remote underwater vehicles and this is one of those reasons. But these academics don’t want to hear such objections. Meanwhile, national security types understand these vulnerabilities.

Reply to  rbabcock
February 8, 2018 4:52 pm

Its just models, all the way down

Robert of Texas
February 8, 2018 1:03 pm

If we all work together, and we build renewables all over the world and connect them. and everyone cooperates and turns stuff off at the right time, and there are no glitches, and the weather is as we modeled it 35 years into the future, there are at least 3 scenarios where blackouts did not occur in our model over the time period we choose to run it over.
Wow! This is a breakthrough. Who knew that a person could just imagine technology to work exactly as they want it to with no issues, side effects, or breakdowns. Let’s implement this into ALL of our technology.
Sorry, but this is one of the dumbest articles I have ever read.

Reply to  Robert of Texas
February 8, 2018 1:19 pm

Ditto. Trite.

Bryan A
Reply to  kaliforniakook
February 8, 2018 2:26 pm

Tritto, Quadritto and Quintitto

JRF in Pensacola
Reply to  Robert of Texas
February 8, 2018 1:45 pm

And a Terrorist Hacker’s dream.

Malcolm Carter
Reply to  Robert of Texas
February 8, 2018 2:56 pm

So we develop a system that covers immense areas of land with expensive high maintenance eyesores and requires vastly expensive battery and pumped hydro backup and long distance inter-connectors – what could possibly go wrong? Looking at data from the highly renewable German grid you find many 4 to 7 day intervals in which solar and wind are producing less than 10% of the electrical and they are turning on their lignite plants. Imagine the costs of providing a weeks worth of backup battery or pumped hydro and then what happens if the wind dies again before the backup is recharged? When the power goes out people die. The inanity of the 100% renewable religion threatens all of our futures.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Malcolm Carter
February 8, 2018 10:07 pm

Odd that all the wind and solar promo pictures I’ve seen were shot in ideal weather. That doesn’t happen here very often.
If someone is trying to sell you any other outdoor functional item, they will most likely expound upon its ability to operate in all weather, day or night, for many decades. Merchants of the so-called renewables can only keep mum about the limits of their wares and promise breakthroughs in energy storage (someday) when those limits are cited.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Malcolm Carter
February 9, 2018 9:39 am

The insanity is ridiculous. How does one maintain frequency and phase controls with 100% renewables. do these people not know how industry relies not only on power but controlled power where the frequency and phase are constant? Do they expect people to install converters and inverters and do their own controlling of electricity?

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Malcolm Carter
February 9, 2018 12:15 pm

Here’s a very simple example I have been working on recently, inspired by the work Roger Andrews has been doing looking at the practicalities of backing up high levels of renewables penetration with storage:
Roger’s work can be found under this tag:

Reply to  Robert of Texas
February 9, 2018 8:38 am

1. Try installing the transmission lines to perform the interconnections needed. NIMBYs come out and swarm like a hive of bees to fight them.
2. Did you see the pictures of the solar farm in Puerto Rico post-Maria? Looked like a giant child stomped all over it.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  oeman50
February 9, 2018 9:40 am

How about when one country threatens to shut off an interconnector? Would you trust Russia to keep the power flowing?

February 8, 2018 1:04 pm

If this were written 20 years ago, there might be an excuse for an amateurish blurb. But not today. These researches should relocated to some luxurious place and write nothing. It would be cheaper than paying them for these silly research and resulting proclamations.

Tom in Florida
February 8, 2018 1:09 pm

And when major storms hit…..

Reply to  Tom in Florida
February 8, 2018 1:20 pm

Without the use of fossil fuels major storms will be a thing of the past. It’s all there in the models!

Bryan A
Reply to  Ron
February 8, 2018 2:34 pm

AYUP, The sky would always be clear during the day with a breeze of 5MPH (8KPH) during the day. It would always rain at night and only over the watershed basins and aquifer zones with winds of no more than 10MPH (16KPH). The Arctic/Antarctic jets would always remain a non-undulating curve restricted to above 60deg N or S. Snow would only fall on Ski Slopes and Water sheds during Winter with 25′ per year on those places but only 2′ on any house. Sleet, Icing, Hurricanes, Tornados, Cyclones would never happen. There would be NO named storms, summer or winter as storms of that scale would never manifest.

Reply to  Ron
February 8, 2018 2:37 pm

+1 would read again

Phil R
Reply to  Ron
February 8, 2018 4:47 pm

Bryan A,
You’re describing Camelot!

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Ron
February 8, 2018 6:15 pm

@Phil R;
“It’s true! It’s true! The Crown has made clear!
The climate must be perfect all the year!
A law was made a distant moon ago here,
July and August cannot be too hot.
And there’s a legal limit to the snow here,
In Camelot…”

February 8, 2018 1:10 pm

Might work if there was only max 100 million population.

Reply to  Joel
February 8, 2018 3:02 pm

They are working on that.

February 8, 2018 1:14 pm

Look, the equation is dead simple: if it’s cheaper than fossil fuels, companies will queue up to do ir. So just put that idea out there, and make sure you can handle the flood of applicants. Best of all, you won’t need any subsidies. So just go for it – but not with my money.

February 8, 2018 1:15 pm

This is unsustainable energy if it requires a trillion dollars in tax credits off the tax due amounts of green greed.

February 8, 2018 1:16 pm

Overall, the researchers found that the cost per unit of energy – including the cost in terms of health, climate and energy – in every scenario was about one quarter what it would be if the world continues on its current energy path. This is largely due to eliminating the health and climate costs of fossil fuels. Also, by reducing water vapor, the wind turbines included in the roadmaps would offset about 3 percent of global warming to date.

And they paid for it claiming to find a “health and climate cost” of fossil fuels greater than that replacing ALL of the world’s current electrical grid AND fossil-fueled transportation network AND manufacturing systems!
But, you see, instead of mythically just increasing the power generation capacity of every dam now built worldwide (as was done in the first study), they “found some other ways” …. which are cleverly NOT detailed.

Dave Kelly
Reply to  RACookPE1978
February 8, 2018 2:08 pm

Heh, you beat me to it.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
February 8, 2018 2:40 pm

That’s where they lost me.
If they engage in that kind of funny accounting on the cost of energy, they’ve cooked the books elsewhere too.
Even if they say that the energy will cost a quarter as much, your actual bill will be four times as much.

Reply to  commieBob
February 8, 2018 3:04 pm

As our trolls keep telling us, it doesn’t matter how much it costs, because when it costs a lot, people will use less and this drop in use keeps their total expenses down.

Reply to  commieBob
February 8, 2018 4:25 pm

MarkW February 8, 2018 at 3:04 pm
As our trolls keep telling us, it doesn’t matter how much it costs, because when it costs a lot, people will use less and this drop in use keeps their total expenses down.

Nope. Consumption goes down so the companies increase prices to maintain profits.

One way for utilities to keep their profit margins as consumption falls is to increase fixed charges, which users pay regardless of how many kilowatt-hours they consume. link

Reply to  commieBob
February 8, 2018 5:18 pm

That only works if you are government created monopoly. Otherwise your competitors will undercut your prices.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  commieBob
February 8, 2018 6:19 pm

That pretty much doesn’t work anywhere, as electric utilities are government regulated monopolies. Every time PSEG wants to raise their prices in NJ they have to go before the NJ Board of Public Utilities. Every. Single. Time. They may still get the rate increase, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.

Reply to  commieBob
February 8, 2018 6:33 pm

Happened with our water system in Maryland. They said they’d have to increase their capacity if we didn’t conserve our water usage. People did conserve water and they raised our rates because “we weren’t using enough water”.

Reply to  commieBob
February 9, 2018 6:39 am

Water is a government regulated monopoly. Where it isn’t a government owned monopoly.

Bob Burban
February 8, 2018 1:17 pm

Imagine a commercial operation feeding scrap steel into electric arc furnaces running 24/7 using only wind and solar power sources.

Reply to  Bob Burban
February 8, 2018 1:20 pm

SA has been testing that. Looks likes those operations are moving out.

Reply to  Bob Burban
February 8, 2018 1:30 pm

It could only be true in someone’s imagination.
You can never tun an advanced economy (semiconductor FABs and steel mills) in unreliable intermittent energy.
How big is the battery that can run an arc furnace? What does that cost?

Reply to  Bob Burban
February 8, 2018 1:57 pm

My imagination is seeing a ruined foundry with half finished slag solidified in the core because the wind died during a night time run. Not optimal…

Reply to  OweninGA
February 8, 2018 2:21 pm


My imagination is seeing a ruined foundry with half finished slag solidified in the core because the wind died during a night time run. Not optimal…

And, one week later, the same thing happens.
And 5 days later, the same thing happens.
But that’s OK. The semi-conductor fabrication shop across town lost its “controlled atmosphere” dust and pollen filters the same three times. They can’t start back at all. Lost 2 months production and retesting time.

Reply to  OweninGA
February 8, 2018 2:42 pm

Seems like a scene from “Atlas Shrugged”.

Dave Kelly
Reply to  Bob Burban
February 8, 2018 2:10 pm

Or an aluminum pot or, for that matter, a silicon furnace.

Reply to  Dave Kelly
February 9, 2018 3:58 am

It is sad that we knew about frozen potlines and power failures and how to avoid this, 50 years ago.
Then ignorance started to erode wisdom and people built what should not be built.
Why? Why? Why? Geoff

February 8, 2018 1:23 pm

Jacobsen is also the author of the PNAS paper on renewable energy that got thoroughly rebutted by another group in PNAS. The rebuttal was so thorough a dismantleing of Jacobsen methods, it has led him to sue the other group and PNAS in an attempt to get a retraction. WUWT threads have extensively covered this story.
What is clear IMO is that Jacobsen, funded by Tom Steyer funded groups, needs people to believe his rubbish.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
February 8, 2018 1:28 pm

Furthermore, Jacobsen’s flawed use of civil engineering threatenes to do to public works engineering the same thing that climate science has done to science.

Reply to  joelobryan
February 8, 2018 2:32 pm

Engineers think about liability. Sometimes you can find a young stupid engineer to stamp some shoddy scary crap that has been cobbled together for political reasons, but eventually you run out of stupid engineers.

Reply to  joelobryan
February 8, 2018 3:30 pm

That’s good point Don. I wonder if Jacobson is even a licensed professional engineer being an academic. If he is would he stamp his work and accept liability? He will be 85 in 2050.

Reply to  joelobryan
February 8, 2018 5:36 pm

I doubt seriously he is a PE. A PE would risk losing his license over such junk that his peers would sanction him.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  joelobryan
February 8, 2018 6:25 pm

It appears he is not licensed in California. Try looking up here:$lcev2.startup?p_qte_code=ENG&p_qte_pgm_code=7500

Reply to  joelobryan
February 9, 2018 5:40 am

“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” and “Those who can do. Those who can’t bully.”

Nigel S
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
February 8, 2018 1:36 pm

Thanks, about to make the same point when I spotted yours. Interesting in view of the previous post on academic freedom and censorship.

February 8, 2018 1:26 pm

‘…The group then combined data from the first model with a second model…..” what a bunch of wishful thinking crap. There is no reality in this paper at all.

Reply to  markl
February 8, 2018 7:48 pm

But notice the use of a group to avoid any one person having to take responsibility.

Reply to  markl
February 9, 2018 8:45 am

I really like the model that can predict the weather in 2050-2054. I wonder how he verified that model?

Dave Kelly
Reply to  oeman50
February 9, 2018 9:23 am

Yep. If he really wanted to “proof” his grid reliability study he’d have used as series of historically documented weather patterns, cited the weather data sources, and compared his results to actual electrical system dispatch as a baseline. But then that would have underlined the infeasibility of his hydro assumptions. For example, the unpredictability of annual hydro generation due to seasonal variations in rain fall and the need to plan for that substantial variation.

Dale S
February 8, 2018 1:27 pm

If “consumers would actually pay less”, as claimed, there is no need for intervention — market forces will naturally drive towards the lowest cost solution. Although I doubt the vast damages claimed for coal-burning particulates (especially in countries like the USA with significant emissions regulation), and suspect their damages from electricity-generated-climate-change are at least as speculative, I have no objection to cost-effective use of unsubsidized renewables.
Pity the press release didn’t summarize the path of how a particular well-known region (say, within the US) can accomplish the miracle of providing reliable baseload power for less money with 100% renewables.

February 8, 2018 1:30 pm

Sooooo, wind and solar currently provide less than 1% of global energy needs per the IEA. Soooo, back in the caves to burn your wood and dung, for everyone, is the solution!

Mike Smith
February 8, 2018 1:30 pm

Stanford is in California, right? Have these dreamers not noticed that the price of electricity in CA, with all of their lovely wind, solar, geothermal and the rest, is double that of the nation as a whole.
It’s a fact the world over: he who has the most cheap renewables, has the most expensive electricity!

Dave Kelly
Reply to  Mike Smith
February 8, 2018 3:03 pm

Expense is not something they worry about in the Palo Alto/Menlo Park areas surrounding Stanford University.
Nor are they so confident of the reliability of solar and wind assets to use these assets locally.
You see, the Palo Alto/Menlo Park/Stanford area (like most of the San Francisco (SF) bay are area) is powered primarily with natural gas. The occasional the “biofuels” combustion units can be seen thrown in here and there is in for appearances sake — as is a single commercial solar unit located within San Francisco itself (The 4.5 Mw Sunset Reservoir North Basin solar plant). But naturally those nasty looking, nosily, and unreliable wind mills are no-where in sight.
Berkeley, powered by natural gas only (The 28 Mw PE Berkeley plant), suffers from the same level of hypocrisy.
This is easily seen by simply looking at EIA’s energy state profile interactive map for California and zooming into the Bay Area. (See here

February 8, 2018 1:30 pm

At a glance I did not find in the study how exactly to avoid blackouts. Such an important result should have been given a better prominence.

Reply to  Curious George
February 8, 2018 3:07 pm

He’s assuming that when the sun and wind stop blowing in Miami, you can increase hydro-electric production in Seattle to make up for it.

Reply to  Curious George
February 9, 2018 4:34 am

Use of the term “blackouts” appears to be totally misleading. The paper seems to only be concerned at best with matching supply and demand in real time. The cost, challenges and complexity of running a transmission grid that maintains frequency, supports voltages and provides “Essential Reliabiltiy Services” from asynchronous intermittent resources appears to have been neglected entirely. The paper seems to be only concerned with having enough power in MW to meet load. How we get that power reliabilty disperesed across the grid is a huge question mark (or falsley assumed non-problem).

Reply to  aplanningengineer
February 9, 2018 8:51 am

Excellent point. Avoiding blackouts requires detailed models of the grid with all of the power sources, transmission lines and loads included, and then running a contingency analysis every 15 minutes.

February 8, 2018 1:31 pm

Who will light all of the millions of candles, immigrants?

Reply to  ResourceGuy
February 8, 2018 7:50 pm

Illegal immigrants would be paying people smugglers to get them out of the country.

Reply to  Hivemind
February 9, 2018 7:10 am

Musk’s flamethrowers?

February 8, 2018 1:31 pm

Has EPRI been silenced or what?

Reply to  ResourceGuy
February 8, 2018 1:41 pm

EPRI is drinking the kool aid. No electric utility wants to show that the emperor has no clothes lest they be labeled as deniers.

Dave Kelly
Reply to  ResourceGuy
February 9, 2018 8:39 am

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is financed by a many utilities and its financing structure tends to lead to a watering down conclusions critical of renewable assets in documents provided to the public.
To understand why this occurs you have to understand how EPRI’s research activities are financed. EPRI research is financed in topic related “programs” with each program financed solely by utilities interested in specific the topic. So, for example, utilities with heavy with mature coal assets tend to fund maintence-related “programs” critical to keeping ageing coal assets running while utilities with State mandated renewable mandates tend to fund the renewables programs.
While those companies in States with renewable mandates need to know just how bad the situation really is, they are reluctant to have their names associated with any criticisms made publically. Not withstanding the appearance of cowardice, I sympathize, because the State rate-setting boards these companies have to deal with are packed with radical leftist nut cases.
To get the an unfiltered assessment, you either have to be a paying member of a specific program or be wiling to pay a substantial sum for specific studies after the research is complete (If paying members agree to release the data for a fee). When your a paying member, its best to take good notes during the periodic program updates so you know what didn’t go into a report AND to insist that data covering unfavorable characteristics be included in the confidential reports paying members will see.
In addition, to ensure the industry gets the information it needs, there a informal gentleman’s agreement whereby publicly released statements are vetted take the sharp edges off politically incorrect criticisms. This is not to say the information provided to the public is not true or that unfavorable information is withheld – it is simply worded in a “neutral” tone or simply “hinted” at in the summaries provided to the public.
Also keep in mind that the companies in each “program” pay substantial sums to finance the research programs and are not keen to have business critical-insights given to utilities that did not finance the research. So there is a bit of keeping things “close to the vest” unless paying members have a common interest in seeing the full story gets out.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
February 9, 2018 8:58 am

As its name states, EPRI is a research organization that supports all forms of power generation, including renewables. It is not an advocacy group. Now EEI is an advocacy group, but they also have members that are embracing renewables so they would not come out against them.

Dave Kelly
Reply to  oeman50
February 9, 2018 2:50 pm

Concur with the view that EPRI is “not an advocacy group”. Moreover I’d add, having dealt with EPIR for over 30 years both as a researcher and as a financer of EPRI research programs, that I’ve never seen them ever drift into advocacy, act unprofessionally, or intentionally mislead anyone .
If anything, in my view, they take extraordinary pains not to engage in advocacy or even provide the appearance of engaging in advocacy. So, while there have been points when I’d have wished they aired their conclusions more forcefully, I also recognize the reasons why they didn’t.
EPIR has to carefully walk the line between the business they are in (research and development) and where their research conclusions should be used to influence policy in the political arena. Keep in mind that the various parties that fund EPRI are a diverse group and frequently have very different views of how EPRI’s research results should be interpreted. Moreover, keep in mind that Federal Law prohibits competing companies from colluding and these joint ventures are an natural magnet for accusations of crossing the legal lines. So, EPIR and its members take extraordinary measures to ensure there is not even the appearance of anything that could be construed as collusion or joint influence peddling.
For the record, and in the spirit ethical discloser, please note that (prior to my retirement) I’ve periodically been a voting member in a number of EPRI’s research programs involving (but not limited to): Advanced coal technologies, power plant maintence, coal gasification, carbon sequestration, clean air technologies, generation & capacity planning/forecasting, chemical co-production, renewable technologies, and green house gas issues.

Bruce Cobb
February 8, 2018 1:32 pm

Ivory tower climate cuckaloos at work, spewing total nonsense.

February 8, 2018 1:37 pm

Amazing what you can do with models. Color me very skeptical. Economical, efficient, virtually fail-safe, doable in 15 to 30 years, healthy, green, non-polluting, etc., etc. . . . Wow!
Seems to me that all you need to implement one of these options is an absolute dictator with the ability to assign all resources, including humans in all phases of life.

Reply to  Bob Cherba (@rbcherba)
February 8, 2018 3:46 pm

Pielke’s graphic above proves that 100% renewable even by 2050 is impossible. At current energy usage it would require the installation of one 1.5 GW nuclear power plant, or the equivalent in solar/wind, per day until 2050.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  icisil
February 9, 2018 12:32 pm

If you look at the BP world energy statistics, you find that fossil fuels share of total primary energy declined by 0.5% in 2016 (85,5%) over 2015 (86.0%). At that rate, it would take over 150 years to eliminate.

February 8, 2018 1:40 pm

These folks are not energy experts. If they were, they wouldn’t speak as though the only choices are “continue as usual” or renewable energy. They also claim renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuel only if the (unknown.unknowable) health and climate change costs are included. In other words, they can’t claim anything. And the idea that we will reach 2050 with only those primitive renewable energy generators producing carbon free power is also as energy ignorant as it gets. Small modular molten salt nuclear reactors can produce power cheaper than any renewable power generator, especially so when side effect costs are included for renewables to render them reliable
(which batteries CANNOT do) . No changes to the existing grid are required. Those reactors are safer, have a environmental footprint that is a tiny fraction of renewables and can act as peak load generators as well as baseload generators.
These reactors will commercialize after 2020 and replace everything that produces power. You heard it here, folks

February 8, 2018 1:40 pm

I wish the proponents of these schemes would dumb it down for me. Just show me how to make steel with only renewables. If they can make that case I will listen to the rest.

Reply to  rogercaiazza
February 8, 2018 6:21 pm


Jonathan Griggs
February 8, 2018 1:47 pm

Translation: They made up some numbers that balance the equation in their favor and then tried to use clever wording to hide those numbers.
Reality will have a different story to tell.

Extreme Hiatus
February 8, 2018 1:49 pm

Is this real? “the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy”
The “Precourt” institute – where this guy just launched a court case for challenging his silly work???

Reply to  Extreme Hiatus
February 8, 2018 3:08 pm

There’s also Postcourt, sometimes referred to as jail.

February 8, 2018 1:50 pm

From the abstract …
WWS [Wind, Water and Solar] requires ∼42.5% less energy …
I look forward to reading about how switching to WWS will require less energy. I’m pretty sure my eight watt LED lights will continue to use eight watts.
Further, WWS social (energy + health + climate) costs per unit energy are one-fourth BAU’s [Business As Usual].
Here is where the big savings comes from. WWS will prevent and/or reduce “global warming” and “pollution” thereby cutting health care costs by reducing and preventing illness. More speculation.
Abstract here.
The full version of this important and earth-saving article is available for $34.95.

Reply to  rovingbroker
February 8, 2018 2:05 pm

If they sent me $100 I would gladly buy and read the paper. Why $100? – Well I need some remuneration for my wasted time.

Reply to  M Simon
February 8, 2018 3:48 pm

What is so evident about the abstract, and I have read thousands in several subjects, is that it is a sales pitch. Back in the drought of the 50s and I am told also in the 30s, there were these rainmakers.

Don K
Reply to  rovingbroker
February 8, 2018 3:26 pm

Because people will simply hibernate on evenings when the wind isn’t blowing. With the OTA TV transmitters off the air, the Internet down, and no electric light, what else is there to do other than sleep?

Reply to  Don K
February 9, 2018 10:21 am

Don K
With the OTA TV transmitters off the air, the Internet down, and no electric light, what else is there to do other than sleep?

Reply to  rovingbroker
February 9, 2018 9:01 am

This sounds like the bogus “social cost of carbon” BS.

February 8, 2018 1:53 pm

South Australia is the leading test-case for this sort of insanity. As ‘renewable’ sources of power take over in South Australia, the cost of electricity rises inexorably, industry moves out and relocates interstate or overseas.

John in Oz
Reply to  ntesdorf
February 8, 2018 3:17 pm

South Australia and the National Energy Market for all of Australia is a prime example of how this would not work. We cannot get our State/Federal governments to agree on how the system should work, never mind expecting 100+ individual governments to work together in harmonious, joyful, happy-clappy nirvana.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  ntesdorf
February 8, 2018 7:29 pm

Recently, operating theaters in a hospital in Adelaide, South Australia, lost power. More of this to come as South Australia goes full stupid on renewabeles.

February 8, 2018 1:57 pm

so if I use all renewable energy, I will have actually less out of pocket expenses because I will have health savings and climate change savings? The energy in kwh will be more but my doctor will be cheaper? Hows that work? how do I see personal savings in climate change costs? I’m just trying to figure out in what scenario I’m going to see 75% reduction in costs? Will my taxes go down? How will society save money or reduce costs, how will that be given back to the users and how and in what for will I actually see more dollars in my pocket.
That’s all assuming that there are actual, real, defineable health and climate savings if we go all in for renewable energy.
Cause if that all works, renewable energy is reliable and can provide my electricity even when its dark or the wind stops, and if businesses don’t just get cut off due to lack of power and we can all save 75% in the combined energy, health and climate change costs…..lets do it!
Just show me the money.

Reply to  justadumbengineer
February 8, 2018 2:13 pm

the scheme relies on us paying money today to reap the benefits in 2050.
32 year payback on investment. comes will an ironclad no money back guarantee.

Pompous Git
Reply to  ferdberple
February 8, 2018 9:51 pm

“32 year payback on investment. comes will an ironclad no money back guarantee.”

Hi ferd; good to see you’re still around injecting some common-sense.
One thing to watch out for in all these renewable energy scams is they never compare the return on investment in RE to the return if you invest in something else. As an example, when I compared investing in solar PV to investing in the stock market, it took 18 years for $10,000 invested in solar PV to break even. By that time a $10,000 stock market investment would have generated ~$40,000 of income. This result was predicate on the feed-in tariff remaining constant. Since then the FIT has fallen to less than half.

Reply to  ferdberple
February 9, 2018 6:42 am

If you borrow money to install the system, it won’t generate enough money to pay the interest on the loan.

February 8, 2018 2:04 pm

Squaw Valley / Alpine Meadows ski complex (Tahoe) claim they will be “100% renewable energy” by December 2018. Because Tesla battery. Yet today they admit the get 75% of their electricity from natural gas.

Reply to  brians356
February 8, 2018 2:09 pm

ok, good for them. How will they charge the tesla battery? How much per kwh does nat. gas cost and how much per kwh will the combined tesla battery and assumed wind/solar power charging cost?
Will their net energy costs go up or down, or stay the same between the two options (1) natural gas or (2) solar energy costs plus battery costs?
Its great to say they are 100% sustainable but if lift tickets go up to pay for the extra costs then the consumer gets to pay for their virtue.

John Smith
February 8, 2018 2:06 pm

Global energy use is about 18 TW = 18,000,000 MW = 24 million wind turbines (3MW turbine at average of 25% of capacity). A 3MW wind turbine costs about $5m, so total cost would be about 120 TRILLION DOLLARS just for the turbines. That is TWO TIMES all the money there is in the world.
And then there’s all the rest of the infrastructure for energy storage, transportation, etc…

February 8, 2018 2:13 pm

I’m not from Missouri…but close enough. Don’t tell me. Show Me. Start with Berkely, then Oakland, then San Francisco. If you can do those then I’ll listen.

Reply to  DonK31
February 8, 2018 2:43 pm

He’s from Stanford. Start with Palo Alto.

Reply to  DonK31
February 8, 2018 2:47 pm

Start with all of the emergency services in the bay area. Convert all to “renewable” (without buying exceptions from someone else), including the fire boats & helicopters, and I’ll start to pay attention.
Get the Coast Guard off hydrocarbons and I’ll be impressed.

February 8, 2018 2:16 pm

“Overall, the researchers found that the cost per unit of energy – including the cost in terms of health, climate and energy – in every scenario was about one quarter what it would be if the world continues on its current energy path. This is largely due to eliminating the health and climate costs of fossil fuels. ”
“Health and climate costs” = fudge factors added to fossil fuel costs

Reply to  Wayne
February 8, 2018 4:01 pm

It is a true and tried method of “adjustments”.

Reply to  Wayne
February 8, 2018 6:59 pm

Article: “cost per unit of energy – including the cost in terms of health, climate and energy – in every scenario was about one quarter what it would be if the world continues on its current energy path. This is largely due to eliminating the health and climate costs of fossil fuels.”
I’ve seen that sort of BS before. Here’s another example:
How Large Are Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies? by David Coady, Ian Parry, Louis Sears, Baoping Shanga, World Development, Volume 91, March 2017, Pages 11-27.
It is astonishing how blatantly dishonest the propaganda is. The “subsidies” of fossil fuels which Coady et al totaled up in their paper, like the “costs” in Jacobson’s dishonest accounting, aren’t actually subsidies at all, according to any dictionary. Instead, Coady’s “subsidies” represent the authors’ assessment of the value of governments’ failure to tax fossil fuels by as much as the authors think they ought. This is from the abstract:

Undercharging for global warming accounts for 22% of the subsidy in 2013, air pollution 46%…

Of course that’s ridiculous. Both papers are pure, peer-reviewed, pseudo-scientific, 100% pig manure.
With a high enough mythical “social cost of carbon” you can make almost anything appear to be cheaper than fossil fuels. But the reality is that the human health and environmental costs of fossil fuels are both negative, in striking contrast to the human and environmental costs of the “mitigation” strategies advocated by these charlatans, which are enormous.
Scientific American once called anthropogenic CO2) from fossil fuels “the precious air fertilizer,” because it is so extraordinarily beneficial to plants. Here’s what it actually does to the Earth’s environment: image
Do you see that broad, green swath over central Africa? That’s the Sahel retreating, at the southern limit of the Sahara Desert. National Geographc reported about it in 2009 (though they managed to avoid mentioning that CO2 is the cause):

Images taken between 1982 and 2002 revealed extensive regreening throughout the Sahel, according to a new study in the journal Biogeosciences.
The study suggests huge increases in vegetation in areas including central Chad and western Sudan. …
“’Before, there was not a single scorpion, not a single blade of grass,’ he said. ’Now you have people grazing their camels in areas which may not have been used for hundreds or even thousands of years. You see birds, ostriches, gazelles coming back, even sorts of amphibians coming back… The trend has continued for more than 20 years. It is indisputable.”

Unfortunately, the news is not all good. In the United States, there are now about 50 million acres devoted to growing Roundup-ready, monoculture corn, to make “renewable fuel,” to reduce fossil fuel use. That’s more than the combined land area of the nine smallest U.S. States — land which could otherwise be wildlife habitat.
Similar campaigns are displacing wildlife and subsistence farmers from their farms in the tropics, to make way for giant monoculture palm oil “renewable fuel” plantations.
It’s not just wildlife dying, either. The human body count is piling up — not from climate change, of course, but from misguided efforts to mitigate climate change.

“Poverty is a death sentence.” –the Climategate whisleblower

Most obviously, “the war on coal” impoverishes people in coal mining States like West Virginia, where huge numbers of them are now out of work.
But “renewable energy” boondoggles also impoverish everyone forced to pay their exorbitant cost. They cause thousands of people living “on the edge” to sometimes have to choose between eating and staying warm.
Either choice can be deadly. In Europe, where there have been enormous price hikes for energy because of “renewables” scams, “energy poverty” is killing tens of thousands of mostly-elderly people:
What’s more, most of the energy used to produce solar panels, and much of the energy used to produce wind turbines, came from soot-belching, coal-fired power plants in China, and most of the energy replaced by these devices would have been produced in clean power plants with state-of-the-art “scrubbers” in North America, Europe & Australia.
So, Chinese workers get emphysema, American workers get to collect unemployment (until it runs out), and people like Mark Jacobson and David Coady get to feel self-righteous. Such a deal… not.

Jerry Henson
February 8, 2018 2:17 pm

“Health and climate change costs included.”
I haven’t been to Beijing since since 1999. When I was there, it had the dirtiest air
I had ever seen, absent US forest fires.
Pictures from the China olympics and research indicate that the city has gotten much
worse. Particulate is soo bad that they advise travelers not to wear light colored
clothes. Yet life expectancy in Beijing continues to rise.
Beijing life expectancy nears 82 years – Xinhua | English …
Feb 29, 2016 · BEIJING, Feb. 29 (Xinhua) — Life expectancy in Beijing rose slightly from 2014 to reach 81.95 years in 2015, according to an annual report by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning.
What health and climate change cost?

Reply to  Jerry Henson
February 8, 2018 3:12 pm

Most of the pollution in Beijing isn’t coming from power plants anyway.

February 8, 2018 2:24 pm

Didn’t the UK convert the Drax power station from coal to wood pellets so they could burn the eastern united states forest’s instead of coal? That is considered renewable energy, if the forests grow fast enough.

Reply to  stephana
February 8, 2018 3:21 pm

Yes, that’s part of the renewables confidence game. Wood pellets produce 15-20% more CO2 than the coal they replaced, but CO2 emissions from wood pellets are not included in total CO2 emissions for Britain because wood pellets are considered renewable by EU rules. So they say going renewable has reduced CO2. Total scam.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  icisil
February 8, 2018 7:19 pm

What also is not factored in emissions is the emissions from machinery used to harvest wood and create pellets nor is the emissions from the ships used to transport them to the UK. Total scam indeed!

February 8, 2018 2:24 pm

This is of no concern for me, because I have a study based on a computer model that projects that I will be living on an idyllic planet about 20 light years from here by 2030. Like the models in the study above, my model does not bother with minor engineering problems (like traveling faster than the speed of light), because such concerns are truly beneath the superlative, academic nature of my being. I will fund this voyage with the proceeds of never having to hear about another idiotic horrible ‘solution’ to a non-existent problem from a disconnected-from-reality professor who thinks he knows how the rest of the world should be; which, of course, is priceless.

Jack Roth
Reply to  jclarke341
February 23, 2018 2:43 am

Jclarke, that was excellent!! Best summary of situation ever! I may need to borrow part of that, hope you do not mind.

February 8, 2018 2:27 pm

The calls for some practical demonstration of these claims appear reasonable.
Australia would be an excellent test site, a small relatively clustered population, lots of open spaces and plenty of sun and wind. Admittedly, hydro is less available, but that should not be a show stopper.

Reply to  etudiant
February 8, 2018 5:02 pm

Happening right now in South Australia. The good people of the State of South Australia have have volunteered to be the renewable crash test dummies for the world.

Reply to  yarpos
February 8, 2018 7:59 pm

Please don’t treat the people of South Australia like a joke. Their government is already doing that.

Reply to  yarpos
February 9, 2018 10:44 am

“The good people of the State of South Australia have volunteered to be the renewable crash test dummies for the world.”
“The good people of the State of South Australia have volunteered to be the crash test dummies for the world.”
Auto – sad, as I am sure many South Australians are decent folk. But – no, not renewable . . . . .

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  etudiant
February 9, 2018 12:48 pm

In a good year, out of total generation fo about 250TWh Australia produces nearly 20TWh of hydro (mainly in Tasmania, but also from the Snowy scheme). There is also the Snowy 2 scheme (2GW generation/350GWh storage), and a number of other opportunities in pumped hydro – although probably only another 200GWh of PHES storage that can be developed at halfway reasonable economic cost.

Reply to  It doesn't add up...
February 9, 2018 1:20 pm

Pumped storage is a worthwhile goal, but it’s also a Holy Goal (er, Grail) that is all too often unobtainable and unsustainable.
For pumped storage to work “naturally” without artificial fuels you need those unique attributes of downstream AND upstream of Niagara Falls. Unlimited clean, useable water upstream NOT limited by season, ice cover, time of day, fishing or enviro restrictions such as minimum flow, maximum flow, or refill due droughts. Floods have to be “manageable” – All of ANY maximum possible floods (even tsunami’s or mudslides and avalanches) have to be able to be safely and controllably bypassed by the downriver hydro suction and generator tunnels. For example, fresh clean water river flow in the US south, US far west, and US southwest are often REQUIRED to be dumped out of dams regardless of the need for future or current drinking water, future or current irrigation, actual dam heights and actual stored water levels, future or current power needs, and future flood reserves BECAUSE certain fish in the tidal pools downriver “might be” affected by low or restricted fresh water flows from the drinking water lakes. Lake Eire, at least so far, has an inexhaustible water supply that is at a usable-constant lake water height.
2. You need room for the stored water lake; and that lake MUST be several hundred feet (dozens of meters) ABOVE the generator discharge INTO a suitable river that can accept the flow at irregular intervals. Even at Lake Eire, the enviro-Indian rights-ecologists fiercely fought the lake, canals, tunnels, and dams. Regardless of what you may think of their opposition to flooding traditional burial grounds, they did bitterly fight the new lakes and dams.
Third. The stored water lake, must be below the source water lake by enough meters (dozens of feet) to ensure nature flow to refill the stored water lake. If you cannot find such a location of “natural refill” such as Lake Eire, then you MUST be able to ALWAYS ensure generated power is available from ?????? sources cheaper than the power you are going to “sell” when you discharge the stored water lake.
Easy to “wave your hands” and claim “we will use cheap energy at night”, “we will use daylight solar power to refill the lake and discharge it at night”, or “we will use wind power to generate the pumping power so we can use the stored lake hydro power when there is no wind” …
But the pump in-efficiencies, hydro generator in-efficiencies, generator inefficiencies (wind or solar or fossil or nuclear), transmission inefficiencies, and water flow inefficiencies require you generate 20% MORE power to generate and power and pump and move the water than you get back out of the water flowing downhill.
Any one of those problems makes pumped stored difficult to realize in practice and design. All three means there are very, very few pumped storage sites worldwide.
A worthy Grail, but only the pure and innocent will “Chose Wisely.”

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  It doesn't add up...
February 9, 2018 1:37 pm

I am all too aware of the economics and conditions required to make pumped hydro work. What turns out to be the real killer on the economics of storage is when you move from being able to turn the storage over daily, to having to keep it full to cover seasonal variations, or longer spells of unfavourable weather that may occur rarely, but often enough to cause major problems if you can’t keep the grid going (at a minimum, rotating power cuts). In Australia and Chile there are some opportunities to use depressions atop seaside cliffs as an upper reservoir for a pumped storage scheme. Here’s a look at a real proposal in Chile, and how it might be expanded:
But few countries are as conveniently endowed with areas of desert they can sacrifice at seaside cliffs. Even so, the economics of this highly favourable site look challenging. Better not flood the Lithium salt pans…

Reply to  It doesn't add up...
February 9, 2018 1:54 pm

Hmmmn. Egypt has the Qattara Depression conveniently deep and only a 80-odd kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea. Have to guage water evaporation rates against water flow rates to see if one-way flow might work. That idea has been discussed for a while.
Doubt Israel would get permission to flood the Dead Sea from the Med though.
And California’s Death Valley would be off-limits to flooding by distance.

Reply to  It doesn't add up...
February 9, 2018 1:52 pm

How about building several (As many as could be placed there without affecting navigability) Undershoot Water Wheel generators under each and every bridge on every major river throughout the US. No dams, lots of Green Jobs, and lots of dependable electricity.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  It doesn't add up...
February 9, 2018 4:03 pm

For California, look instead across the border to Baja:

February 8, 2018 2:32 pm

When wind shuts down it does so over large areas Many people and papers have show this.

Reply to  WillR
February 8, 2018 5:08 pm

No problem, the smoothly integrated and diverse virtual grid takes over, seamlessly sourcing power from batteries, hydro, micro grids, solar thermal, and ranks of diesel/gas generators. What could possibly go wrong? They will build gas factory complexity and wonder why its fragile.

Larry Hamlin
February 8, 2018 2:38 pm

This “study” attempts to address only one of the many reliability issues of renewables that being the non-dispatchability of these resources. The “study” fails to address other critical electric grid reliability and stability issues including system regulating margin, spinning reserve, standby reserves, frequency control, voltage control and system synchronization control none of which can be supplied by the non synchronous generators which are used by renewables.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Larry Hamlin
February 9, 2018 10:01 am

These people are not Electrical Engineers they are Civil Engineers. No idea of how the grid work or what users expect!

February 8, 2018 2:41 pm

The same Jacobsen suing the peer reviewed authors that thoroughly debunked his previous fantasy paper. This professor is as bad news as Mann.
But, in a way, very useful for skeptics. Shows how warmunists have really lost the plot line.

Reply to  ristvan
February 8, 2018 3:46 pm

Ok, I thought it was the same cretin.
Wow, what chutzpah he has.

Neil Jordan
February 8, 2018 2:43 pm

“For the study, the researchers relied on two computational modeling programs. The first program predicted global weather patterns from 2050 to 2054.”
Are their “computational modeling programs” able to predict weather from today to next week, 2018?

Reply to  Neil Jordan
February 9, 2018 10:55 am

You and I both know the answer to your query is ‘No.’
Certainly, in the UK, three days out is about as far as forecasting – rather than guessing, or saying “There is one chance in three of higher than average doo-dah; one chance in three of below average doo-dah; and about a fifty percent chance of average doo-dah.” – will get you.
‘Doo-dah’ – rain, sun, temperature, moon-beams, snow accumulation, wind, unicorn flatulence and the rest.
A week out – in the UK – is still not possible.
In Singapore, and some other places, a week may be good [albeit with a little charity].
“The first program predicted global weather patterns from 2050 to 2054.” – GIGO.
Certainly over a third of a century!

Earl Rodd
February 8, 2018 2:48 pm

We often talk here about models and the real world not matching. This paper seems to be about models, which can be a valuable way to consider a lot of possibilities at minimal cost. But the real test is the real world. I think of the state of South Australia. Continuous power has been a problem there with their heavy dependence on wind power. The authors need to find real examples to verify their model – but in the climate world we continue to see that the money and press goes to those who write ever more models, not to the tedious work of verifying models.

February 8, 2018 2:53 pm

They seem to be assuming that we have developed room temperature super conductors.
The problem with the “wind is blowing somewhere, the sun is shining somewhere” scenario is that where the wind is blowing and the sun is shining often is not the same place where electricity is needed.
As a result they are planning on shipping power hundreds or even thousands of miles from where it is produced to where it is needed. They are not calculating transmission losses into their projections.

Reply to  MarkW
February 9, 2018 1:50 am

But on *average* the “wind is blowing somewhere, the sun is shining somewhere” – and AGW proponents are very good at averaging!

Reply to  NorwegianSceptic
February 9, 2018 6:45 am

I wish AGW proponents were at least average.

February 8, 2018 3:07 pm

Fast, good or cheap, pick any two.
Electrical grid no different from any other large project. Trying to optimize for everything doesn’t work.

February 8, 2018 3:10 pm

The biggest insanity is that the same people who are demanding more renewables, are also dead set against all hydro-electric power and try to have it removed whenever they can.

Tom in Florida
February 8, 2018 3:22 pm

You know, way back in the 60’s visions of the future were about domed cities with perfect weather control, perfectly clean air and water with air cars that had no emissions. People didn’t seem to work and had everything they needed. What the hell happened?

Reply to  Tom in Florida
February 8, 2018 4:15 pm

We were supposed to have thriving colonies on Mars by now also.
Somebody dropped the ball.

February 8, 2018 3:35 pm

Indicator of some thumbs on scales? “Overall, the researchers found that the cost per unit of energy – including the cost in terms of health, climate and energy – in every scenario was about one quarter what it would be if the world continues on its current energy path.”

February 8, 2018 3:41 pm

I wonder who’s payroll he is on? Someone is definitely greasing his palm.

Reply to  Edith Wenzel
February 8, 2018 9:16 pm

Tom Steyer

February 8, 2018 3:42 pm

Sounds like “The Music Man” for the 21st century.
There are no large scale tidal power generators. And none are likely.
The delusion that wind power is actually working is persistent but still dekusional.
The paper appears to be very circular in its,rationalizations.
And there are no large scale storage technologies…so other than the unphysical nature of the solution the authors offer to a non-priblem, it is pretty much ok, I guess.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  hunter
February 9, 2018 12:56 pm

Tidal power is in any event highly cyclical – not only the not quite twice daily tide with its shifting times, but also the substantial variation every lunar month between spring and neap tides. So you need a fortnight’s storage to even it out for a start.

Crispin in Waterloo
February 8, 2018 3:45 pm

“This solution would go a long way toward eliminating global warming and the 4 million to 7 million air pollution–related deaths that occur worldwide each year, while also providing energy security.”
There are no bodies to count, that 4-7m figure is so inexact as it is because it is an estimate based on an estimate based on an estimate based on an estimate based on an estimate of an estimate. Six levels deep. No kidding. Plus, the speaker pretends that electricity generation causes deadly air pollution. Air pollution is a risk, not a cause of death.
Bring out the BS button.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
February 8, 2018 3:48 pm

watch out, the author sues those who dare to disagree with him.

February 8, 2018 4:17 pm

The article implies that two of his scenarios will utilize a large-scale storage technology. If he has one that works, he should give some details on that, because it would be world-changing. But it no info is given, and it seems to be an assumption that one will be developed. That’s cheating.

February 8, 2018 4:24 pm

So he deals with the critiques about too much hydroelectric capacity by dropping that solution, and perhaps even the underground storage at solar plants. But did he deal with the corresponding demand side issue?
In the paper, he suggests that factories and other industrial consumers would change their consumption to match when the power is available. So for example, the factory will demand all it’s power over one hour instead of 10 hours.

Smart Rock
February 8, 2018 4:30 pm

He’s proposing that transportation will be renewable powered. Hmmm, how do we do that? Ships (well sailing ships worked perfectly well in their day so that’s an easy one) aircraft (hmm, that’s a tricky one though, let’s just make batteries that have 12 times the kWh/kg, that should do it, and maybe we can tax them to the point that everyone will prefer to travel by trains and sailing ships, just like in 1850!), trains (no problem, lots of countries have mostly electrified rail systems), trucks (bigger batteries, autonomous driving so we don’t have to pay drivers while the batteries charge; good, they’re all a bunch of reactionary thugs anyway), buses (they run on fixed routes, so we’ll put overhead wires on the highways, just like urban trolleybuses), and cars (anyone who doesn’t want an EV can get a bicycle. Or a horse). It’s easy when all you have to do is write a program to simulate it all.
Now let’s see how many wind turbines we need. OMG, that’s a VERY big number, they will cover all the land surface and all the continental shelves. Oh well, too bad about the birds and bats, but we never really liked them anyway. Insects? Oh yes. Let’s make all the wind turbines spray DDT out of the tips of the blades, that should take care of the insects that the birds and bats used to eat. Hey, this is fun, we’ve just proved we can save the planet and we haven’t left the comfort of our office! What shall we do this afternoon?

Reply to  Smart Rock
February 8, 2018 6:41 pm

Rubber band powered airplanes. Already proven to work. You just need to scale up the ones kids play with. 😛

Rocky Lichen
February 8, 2018 4:30 pm

Solar power and wind power: It is to laugh.
If frogs had wings, they wouldn’t bump their a$$ every time they land.

February 8, 2018 4:43 pm

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
Then 7 billion more people. Then 100% clean, renewable energy will work. None of that dirty renewable energy, just the clean stuff.

Dr. Deanster
February 8, 2018 4:58 pm

I would like the authors to pass me the crack pipe ….. cause they are obviously on some serious drugs to make their claim.

February 8, 2018 4:58 pm

“….the greatest barrier to the large-scale implementation of clean renewable energy is people’s perception that it’s too hard to keep the lights on with random wind and solar output.”
Stupid perceptions, putting up barriers.
I wonder what people’s he is talking about? There are a number of places going full on renewables with very little success to show, apart from the hydro blessed like Norway. I think its more like reality getting in the way than perceptions. After decades of talking about this and investing trillions, where are we?

February 8, 2018 5:04 pm

Hmmm … his cost calculations included “health” and “climate” effects. I wonder what it would cost compared to what we pay now without those two items?

February 8, 2018 5:07 pm

A large residential community near me (about 20,000 people) does not have natural gas. Many of the homes thus have heat pumps. (Some have portable electrical heaters and wood-burning fireplaces.) It gets cold here in winter, 20F common, and down to zero occasionally. Many of those home-owners have discovered a heat pump alone will not supply sufficient heat. (A heat pump moves outside heat into the house using similar principals to an AC unit “pumping” in cold. Problem is summer AC may deal with a 20F temperature differential between outside and inside, whereas winter heating commonly deals with 50F temperature differentials.)
Many of those home owners have installed an inside propane heater and an outside propane tank, to be refilled a couple times or more during winter.
Of course if one lives in the San Fran Bay Area, one probably has not experienced limitations for heat pumps. That is often the issue with “theory” — it ignores experience.

February 8, 2018 5:16 pm

Rocks? Energy stored in rocks? How was he planning to get that energy released?
Is he nuts? Oh, never mind. The world he lives in must be very, very strange.

Reply to  Sara
February 8, 2018 5:34 pm

The paper refers to geo-thermal energy — hot rocks.
The issue with this energy source is that rock is a rather good thermal insulator. If one drills only one access hole, heat around the hole is easily removed. But with time one is drawing on heat some distance away, and the rate of heat flowing to the bore hole goes down.
One could drill many access holes, using the energy gained from the rocks to drill the extra holes, but that defeats the purpose.

Michael S. Kelly
February 8, 2018 5:25 pm

These guys are “scientists” (I’m being charitable), not engineers. I’m an engineer, and know what kind of problems one encounters in the real world, as opposed to the modeled world. They might as well have just hooked up a random number generator to a database of words related to energy to come up with this “study.”

dodgy geezer
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
February 8, 2018 10:27 pm

…They might as well have just hooked up a random number generator to a database of words related to energy to come up with this “study.”…
They probably did…

February 8, 2018 5:39 pm

Looking at this paper I would be very safe placing a bet that less than nine countries of the 139 countries move to 100% renewable s by 2050 .
New Zealand has a large number of hydro electric power stations, a few geothermal power stations and a number of wind farms .We still have the large Huntly power station that was originally built to burn coal and it is in the process of being converted to natural gas .
Consent has been obtained to build a short cycle gas fired power station near Otorohanga in the North Island to handle high demand spikes and when lack of rain reduces power from hydro stations .
I have many times seen the large Te Uku wind farm without a blade turning and there is no sun 50% of the year .
The most annoying thing about the Greens is that they are against energy ,No more hydro dams and some are pushing to demolish dams to let the rivers run free
I cannot see that any country that has little hydro ever producing all their power requirements from renewable s
I once owned a farm that had a hydro dam on a small river run by a small power company and at times of low flow the water built up over night and was released twice a day to generate power for the peak times in the area .

Doc Chuck
February 8, 2018 5:46 pm

Apres ski at Squaw Valley will apparently feature sipping an aperitif in front of a non-polluting fireplace featuring a crackling fire 4K big screen video monitor as soon as next winter. Very cool — if not so warm.
And windmills won’t be mounted on steel pylons, silly, much less grounded in reinforced concrete. That’s all way too costly in initial energy investment and hardly gets made up later by the real output of the equipment, detracting greatly from all the projected savings from the full systematic conversion of present electric generation/distribution infrastructure, don’t you know. Nor would we be able to come up with that intense energy use for replacement of the original machinery thereafter. So those carved wood spinners will top great spruce Maypoles wound with overlapping colorful ribbons by cavorting children at their dedication ceremonies. Anyway this is my particular dream for justifying my existence with the virtue of saving y’all and I’m stickin’ to it.

February 8, 2018 6:34 pm

“The vast amount of these energy savings come from avoiding the energy needed to mine, transport and refine fossil fuels, converting from combustion to direct electricity…” So the mining needed for the raw materials, manufacturing, transport, etc. of all the replacement technology is now “free?”

michael hart
February 8, 2018 6:44 pm


Alan Tomalty
February 8, 2018 6:52 pm

“Also, by reducing water vapor, the wind turbines included in the roadmaps would offset about 3 percent of global warming to date.”
tsk tsk tsk You all missed the above howler in the abstract. Does the civil engineer not realize that wind is created by pressure differentials around the world? By taking the energy out of wind in 1 place will just create more wind in another place. So how would that ever reduce water vapour? The amount of evaporation will always remain the same. On that note I hope that noone has forgotten what the former director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies( James Hansen) did in 2009. After it was found that with measuring of 20 years of global water vapour data, there was no global increase in water vapour, Hansen shut down that project and since 2009 NASA does not provide water vapour measurements. Dont forget that increased water vapour is a key plank in AGW theory of CO2 upping the temperature which then ups the water vapour through evaporation. If there has been no increase in water vapour then the AGW crowd will fall through their missing plank to the abyss that awaits them. I just hope that there will be a lot of pink slips after this whole fiasco is finished.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
February 8, 2018 7:48 pm

Jacobsen is so far out of his mind… it is sad. He is a clear example of Leftist hallucinations.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
February 9, 2018 11:14 am

“I just hope that there will be a lot of pink slips after this whole fiasco is finished.”
That is a minimum.
Criminal prosecutions?
Demanding money with menaces.
Malfeasance in public office.
And I am not a lawyer, so there are very probably other potential charges – at least for the most egregious offenders.
Pink slips for the hangers-on; sure.

February 8, 2018 7:49 pm

What does this guy propose to keep atmospheric CO2 levels high to maintain current foodstuff production? Is he going to levy an additional tax devoted to burning hydrocarbons and coal to sustain current CO2 levels?
(I love to use the word “sustain” when it boxes them into a corner, but then again, they might not be concerned with the loss of human life from famine caused by implementing their “renewable” approach.)

February 8, 2018 8:08 pm
The Alberta NDP government has hired scoundrels and imbeciles as energy advisors.
Cheap, reliable , abundant energy is the lifeblood of society – it IS that simple. Fossil fuels provide about 86% of global primary energy. Renewables provide about 2% despite trillions per year in subsidies, paid by consumers.
Grid-connected green energy, typically wind and solar, is not green and produces little useful energy. The problem is intermittency. The sun does not shine all the time, and the wind does not blow consistently either. The NDP thinks that grid-connected mega-storage (aka the super-battery”) will solve this problem. It probably won’t.
They are hoping for a technological breakthrough at some time in the future, because a practical super-battery for Alberta does not exist at this time.
How can I dumb down this message so Rachel and crew understand? This is the energy equivalent of saying “If frogs had wings, they wouldn’t have to bump around on their butts”.

February 8, 2018 9:10 pm

Mark Z. Jacobson the Ehrlich of energy.

February 8, 2018 10:14 pm

A veritable model of modelling. In this way one could prove that Hell will freeze over (stop the warming!) and pigs will fly.

February 8, 2018 10:15 pm

Sanford University should engage in a demonstration project. The university should go 100% off grid, show the world how it’s done.
I wont hold my breath.

Pop Piasa
February 8, 2018 10:17 pm

Here’s a little ditty to enlighten Dr. Jacobson.
If you like your energy sustainable,
You must first make the climate trainable.
With sun day and night,
And the wind always right…
I think it just might be attainable!
Solar and wind are renewable,
But only on small scales prove doable
They can kill birds and bats
And displace habitats…
True ecologists find that eschew-able.
We would, likely, employ keener vision
Funding hydro and nuclear fission.
(The molten salt kind,
For our peace of mind)
And solar storm-proofed grids of transmission.
Affordable energy, for the third world poor
Will unlock that vital, virtual door
To an affluent life,
A job and a wife
With less children than folks raised before.
So, curtailing overpopulation
Is not about “limiting nations
On what they can do
Which emits CO2”…
It relies on industrialization!

dodgy geezer
February 8, 2018 10:26 pm

…Although the cost of producing a unit of energy is similar in the roadmap scenarios and the non-intervention scenario, the researchers found that the roadmaps roughly cut in half the amount of energy needed in the system. So, consumers would actually pay less….
I’m interested in the energy coming out of this suspicious model.
It seems as if the modeled fairy-tale ‘renewables’ can only provide half of what we need today anyway (and much less of what we’ll need in 20 years time…). So has he simply claimed that people will be forced to use less energy? Or is this some kind of statistical fiddle?

February 9, 2018 7:07 am

I don’t quite get it: why are there so many commenters here that consider a 100% renewable energy possibility to be “smoking crack”? It turns out to be a relatively straight forward (if execution-complex) engineering and logistics problem.
In the simplest sense, its all about “making more energy when you can, than you need, and storing it for future use”. In the winter (in California), far more rain falls than we can directly use as electricity thru hydro stations. So, “obvious Man” builds dams. Retain the potential energy, and use it as needed later. Side benefit is agricultural and civilizational water all thru the rest of the year. Or multiple years, if the dams are big enough … to survive droughts.
At older power plants, it was the same deal. We have a couple in the East Bay, old relics of WW2, oil fired power plants to keep the Alameda Navy Base powered, even if Bay Area’s power died. Solution? Big tanks. To store a LOT of crude oil, to survive the repair period if the “Japs” had aerial-bombed the Bay Area’s infrastructure. Storage. It works.
Similarly, in the East Bay, there used to be a HUGE (ridiculously) natural gas storage eyesore-tank that could suck up nearly ¼ billion cubic feet of natural gas. I guess before the JIT (just in time) delivery of natural gas which now exists, natural gas was kind of episodic: available from refineries … as they refined certain crude oils, but not so much with others. Good to store a bunch of it. Our (ancient) TV reception used to vary in unpredictable ways by how full that giant storage tank was. Its gone now.
So just consider the same for PV, and Wind power. There are times – quite capriciously – when the wind blows like the dickens. Other times when its as still as can be. There are times of storms, cloud cover, bad for PV production. Or like this week, when the air quality “sucked” (technical word). There are other times of gloriously blue, clear cloudless, cold air. PV friendly. There are seasons of shortfall, and others of great sun availability (summer).
Statistically one CAN count on “worst case conditions”; maybe not best case, but certainly worst. There are detailed records for at leaf 100 years, for the climate. The weather. The sun-days. And so on.
How dâhmned hard is it then to convert that backward to “required PV and Wind”, to figure a growing demand-base having demographically well-regarded statistics, and in turn to define “renewable roll-out rates” and ultimately sustainable replacement schedules? Not very hard. The harder part is to figure out how to efficiently store the excess electricity when its available, to hold it well and long, cheaply. Then to just “use it up as needed” to backfill the gaps-in-production.
Its NOT that hard. I’m not sure why there are so many naysayers. GoatGuy

The Dismal Science
Reply to  GoatGuy
February 9, 2018 10:13 am

Well it is fairly simple to explain really. what If I told you you can collect solar energy at 40% efficiency for one day, or collect solar energy at 0.1% efficiency for a million days. Which will yield more energy?
Oil, gas, and coal were generated using solar energy. In fact they can be thought of as “batteries” storing solar energy from millions of years ago. Naturally, these resources only managed to capture a tiny fraction of the sun’s energy, but on the plus side, they did it over millions of years, creating a relatively dense energy battery. It is stored as chemical energy between carbon and hydrogen atoms. Converting this energy back into usable form is a very inefficient process – at best we might capture 40-60% of what was in the original stored energy – the rest is wasted. But at the end of the day it all works out because, even though we are utilizing a tiny tiny fraction of the suns stored energy, again, it represents millions of years of solar radiation. This is the 0.1% for a million days scenario.
Modern methods of capturing solar radiation are more efficient, but they don’t work over millions of years, they work over seconds and hours. Wind, water, and direct solar radiation can be captured. When we talk about wind and water, we are really talking about mechanisms that take up large fractions of the earths surface. By that I mean, a hydro dam doesn’t generate hydro power, The sun evaporates water over vast areas of ocean, and the drainage basin captures that water. the dam just concentrates, stores, and coverts this energy to a useful form. So the mechanism for hydropower is actually an appreciable percentage of the Earth’s surface.
So, for renewable power to generate significant energy, it must operate on vast scales, because we don’t have the advantage of working over millions of years. So, to generate useful power today we need to capture large percentages of the suns energy, not the tiny fraction represented in fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels are very energy dense. Batteries on the other hand, have a great deal of difficulty storing energy at the same density. Molecular bonds are simply more efficient at storing energy than ionic bonds. It is simply chemistry that dictates batteries will always be less efficient storing energy than fossil fuels. So, of courser, they must be bigger o store the same amount of energy.
So, in summary, renewable energy is able to collect vastly less energy, and store it at much lower efficiency, than fossil fuels. Because of this, renewable energy systems must increase in scale, which greatly increases costs.
“How damned hard is it then to convert that backward to “required PV and Wind”, to figure a growing demand-base having demographically well-regarded statistics, and in turn to define “renewable roll-out rates” and ultimately sustainable replacement schedules? Not very hard. The harder part is to figure out how to efficiently store the excess electricity when its available, to hold it well and long, cheaply. Then to just “use it up as needed” to backfill the gaps-in-production.”
It is all hard. Very hard. That is why we haven’t done it, and many people doubt it can ever be done. Again, we are starting off with some extreme disadvantages – the sun is a weak source of energy, intermittent, we must pay the entropy price for storage and conversion, and our storage methods are limited by the laws of physics. All of this can be overcome, but so far, it is can only be overcome by scale – building it bigger and bigger. But bigger is more expensive. Bigger takes more space.
That is the fundamental problem. Jacobson tries and skirt this problem, and claims vast cost savings in other areas to justify the enormous expense.
Hope that helps you out buddy.

Reply to  The Dismal Science
February 10, 2018 3:29 am

The Dismal Science, I appreciate your taking the time and effort to write up this response. Hoping that maybe you’ll come a’looking for my counter, herein I take on a few of your qualitative assessments, quantitatively.
First, I implore you to scroll up (or “CTRL-find”) my other goatish comment re: the conversion of various forms of energy production to equivalent alternate terms. (I made a typo on PV: it is 6,836,000 ea, 295 watt panels per 1 MTOE).
Second, projecting for a world that presently uses less than 12,000 MTOE per year, but… remains seemingly “stuck” on consuming more at approximately +150 MTOE (r² of 0.96) per year… then consider this: At 11,500 MTOE for all fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – combined in 2018, we today would need…
50% of 11,500 MTOE as PV = 39,306,000,000 ea, 295 W panels50% of 11,500 MTOE as Wind = 3,623,000 ea., 2 MW turbines
The land area calculations are straight forward. At 18% efficiency (solar → electric) and 40% land-packing (due to latitude), we need for the 39,306,000,000 panels 16,104,000 hectares (39,800,000 acres … 161,104 km²… 62,181 mi²) of land area to produce those 11,500 MTOE of pure electricity. Raw, unbuffered electricity. USELESS when not needed, POINTLESS when not being produced, but needed.
Mind you, this is the world demand for all fossil energy, not just Europe, or the United States, or The West. Its the whole shooting match. I’m sorry my friend, but quantitatively, this exposes some of the hyperbole of your position. Let me recount from your reply:

So, for renewable power to generate significant energy, it must operate on vast scales, because we don’t have the advantage of working over millions of years. So, to generate useful power today we need to capture large percentages of the suns energy, not the tiny fraction represented in fossil fuels.

See, being quantitative, I’ve shown that the vast scales is actually not all that vast. 62,181 mi² is not a big chunk of land. Sounds like it, but it isn’t. Its a rectangle 250 miles on a side, about 7.9% of (NEV + UT + NM + AZ + TX + ID) combined. This is not a vast scale. 7.9%.
Note that it is also the entire planet’s fossil fuel use, laid out (without any real comparative value) on our 6 most arid western states, just as a point. Its not that much. IF WE CONSIDER more local generation (because piping hydrogen around the world is impractical say? Or perhaps for another 5 reasons oft mentioned…), then the US, consuming about 18.5% of all petroleum, coal and gas worldwide (see Wikipedia) as our “share”, only needs to pave 18.5% of 7.9% of its arid states or 1.46% of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New México, Idaho and arid Texas as PV.
For Just the US energy consumption, “housed” on US dirt, it turns out that we also would need 18.5% of the 3,623,000 ea., 2 megawatt turbines housed here. If the online references are reasonably close to correct, figuring the total footprint of 122 acres/ea., then we would ALSO need 127,700 mi² or 3.4% of the entire US for wind turbines. Or if you prefer, 16.2% of NV, NM, AZ, UT, TX, ID.
Hey… PV/solar needs to be in really sunny, basically near-desert areas to do best. Wind, unsurprisingly, needs to be in selected windy areas. Not any-old ridge-top will do. Therefore, I perceive quantitatively, that while wind is good at delivering power around the 24h/day cycle, its also “not good” in that it takes a pretty large chunk of land area to do right.
I’d therefore change to 75% solar, 25% wind, just to be realistic about the wind footprint. The computations become quantitatively adjusted to … 2.2% of (NV, UT, NM, AZ, TX, ID) for PV and 1.7% of USA for wind.
Again, are these HUGE? No. They’re significant, don’t get me wrong! But not like a solar-panel covered nation, or a huge wind turbine on every last square inch of mountain, farm, dale and glade.
The point… is that when I’m working quantitatively, I simply cannot agree with your “sky is falling” assessment, good sir. I think that the numbers are much more reasonable, and point to a possible future that actually could work out.
As to the feasibility of always maintaining a slight over-production (year-over-year)? Again, I really don’t think its needed to be TOO over-producing. If the hydrogen gas as storage works out, AND since we’ll not be tossing out our hydroelectric dams, our geothermal facilities and even our nuclear power plants, but only displacing most of our fossil fuel consumption (as possible), then it is not needed to go over 90% or so of MTOE renewable energy production. Storage of the billions of cubic meters of hydrogen, and their transportation from points-of-convenient-production to actual use, is then the engineering challenge.
Yours, GoatGuy

The Dismal Science
Reply to  The Dismal Science
February 12, 2018 1:27 am

Well, the substance of your first post suggested you didn’t understand basic principals – what point are quantitative discussions when you begin with making basic, relevant, and important logic error that most renewable advocates make over and over? It is a little like arguing over the number of angels on the head of a pin.
The main errors I see with most renewable arguments are as follows: 1) Confusing resource size with resource availability and desirability for exploitation 2) Misunderstandings on how the grid actually works, 3) Underestimates on how much energy is actually needed to be generated/stored, and 4) Believing it is a matter of “will” over what energy source we use. That is we are “deciding” not to use renewable power (often for some nefarious reason), rather than not using them because they simply don’t work very well. Let me give you a few things to ponder.
In space there is the cosmic microwave background. Why doesn’t the space station, rather than have solar panels, simply put out a small rectenna and collect energy from this vast, infinite, resource? It would work even when the sun is blocked by the Earth, negating the need for batteries.
How about OTEC? Simple technology exploiting the ability of the ocean to capture heat. Nearly unlimited resource. Why don’t we build those? We’ve known HOW to do it for 100 years now.
Just 35 km below my feet is the mantle of the earth, a nearly unlimited source of energy. Why, I’ll just bet, if we invested enough money, we could figure out how to tap this amazing resource and power the world.
All over the world energy is generated virtually the second it is used. Ever wonder why? I mean generations of electrical engineers have actually considered this a problem. Ideally we would build a smaller generator, and this generator would be running perfectly, at the same speed, all the time. At night the excess power would be stored, and during the day that power would be released. No need for expensive peaker plants. You could save a bundle operating a utility this way – literally hundreds of millions of $. Save a lot of energy as well – the whole system would be much more efficient, since the generators are not spinning up and down to follow load. That ramp up and down significantly reduces efficiency.
I encourage you to think just a bit about those questions, not just the obvious answer, but the secondary and tertiary answers, and WHY those answers are important to every other renewable power question.
The rest of your post – well, it is a hodge podge of the same errors over and over. Size of the resource doesn’t matter. Powering the earth will take only 62,000 square miles of solar panels? Is THAT all? So? Does that actually mean anything? Powering the space station with a rectenna will only take a few dozen square miles of it. Powering the Earth with OTEC will take only 3,000 plants, or 3 million plants, of whatever number I conjure out of my backside. Fact is, that statistic is utterly meaningless, and tells me nothing about the problem whatsoever. I will suggest, that perhaps, a solution that takes “only” 62,000 square miles of the Earth’s surface exactly proves my point – renewable power systems, by definition, must be very large. And large is not cheap.
You have a number of irrelevant points to make at all, all quite “quantitative” but as important as the average distance between an African elephants trunk and tail. It is meaningless blather, and the fact you think it is reverent to the conversation is part of the problem we are having.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  GoatGuy
February 9, 2018 1:22 pm

Here’s a look at what it would take to provide enough storage just for California:

February 9, 2018 9:00 am

Almost always, people like this ignore how much land the wind and solar (and power lines to them) he wants will take up. I will bet he still makes the stupid hydro assumption. No one is building hydro anymore except a big one in China but I bet they don’t build any more even there–too damaging to the environment and they take up land for the lake, plus all the good sites are being used already. With 20% renewable or so in Germany, their rates are 3x the US rates and their grid is only barely stable because they can buy electricity from France–nuclear based.

Bob Denby
February 9, 2018 11:54 am

OK, I’m not a scientist BUT. . . I do believe there’s value in ‘common sense’, which suggests to me that these folks are nuts!

John Francis
February 9, 2018 12:38 pm

As usual, there is no mention of the energy requirements to mine the materials and construct the windmills, solar installations, and dams. Without that, the whole exercise is meaningless

February 9, 2018 4:03 pm

I have several objections (again) to his proposal.
1-It is based on a false assumption, that XXX # of countries can even vaguely install this kind of thing, never mind afford the cost. Nor does he even consider whether or not some of them want it.
2-While solar/PVC on a private lot, if backed up by storage batteries and wind turbines, is practical on an individual private basis, IF all generating conditions are met, it is NOT practical on an industrial scale. Period. The cost to take a common house in the northern US off the grid is around $25,000 to start. There is NO guarantee that it will work, and it demands constant attention, like any other child.
3 – I see nothing in his proposal that acknowledges or gives even a slight nod to weather conditions, which have a direct affect on this kind of thing, e.g., Tornado Alley with its history of destruction. (Wanna see some turbines burning in a derecho?)
4 – a – Wind turbines are destructive of wildlife, period. They endanger more birds necessary to a balanced, healthy ecosystem than this boondoggle-brained blithering blowhard can even conceive of.
4 – b – Solar collecting platforms are no known to kill off migratory birds. Wind turbines kill off raptors. This isn’t just about songbirds or a few turkey buzzards. This is about critters that are vital to an ecosystem.
5 – It’s as plain as pancakes with no butter or syrup that this peabrained pompous perfessor does not have a clue about anything outside his office or his dwelling. He takes for granted what other people have done to provide high yield, low cost energy platforms for the rest of us. His lack of consideration is glaringly obvious. I want to see him fork over the total expense of building this system, out of his own pocket, and then get the reaction when he gets his utility bill.
He’s a twit.

Reply to  Sara
February 18, 2018 1:30 pm

Your estimate is exceedingly low. $25,000 would not buy you a battery bank let alone panels, inverters, labor, wiring, disconnect means, lightning arrestors, combiner boxes to run your household in the same manner, unless, you live an entirely different life style.
Start with your consumption. Winter will be the constraint due to the tilt of the earth versus it’s orbit (diurnallity of the sun striking us). Look at TSI (Total Solar Insolation) using PVWatts. Do all de-rates for equipment aging — particularly the battery but panels as well. Now look up at the cost of equipment.
You will find a system, that, guarantees the amount of energy to run the typical American household costs well over $140,000 — unless you forgo air conditioning, electric cooking, electric water heating…
Now, the time value of money comes into play. What you will find, is, it is much easier to use fossil fuels and pay a penalty tax for carbon absorption sink —- eg. planting trees. And it will be much cleaner when all exogenous variables are added to the entire chain of events.
That said, I love solar. But, it is and always will be a very limited application. Ditto for wind.
Fact of the matter is trees are solar panels, and, carbon sinks too! They have billions of years of evolutionary edge in engineering, even with that, they shut down in the winter due to tilt of the earth.
Coal, oil and natural gas are biological batteries, which, pollute, but, have much greater energy density. It is much cheaper to use renewables which have been under design and improvement for billions of years, that, to hubristically believe we can engineer past the environment that lead to our creation.

February 9, 2018 11:53 pm

Wonder if this Mark Z. Jacobson dude knows that Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project is sponsored by ExxonMobil and Schlumberger?
….. and have been since December 2002!

Francis Clark
February 10, 2018 7:21 pm

Long Term Lurker
Following comment at start by “The Dismal Science”, in particular about renewable levels.
I’m a skeptic / lukewarmer; not a specialist but did physics, maths to PhD level, and the very idea of high ECS has never even passed the sniff test. However, I find many people on skeptical blogs talk a lot of dogmatic rah-rah about renewables.
Certainly the proposition of 100% renewables next week is aspirational.
Electricity systems need much infrastructure that mostly runs at only a fraction of capacity. The issues of ‘backup’ and ‘storage’ don’t suddenly appear once renewables (solar and wind) enter consideration.
I spent over a year modelling 50% into the Australian NEM (East Coast electricity market), and more time in Northern Australia looking at renewables integration there.
What I learnt in broad terms is that the first 10% or even 20% is good, and then it gets more complicated. Essentially you start incurring costs from the need to have additional ’backup’; but because the cost of electricity from solar and wind is becoming so cheap, it becomes worth expending resources on enabling higher levels.
Again very broadly, it appears that this incremental evolutionary approach can keep going up to about 80%. And then pushing the last 20% of fossil fuels out is hard.
I say the horse has bolted, and we should be thinking about renewables incrementally increasing their presence up to 50% type levels. And by the time that happens the technological (and economic) landscape will likely have changed in ways we can only guess at from here.

The Dismal Science
Reply to  Francis Clark
February 12, 2018 1:45 am

I would agree, but I might place the the upper “severe pain” threshold a bit lower, at 50% renewable penetration. And, as you have observed, the problem gets vastly worse as you move toward 100%. Anything is possible, as long as we don’t care about expenses or rates. Unfortunately those things DO matter, they matter quite a bit.
A huge part of the costs of any system is the amount of infrastructure that must be built, but is underutilized. All electrical systems have some fraction of that, but those that can minimize that capital investment are much cheaper. Unfortunately renewables demand a tremendously huge fraction of underutilized capital investment. their answer for every problem is “more”. More power lines. More backup plants. More storage. What fools people is this – the intermittentency of renewables, up to 10-15% or market penetration, is already baked in the cake and can be covered (with some clever management) by the existing grid. So the first 10 to 15% is easy peasy. Beyond that you begin to need to invest more capital into backup systems, and the underutilized capital begins to grow rapidly.
Really what you are discussing is a hard switch, versus a soft switch. A soft switch (over 30 to 50 years) is likely to cost vastly less. Unfortunately, most advocates for renewables want a hard switch – they want it now.

Francis Clark
Reply to  The Dismal Science
February 12, 2018 3:46 am

I say we are in agreement. I concede that over 50% is difficult from where we sit now.
We agree on the issue of infrastructure utilisation as key to the economics.
You are correct that I advocate a soft switch, which is consistent with expecting ECS to turn out low.
Regularly I see news of ‘start ups’ doing interesting things, such as this hydrogen project I saw this morning:
Now, any given start up has a low probability of making the big time, but when you multiply a large number of these efforts with the individual low probs. it is seen that some will work out — we just have no way of knowing which ones until they happen. I think this is a key aspect of the “incremental evolution” to higher levels of renewable penetration, as opposed to trying to jam through solutions.
The other comment I make is that individual circumstances in different parts of the country / world will lead to different developments; there is unlikely to be a one size fits all ‘battery’ solution.

The Dismal Science
Reply to  The Dismal Science
February 12, 2018 8:18 am

Hah – sounds like we both have very similar life experience! We are in violent agreement!
My observation about hard switch renewable advocates – the more enthusiastic they are, generally, the less they know about energy markets, and the less receptive they are to explanations on how those markets actually work.
There is a reason I post as “the dismal science”.

The Dismal Science
Reply to  The Dismal Science
February 12, 2018 8:19 am

you should post here more often Francis – it might help.

The Dismal Science
Reply to  The Dismal Science
February 12, 2018 10:57 am

I will add something – it is not just the incremental effort of lots of little renewable ideas adding (eventually) to something big. All technology is developing and evolving. Why are we undergoing a massive switch over from coal to natural gas? Fracking made gas a lot more available and cheaper, but improvements on plant design made such plants vastly cheaper to operate. Natural gas is the cheapest form of power right now, handily beating coal and nuclear, solar and wind. But Nu-scale just got NRC approval for their first modular reactor, which could drop nuke prices below even natural gas. It is a race to the bottom, and anyone pretending to know who will eventually win is just wish casting.

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