Quantcast

Scientists Hit Back: Another Paper Claims 100% Renewables is Possible and Affordable

Popular
TAFE SA TONSLEY/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Is it possible for the world to run on 100 percent renewable energy? It's a noble goal, as the best science tells us we must significantly slash fossil fuel consumption or else the planet faces dangerous climate change.

A number of academics believe it's not only feasible to wean off coal, natural gas and other polluting fuels by transitioning to renewable sources such as solar and wind power, it's even cost-effective.


Other researchers disagree, and this divide has spilled out into a spiraling debate, with each side pumping out more research to prove their positions. Last September, Australian scientist Benjamin Heard, an advocate for nuclear power, and his team published a critical review in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Review that stated, "there is no empirical or historical evidence" that a 100 percent renewable electricity system is feasible.

Now, in a direct rebuttal published Thursday in the same journal, scientists concluded there are no roadblocks on the path to a clean energy future.

The authors of the new paper hail from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Delft University of Technology and Aalborg University.

In the earlier paper, Heard and his colleagues raised a number of questions, including whether renewables-based systems can survive extreme weather events or when the wind isn't blowing or when the sun isn't shining. They also questioned if the power grid could stay stable with such variable generation.

The scientists in the current paper responded to each critique after reviewing of dozens of existing studies and highlighting examples of successful grid operators around the world, from Denmark to Tasmania.

In the first scenario, during periods of extreme weather or when wind and solar energy fail or fall short, Brown and his team suggest imports, hydroelectricity, batteries and other storage methods. Or, in the " worst-case solution," they said hydrogen or synthetic gas produced with renewable electricity could fill that gap. As for maintaining grid stability, they offered technical solutions, such as rotating grid stabilizers and newer electronics-based solutions.

"While several of the issues raised by the Heard paper are important, you have to realize that there are technical solutions to all the points they raised, using today's technology," said lead author Tom Brown of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in a statement.

"Furthermore," added Christian Breyer of Lappeenranta University of Technology, who co-authored the response, "these solutions are absolutely affordable, especially given the sinking costs of wind and solar power."

"There are some persistent myths that 100 percent renewable systems are not possible," noted Brian Vad Mathiesen of Aalborg University, another co-author of the response. "Our contribution deals with these myths one-by-one, using all the latest research. Now let's get back to the business of modelling low-cost scenarios to eliminate fossil fuels from our energy system, so we can tackle the climate and health challenges they pose."

After the paper was released, Heard, the lead author of the September paper, tweeted "congratulations" to Brown and his team for the publication and called it "a tough journal."

But it's clear the debate is not over yet. Brown added, "There *is* something about the way all this 'possible and affordable' stuff, under a little scrutiny, demands massive additional research, subsidies, far-reaching policies interrelated across economic sectors, market reforms etc. AKA 'political will'"

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

MStudioImages / E+ / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Backpacking is an exciting way to explore the wilderness or travel to foreign countries on a budget.

Read More Show Less
Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less