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100% Renewable Energy is Within Our Reach


#1

100% Renewable Energy is Within Our Reach

Bill McKibben

We watch in horror as the damages from climate change continue to mount.


#2

Perhaps, with Climate Change, Mother Nature can send a “Bowling Ball” sized hailstorm to Washington DC during the next large congressional assembly, and maybe knock some sense into those who lack common sense.


#3

There has clearly been progress on moving toward 100% renewable energy for electricity but things are moving too slow, not only in the US but around the world. One indication is the progress being made to meet the Paris Climate Agreement pledges. No developed country is on track to meet their pledge and some are not even close. And the pledges even if met would leave leave the global temperature at around 3.5C (not taking into consideration positive feedbacks that could drive the temperature even higher).


#4

Here’s what Bill McKibben and other liberals don’t get: NOTHING IS ‘IN OUR REACH’ IF WE DON’T ORGANIZE AND BUILD ENOUGH POWER TO TAKE IT! My Tweet for the day.


#5

Lrx:

If you can read, look up this ditty from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Oh, never mind, here it is:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

Hope those "hateful’ words from Emerson aren’t too much of a hobgoblin for you. Screed on. Did you ever try Tweeting; seems much more in your realm.


#6

My wild ass prediction is that we will hit 50% in about a decade. Then perhaps 80% in another decade. Toping 90% may prove quite difficult.


#7

I like Bill McKibben.

In a way, I also pity him.

Climate chaos and mass extinction is baked into the future. In fact, it’s already happening.


#8

I’ll leave the tweeting to Trump. Who today do you think is great and misunderstood?


#9

I’m sorry CD, but what evidence are you looking at? Pledging to be 100% is not evidence that anything can be achieved. Even your own sources are misleading and in some cases quite ironic:

  1. https://www.sierraclub.org/ready-for-100/commitments
    First of its a bad mistake to use sierraclub as a legitiment source for the environment and for energy. Furthermore lets look at some of these commitments shall we.
    Burlington, Vermont- according to the EIA after the Yankee Nuclear Plant closed in 2014 the state lost 55% of electricity generation. To replenish this loss the state has relied on a 40% increase in hydroelectric power from Canada and 15% increase from the New England grid, which is primarily reliant on natural gas. How the hell do you justify this as a “renewable transition”?

  2. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/11/new-york-city-fossil-fuel-divestment-spur-global-movement
    This source is full of irony not yet foreseen. Yes it is true that New York committed to divesting city pension funds from fossil fuels, but while the state is publicly saying one thing privately it is doing another. While green advocates are jumping at this publicity stunt, the state has contracted two new natural gas plants in New York and another in New Jersey to supplement the loss of energy from Indian Point by 2021. Don’t believe me, please by all means look up CPV in Wayawanda New York, or Cricket Valley Energy Center in Dover New York or Bayonne Energy Center in Bayonne New Jersey. LOL so much for “severing their ties with the fossil fuel industry”- Cuomo is so full of $hit.

  3. “There are now days when Germany generates half of its power from the sun—and, more to the point, the price of a panel began to truly plummet years ago, a freefall that continues to this day.” I’m sorry but what data are you looking at… LOL
    http://fortune.com/2017/03/14/germany-renewable-clean-energy-solar/
    Not only have electricity prices increased by more than $1,300 per citizen over the last decade, but Germany is on track to FAIL TO MEET CO2 emission standards by 2020. How on earth do you describe that as “plummet”?

  4. http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/USStatesWWS.pdf
    You are making it too easy for me… Seriously did none of the editors at CD research arguments against any of these claims? Heres an peer-reviewed published study that evaluates Jacobson’s claims: http://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/114/26/6722.full.pdf
    Following the submission of this article Jacobson attempted to sue the researchers AND LOST.

  5. https://www.merkley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/100%20by%2050%20Act%20text.pdf
    I’m glad you brought in some more official sources, but I would love some further explanation in this bill like:

  • how this bill NEVER talks about 27% of the USA’s current electrical generation from hydropower and nuclear.
  • how this bill appropriates only $7 billion for the modernization of the electrical grid including HVDC. You do realize that just one HVDC project running from Quebec to new York is going to cost $2.2 billion and another running from Wyoming to California is projected to cost $2.8 billion. Who on earth did the electrical grid feasibility study?
  • Why does this bill think the USA generates 70% of its energy from fossil fuels in 2022. That’s 6% more than it currently produces. So are you suggesting that the USA will rapidly increase fossil fuel production, only to miraculously decline at an increased rate? If you mean total energy then youre 14% too low, in which case you are also predicting an elimination of the petrochemical industry, which currently has zero subsidies.
  • how this bill projects only $10 billion will cut it for advanced energy storage over 40 years. They must be genies and know of some ridiculously cheap solution, because most projections Ive seen for energy storage to make 100% renewable viable are in the $10- 25 trillion range.
  • how this bill assumes (seeing as nuclear is nowhere in this bill at all) nuclear decommission will be replaced immediately with renewables, when there is zero evidence to support such an action. Every nuclear plant decommissioned in the USA to date has been replaced by natural gas, coal and large-scale hydropower (also never mentioned in the bill)
  • How this bill is going to incentivize commercial aviation, maritime cargo and rail to transition to electric, when there are significant engineering challenges to do this. In other words there are ZERO feasible concepts for commercial aviation and large maritime cargo ships to be 100% powered by electricity. What youre going to force the airline industry to start transporting passengers 20 at time instead of 100? WTF are you talking about.
  • why this bill’s rapid deployment of zero emission vehicles plan has no start date nor deadline. If you don’t have a time table for a plan then in reality its not really a plan at all.
  • how this bill possibly thinks that $100,000,000 by 2050 is enough money for full deployment of electric rail, aviation or maritime transportation for humans, cargo, and mail. Lets do some quick math for second. The USA has about 150,000 miles of railway in the USA, of which about 2,750 miles is electric. This means you need to change about 147,250 miles of track. The cheapest light rail cargo track has cost $24 million per mile. This means at extremely low ball figure for just rail you’re looking at $3,534,000,000,000. I think you might be just a little bit off on your appropriations.
  • how this bill fails to realize that as increase the blend of biofuel instead of diesel that the energy density of fuel severely decreases. If you require a minimum of 50% blend, youre going to require either more fuel or change engine of the vehicle- both of which can be costly, and youre attempting to make this more economical than current trucks.
    -how this bill believes the petrochemical industry will continue to produce materials necessary for over 8 million products, when you put a moratorium on pipeline construction in 2021. We don’t have commercial scale or even large laboratory scale substitutes for these products. How the heck are we supposed to mass produce fiberglass blades for wind turbines, when we cant move petroleum to refineries to produce ethylene for the blades?
  • This bill is an example of when politicians don’t consult scientists, engineers or economists. There are multiple feasibility issues with this bill, regardless if you support the subject matter or not.

#10

Ive made my position on energy transition on CD before, so hopefully I don’t have to repeat myself. Unfortunately for Mr. Mckibben theres a lot of evidence that we are light-years from 100% renewable, especially in the USA, and that 100% renewable may not actually be the best option.

In a recent article from MIT Technology Review, they find that current deployment of renewable technology is 7.3 times lower per day than what is necessary to reach enough energy in order curb warming below 500 ppm. In other words we need to be adding 1,100 MW per day, but we are actually only adding 151 MW. At this rate it would take us 400 years to reach suggested rates.

Furthermore a risk assessment from the Center for Policy and Science at the University of Cambridge found that the current deployment of “clean energy” in the USA would likely take 100 years to reach full deployment.
http://www.csap.cam.ac.uk/media/uploads/files/1/climate-change--a-risk-assessment-v11.pdf

And then theres the real problem… Money.
It is possible to force 100% renewable energy, but the major drawback is the insanely massive expected cost of doing so.


For an evaluation on 100% renewable energy plans from an economic point of view:
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/wcc.324
http://www.theenergycollective.com/willem-post/2264202/reducing-us-primary-energy-wind-and-solar-energy-and-energy-efficiency
Or just an analysis of feasibility in general:

Unfortunately general media has confined us to this belief that it is either 100% renewable or the status quo, which can result in an even larger economic cost. However I believe that instead of forcing the presumption that we need 100% renewable that instead we should consider and evaluate all options. Instead of forcing renewable down everyone’s throat no matter the actual cost or practicality to our grids, why not instead push for renewables, but also consider transitioning our exiting carbon infrastructure to low emission and including nuclear, with the long term plan of decreasing low emission and allowing nuclear to provide 20% with advanced models that can also provide benefits in other areas such as desalination and hydrogen production.


#11

So in 1999, at the beginning of this Green surge, the German energy sector emitted roughly 344 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases. After a decade of renewables buildout, the German energy sector emitted roughly 344 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents in 2009. In 2016, the last full year for which there is a final tally, the energy sector emitted roughly 332 mmt CO2 equivalents, and the preliminary reports for 2017 are that there was no appreciable reduction from 2016. So from 1999 through 2017, that amounts to about a 3.5% reduction in emissions rate for the energy sector–except part of the green transition included burning more wood and biofuels for energy, and those are counted as “green” renewable energy, so their carbon emissions aren’t included. Nor are the emissions for felling, chipping, and shipping the wood in from as far away as North America, since those emissions happened outside of Germany. Since a full quarter of the German renewable sector portfolio is now biofuels, a fuller accounting of CO2 eq. emissions could wipe out a hefty chunk of that 3.5% reduction.

In 2016, by far Germany’s most productive renewable was wind power, generating 79.8 TWh (roughly double solar, and quadruple hydropower) Meanwhile, for the same period, the remnants of Germany’s decimated nuclear fleet generated 84.9 TWh. Germany still plans to swiftly phase out all nuclear generation, so even if they double their wind production at the same time (and figure out how to manage its more erratic nature without fossil fuel backup) they will basically have accomplished a great deal of running in place with respect to reducing their energy sector greenhouse gas profile.

Meanwhile, the per capita CO2 emissions from France next door are a bit more than half those of Germany. So naturally McKibben cites Germany as the example to follow, and not France.

“In July of 2017… the Chinese announced that Qinghai Province—a territory the size of Texas—had gone a week relying on 100% renewable energy, a test of grid reliability designed to show that the country could continue its record-breaking pace of wind and solar installation.”

It’s a territory the size of Texas, but with a population about a million less than the DFW metroplex alone. And how did they achieve this reliability for a full week using wind and solar? Easy. 72% of the electricity generated came from hydropower. (And if that isn’t the impression conveyed by McKibben’s description, it’s not because he technically said anything untrue, it’s just that he was highly selective about the version of truth he presented.) There’s no trick to having a reliable grid even with some erratic power sources included when most of the energy is coming from a dependable, flexible, on-demand source that can compensate. Is this a kind of grid the rest of the world can emulate? No. Is it even one China is applying across China? No. In 2016, about 4% of China’s overall power came from wind, and about 1% came from solar. They lead the world in the production of cheap wind and solar, and even they have no plans to try for a 100% renewable grid dominated by wind and solar (and storage).

“China is not alone: One Friday in April of 2017, Great Britain managed to meet its power demands without burning a lump of coal for the first time since the launch of the Industrial Revolution.”

So how much do wind and solar get the credit for that? Here are the trend lines by source:


The main thing displacing coal is gas. (The U.K. also imported electricity on that day, and some of that came from coal.)

“Solar production has grown six-fold since 2014 in Chile”

This was Chile’s electricity consumption by source in 2015:
tinyurl (dot) com/y9zffg7j

And this was their electricity breakdown by capacity in 2016:

That’s 5% solar by capacity, but the average output is going to be more like a fifth of capacity. So the combustion sources and hydropower accounted for 90% of capacity, and more than 90% of the electricity actually generated. Chile has very good prospects for renewable generation–especially if they keep steamrolling tribal opposition to their hydropower projects. But having budged the needle on solar production up to less than 2% hardly makes them a good illustration of how “100% renewable energy is within our reach”, especially when most of the world does not have Chile’s abundant potential renewable resources.


#12

Real 100% renewable energy must include economically solar heating at least 90% of all buildings, a major fossil fuel use worldwide. It’s actually not too hard to do this, except climate change people just don’t get it, not to mention everybody else. The breakthrough isn’t technical anymore, it’s getting anyone to notice that the barriers aren’t there any longer.

Real 100% renewable energy means that solar-sourced electricity has to pick up a great deal of the workload for nighttime electricity. I see a handful of competitors for storing solar-based electricity. They all should be funded until one candidate clearly dominates each sector of the market.

Real 100% renewable energy means a completely new non-freeway transit system. No, we’re not working on that, not one bit at the federal level. Yes, the possibilities are clearly out there. How are we going to reach that breakthrough 10 or 20 years from now if we’re too lazy to work this year?

Real climate change inhibition involves restoring the Arctic’s albedo, probably in rather natural ways with snow and ice. Real climate change inhibition involves removing CO2 from the atmosphere and putting the carbon in the ground, probably by organic farming means.


#13

Well worth repeating. Reducing emissions is only one side of the equation; removing excess carbon dioxide from the environment is the other. A massive government program to plant trees, along the lines of FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps, would solve more than one problem.


#14

Down here in Phoenix people will spend tens of thousands of dollars for tile roofs and then not put out a penny for any solar panels. The paucity of solar panels on rooftops is just appalling. It’s hard to know if the people here are stupid or just don’t care. You could generate all your own electricity from your roof down here and yet almost no one does. The most unsustainable city in the world isn’t even smart enough to take a free handout when the sun offers.


#15

That would be the cynical interpretation. A different way of looking at it would be that he bucked the opprobium, scorn, and outrage of the scientific community to chase a 10 million dollar payday–purely on principle, of course–until the first hearing on the countercharge that his suit had no legitimacy and amounted to a SLAPP suit, and within two days drafted a 28 page explanation as to why he was dropping his suit and letting PNAS, Clack, et al off the hook, declaring victory in having brought attention to their misconduct–which was all he was trying to accomplish anyway. To hear him tell it, it wasn’t at all that he was running away after the first hearing went so badly for him that he realized his payday was not only never going to materialize, but that he might also wind up on the hook for everybody’s legal fees.


#16

Reaching 100% renewable energy means reducing current energy expenditure by an awful lot–not just switching off lights, but considerably restructuring most energy-heavy human activity.

We can or could get to that 100% figure: in fact, we will in one way or another; what is unsustainable cannot be sustained. It is a good idea to do so earlier rather than later. But it’s not a service to imply that we are to do so just by adopting another source. We need to almost completely quit flying and trucking things around the globe and expecting to temperature-control buildings built with no consideration of climate or topography.

This tends to be presented as though it were a grand sacrifice. It need not: we may not unreasonably expect problems, but these will derive from folly and ignorance in the transition, not from any inadequacy in renewable sources with respect to genuine need parsimoniously managed.

But there is a learning curve. One does not just walk off one’s work as an English teacher or accountant and accomplish these things without error. Starting now lets you start small.


#17

Clean safe resilient renewable energy can and will power the world. Fossil fuel corporations and conservatives hate that and some will say anything to try to prevent it.

Arfs (anti-renewable fanatics) use the same tactics as climate-denying delayalists—cherry picking, straw people, misrepresentation, Gish gallops, outright lies, and many more. They constantly attack researchers, ecological groups, and renewable advocates using the same lies they use elsewhere—as they do here.

The scientific consensus is THE make-or-break argument on climate catastrophe; on it hinges acceptance of all the other science and thus political position on the issue. So above all, denying delayalists feel compelled to destroy people’s awareness of the consensus. Renewables are not quite as simple; there are a number of points that arfs attack most often. Germany is one—the 4th largest economy in the world successfully democratizing and renewablizing its energy while getting rid of nukes is intolerable to them, so they cherry pick, distort, misrepresent and outright lie about it; try to discredit it every way they can think of, truth be damned. As they’re doing here.

We’re switching to renewables by moving—much too slowly—to an optimized mix of hydro, utility and rooftop solar PV, onshore and offshore wind, geothermal, and others, generated over a large area, with demand adjustments and emphasizing efficiency. Arfs know that, so they’re compelled to ignore and deny it—treat each renewable as if it exists on its own, for example. They have a ridiculously bizarre ”inability” (ie, refusal) to know consistently what kind of resource hydro is, lumping it with wind and solar when it’s convenient to their argument, at other times pretending wind and solar are the only renewables (thus denying some renewables are dispatchable and can replace fossil and fissile fuels). They switch back and forth often, sometimes in the same sentence. They’re doing it here.

Arfs cherry pick relentlessly—to try to prove a case that simply isn’t true, they’re compelled to pick grossly atypical cases to try to confuse people into not knowing what we all know: renewables are getting cheaper and taking over the world. Most countries, especially petrostates like the US and Russia, are resisting the world’s move to ditch fossil fuels to different degrees; arfs use that slowth to confuse people about what’s possible for clean safe renewable energy to do when treated wisely and with determination. They falsely attribute political outcomes to technical and logistical issues.

Arfs have a grossly distorted view of subsidies (to go along with their grossly distorted view of everything else). Subsidies and externalities, which are subsidies by any other name, actually go overwhelmingly to fossil and fissile fuels; renewables have gotten a tiny share. Subsidies are more than $20 billion a year in the US, 6.5% of the global economy, and global subsidies are at least $5.3 trillion a year (IMF). In some cases, as here, they actually deny fossil fuel subsidies exist!

It’s odd because most arfs are conservatives, worshippers of the market religion. But they’re willing to ignore their beliefs to keep fossil and fissile subsidies and keep the market from making clean safe renewable energy the dominant form of energy in the US and the world (as it is).

Those are just a few of the fallacies used by arfs (including here) to try to push fossil and fissile fuels and deny that this is the age of renewables.


#18

If the suit had no legitimacy, how did the evaluation display misconduct? The study disputed his findings, and stated that his claims were over exaggerated. If his claims were true then the study could be found to commit libel, which would make the suit legitimate. If not, then the claims most likely weren’t exaggerated.


#19

I’m not anti-renewable, but I would highly encourage you to look at my sources. Please by all means tell me how my data is cherry-picked.

Honestly your opinions are quite ironic. Yes there are a lot of people who completely dismiss renewable capability and that’s wrong, but to assume that we are within reach of 100% renewable is completely ignorant of data. You can’t just use data from one day or one month to prove that a country can be renewable, because that’s not how annual power supply works. Of course when you use intermittent forms of power that are dependent on external natural phenomena such as wind speed/occurrence and solar irradiance within a given environment, youre going to have fluctuations in generation. Its just as easy for me to find a week in Germany where you had practically zero generation in wind and solar, as it is for to me find a week when they make up the most. These energy sources are not 100% reliable, and data backs that up.

While we are on the topic of Germany, “Germany is one, so they cherry pick, distort, misrepresent and outright lie about it; try to discredit it every way they can think of, truth be damned. As they’re doing here.” The reason why a lot of people bring it up, is because environmentalist (like in the article) constantly illustrate Germany as a success story. ITS NOT. Germany is absolutely what you don’t want to if you transition. Now do the failures in Germany indicate that 100% renewable is impossible. No. The problems with Germany are contained to the structure implemented by that country. Here are some problems of their system:

  • Auction-based system to reduce prices
  • Excess power within grid and inability to store excess power
  • Lack of storage infrastructure
  • European Cap and Trade
  • High Voltage transmission concerns (or rather lack of the ability to connect with other grids at the moment in same system)

This should not be considered propaganda to you, as its been discussed for years now that these problems are escalating. The good news is, we can learn from their failures and adopt a better system, but we also must recognize what makes our grid system different from others before make rapid changes.

Now seeing as I’m the only profile that talked about subsidies (even though it was a typo in which case I meant to say substitutes) I’m going to go out on a limb and think youre entire comment is really direct at me. In regards to subsidies I have always said that comparing net to net is extremely misleading. When you compare net subsidies for fossil fuels youre including far more products than just electricity. Youre include concrete production, cement production, petrochemical production, fuel production etc in addition to subsidies for electrical generation. Renewables don’t produce these other products, so it doesn’t make any sense to compare total subsidies to one another, when another group gets subsidies for making other products that the other group has nothing to do with.

Oh and btw read my first line, you should know better than to assume I’m pro-fossil fuels: “Ive made my position on energy transition on CD before, so hopefully I don’t have to repeat myself.”


#20

A hearty Thanx! The innumeracy grows tiresome. Take a look at this http://www.roadmaptonowhere.com .