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Climate and Environment

Santiago Saez Moreno
Journalist
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piqer: Santiago Saez Moreno
Monday, 12 February 2018

Can We Really Make It To 100% Renewables?

As knowledge about climate change advances, it becomes clear the world must transition to an energy model without fossil fuels. If we continue burning coal, oil and gas at the current rate, the world may warm by over 4ºC (over pre-industrial levels), which would threaten our very civilization. But how do we do it?

This article stems from the million dollar question: Can we make the world run just on renewables? Or will we need to add non-renewable, zero-carbon alternatives such as nuclear or carbon capture plants (be it BECCS or CCS)?

The problem here is that variable renewable energy (VRE) sources, such as solar and wind, are not always available. If we were to depend only on them, we would need to do at least one of the following: a) Increase the storage capacity; b) manage the demand; c) deploy non-renewable, dispatchable sources, such as the above mentioned; or d) build up a gigantic grid that would connect regions and even continents to distribute the excess power.

To summarize: Most of today’s models place high value on large dispatchable power sources for deep decarbonization, and it’s difficult to muster enough large dispatchable power sources without nuclear and CCS.

The author analyzes the conclusions of three papers. The first two, based on models, agree with the above, but the third, based on expert interviews, is more optimistic, as 71% of the interviewees agreed that a 100% renewables model was achievable and reasonable. So who's right?

As you can imagine, there aren't specific answers in this article. You'll have to draw your own conclusions and do your own research. The good thing: There are plenty of links and leads here to start with that task.

I have learned a huge deal about our energy production and distribution system, and about the different kinds of research. And last, but not least, it's a really good document to catch up with where we stand on this most needed transition (spoiler: there's a lot to do). 
Can We Really Make It To 100% Renewables?
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Comments 1
  1. christoph weigel
    christoph weigel · 9 months ago

    hard stuff! yet i liked this conclusion:" 6) Stay woke. Above all, the haziness of the long-term view argues for humility on all sides. There’s much we do not yet know and cannot possibly anticipate, so it’s probably best for everyone to keep an open mind, support a range of bet-hedging experiments and initiatives, and maintain a healthy allergy to dogma." i repeat: maintain a healthy allergy to dogma. this is very much the first time in many years that i feel i should give up "my personal dogma" that nuclear is not sustainable for human civilization and should be abandoned asap.