Energy Futures

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Proposed changes in energy supply to mitigate AGW.

David MacKay: Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air

David MacKay's Sustainable Energy - Without The Hot Air discusses, with numerical estimates, the UK's various energy demands and sources of sustainable energy to supply them, and shows example plans for scenarios matching them. MacKay went on to work at the Department of Energy and Climate Change where he was involved in developing the Department's 2050 Pathways Calculator online application in which one can play with scenarios for achieving the UK's Climate Change Act commitment to 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 through simulated changes in demand and supply, and their subsequent and more ambitious Global Calculator.

MacKay has been accused of being pro-nuclear by Jim Hickey, and the 2050 Pathways calculator has been accused of being pro-renewables by Roger Andrews who claims its assumptions regarding the storage requirements of intermittent renewables are unrealistically optimistic.

MacKay on solar

Solar energy in the context of energy use, energy transportation, and energy storage David J C MacKay

Taking the United Kingdom as a case study, this paper describes current energy use and a range of sustainable energy options for the future, including solar power and other renewables. I focus on the the area involved in collecting, converting, and delivering sustainable energy, looking in particular detail at the potential role of solar power.

DECC calculators

2050 Pathways classic version

Global calculator


4th assessment report

Energy supply. In Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change R.E.H. Sims, R.N. Schock, A. Adegbululgbe, J. Fenhann, I. Konstantinaviciute, W. Moomaw, H.B. Nimir, B. Schlamadinger, J. Torres-Martínez, C. Turner, Y. Uchiyama, S.J.V. Vuori, N. Wamukonya, X. Zhang, 2007:

5th assessment report

working group 3


Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers

Limiting warming with a likely chance to less than 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels would require substantial cuts in anthropogenic GHG emissions by mid-century through large-scale changes in energy systems and possibly land use. Limiting warming to higher levels would require similar changes but less quickly. Limiting warming to lower levels would require these changes more quickly (high confidence). Scenarios that are likely to maintain warming at below 2°C are characterized by a 40 to 70% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050, relative to 2010 levels, and emissions levels near zero or below in 2100 (Figure 3.2, Table 3.1). Scenarios with higher emissions in 2050 are characterized by a greater reliance on CDR technologies beyond mid-century, and vice versa. Scenarios that are likely to maintain warming at below 2°C include more rapid improvements in energy efficiency and a tripling to nearly a quadrupling of the share of zero- and low-carbon energy supply from renewable energy, nuclear energy and fossil energy with carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) or BECCS by the year 2050 (Figure 3.2b).


Timeline: The IPCC’s shifting position on nuclear energy Suzanne Waldman; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; 8 Feb 2015

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed in 1988 as an expert panel to guide the drafting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, ratified in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The treaty’s objective is to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a safe level. The IPCC has published a series of five multi-volume climate change assessment reports, the most recent of which was completed just a few months ago, as well as a number of special reports assessing specific issues. Over time, the organization has subtly adjusted its position on the role of nuclear power as a contributor to de-carbonization goals. Here is a timeline of the IPCC’s shifting attitude toward nuclear power.

Special Report on Renewables

[Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation IPCC Working Group III; 2012

The IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) provides a comprehensive review concerning these sources and technologies, the relevant costs and benefits, and their potential role in a portfolio of mitigation options.
For the first time, an inclusive account of costs and greenhouse gas emissions across various technologies and scenarios confirms the key role of renewable sources, irrespective of any tangible climate change mitigation agreement.



(UK) Institute of Mechanical Engineers, UK 2050 Energy Plan (PDF) (2011 version)

Future Climate UK 2050 Energy Plan - The challenge continues Jul 2011

1 This report presents the ongoing work of the IMechE in support of the International Future Climate Project. Previous work was presented in our report: “UK 2050 Energy Plan” published in September 2009.
2 The primary basis for this project continues to be the objective of keeping the maximum global average temperature rise to within the guideline of 2oC. As a developed country, the UK has shown international leadership in enacting legal obligations to reduce total GHG emissions by 80% of 1990 values by 2050. The UK also has an obligation under the EU Renewable Energy Directive to achieve a target of 15% of energy from renewables by 2020. The overall renewables target for Europe is 20% by 2020.
3 The analysis work of DECC, led by Prof. David MacKay and the development of the DECC pathways software has shown clearly that to maintain a modern developed society in the UK it is necessary to build an energy supply system based on a combination of wind energy (the only renewable currently available at scale in the UK), nuclear power and gas/coal combinations abated by CCS. The major issue is that the current version of the DECC pathways model does not include pathway cost comparisons such as cost per tonne of CO2 abated as used by other models.
4 In total, other sources of energy such as biomass, solar, wave and tidal power, hydro, geothermal, waste heat recovery and energy from waste materials have an important role to play in providing a resilient energy system. Some of these may develop into major energy sources in the future.
5 As in our previous report we believe that doubling the existing electricity supply is at the limit of practical achievement of the current UK approach to infrastructure projects. This means that the demand side of the energy equation must reduce to balance with supply. This can be achieved through a combination of three activities listed in ease of implementation, behaviour change being the most difficult to achieve:
a) Efficiency improvements throughout the system
b) Time shifting of electrical demand.
c) Basic reduction in demand by energy conservation through modal shift and lifestyle change.
6 Our investigations suggest that the target reductions in emissions will not be achieved through energy efficiency measures and existing technologies alone but that new innovative technologies will be needed in all sectors of the energy supply and demand landscape.
Some of these innovations may already be recognised as important - such as marine energy - but based on past experience it is likely that other so far unrecognised technologies will need to be brought into play before 2050.
7 The cost of implementing the new infrastructure needed in the UK to deliver a new, balanced and low carbon energy economy is significant and estimated at around £500 billion between now and 2020. To obtain best cost for the new infrastructure it is important that technologies and their supporting industries reach critical mass. In evaluating the relative costs of the alternative infrastructure pathways it is critical that the benefits such as job creation are also taken into account.
8 We believe that the creation of so called Green Jobs will be a major motivator in driving forward the low carbon energy supply. The UK needs some 1million additional manufacturing jobs over the period to balance the economy. To reach this level of new job creation will require a conscious development of UK based supply chains so that the supply chain job multiplier comes into play.
9 It is recognized however that there should not be an overemphasis on reducing greenhouse gases as resource management in the broadest sense, population growth and the adequate provision of food and water are no less pressing global challenges for engineering in the coming decades.


The long term outlook for nuclear power
The annual electricity consumption increase of 1% will mean Britain's 59 GWe peak winter electricity demand increasing by 64% over the next 50 years to reach around 97 GWe by 2060.
Electrification of the transport sector may dramatically increase this further still. Faced with these energy realities the prospects for new nuclear build look very promising, but the long term outlook for nuclear power will actually depend on several major questions:
  • How far and how fast Britain decarbonises from an oil-based economy to an electricity-based economy
  • What impact the introduction of smartgrid technology and embedded generation may have on baseload electricity generation needs from large power stations
  • Whether clean coal with carbon capture and torage technology can become commercially feasible as an economic alternative to nuclear power?
  • To what extent renewable energy technologies are deployed at mass scale
  • And crucially, whether another Chernobyl meltdown nuclear accident occurs somewhere else in the world once again.
On Britain's present trajectory, a balanced low-carbon energy mix involving significant nuclear, gas, renewable and embedded generation technologies looks ideal.
If another Chernobyl happens early during a nuclear construction programme, further reactor orders would most likely be cancelled and nuclear build perhaps eventually abandoned. Accidents do of course happen. How well we design around them is what makes the difference between nuisance or catastrophe. Good engineering may well decide the outcome.


Britain’s most recent nuclear power station, Sizewell-B, began construction in 1987 and was commissioned into operation in 1995.


The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident played an important part in nuclear energy falling out of public favour but electricity privatisation was also a major cause.


Four factors have contributed to renewed interest in nuclear power; climate change fears, energy security concerns, gas price volatility and an energy crunch from nuclear and fossil-fuel power station retirements between 2015 and 2023.


The British government no longer operates its own nuclear power station fleet. Decisions on what nuclear power stations may be built in the future will be taken by commercial energy utility companies, who must convince their private sector shareholders.


Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the GB Electricity System - Executive Summary and Recommendations Energy Research Partnership; Aug 2015

The Energy Research Partnership has undertaken some modelling and analysis of the GB electricity system in the light of the carbon targets set by the Committee on Climate Change. Firstly a brief examination was made of the German and Irish markets with the hope of learning from their advanced penetration of variable renewables. Secondly a new model, BERIC, was written to simultaneously balance the need for energy, reserve, inertia and firm capacity on the system and its findings compared with simpler stacking against the load duration curve. The intention was to assess the need for flexibility on the system but some broader conclusions also emerged: A zero- or very low- carbon system with weather dependent renewables needs companion low carbon technologies to provide firm capacity
The modelling indicates that the 2030 decarbonisation targets of 50 or even 100 g/kWh cannot be hit by relying solely on weather dependent technologies like wind and PV alone. Simple merit order calculations have backed this up and demonstrated why this is the case, even with very significant storage, demand side measures or interconnection in support. There is a need to have a significant amount of zero carbon firm capacity on the system too - to supply dark, windless periods without too much reliance on unabated fossil. This firm capacity could be supplied by a number of technologies such as nuclear, biomass or fossil CCS


United States Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization The White House; Nov 2016

Human activities, particularly CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, have driven atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration levels higher than at any time in at least 800,000 years (IPCC 2013). As a result, the Earth has warmed at an alarming rate over the past century, with average temperatures increasing by more than 0.8°C (1.5°F) (NCA 2014).
The consequences are already severe. Heat waves and droughts are more common, wildfire seasons are longer and fires larger and more costly, and extreme weather is becoming more intense and unpredictable. Left unchecked, from 2000 to 2100, global average temperature increases of 2 to 5°C (3.6 to 9°F) and sea level rise of two to four feet are likely, and much larger increases are possible (USGCRP 2014, IPCC 2013). Climate change will reduce long-run economic growth and jeopardize national security.
With the adoption of the Paris Agreement in December 2015, the world took a decisive step toward avoiding the most dangerous impacts of climate change. The Paris Agreement aims to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Consistent with this objective, Parties aim to balance GHG emissions sources and sinks in the second half of this century or, in effect, achieve net-zero global GHG emissions. Countries have submitted near-term targets to address GHG emissions, called “nationally determined contributions” or NDCs, and will review and extend these targets every five years. The Paris Agreement further invited countries to develop by 2020 “mid-century, long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies.” This document answers that call, laying out a strategy to deeply decarbonize the U.S. economy by 2050.
Carbon pricing: "an effective carbon price that starts at $20 per metric ton in 2017" and "A key priority for future policymakers is a transition to efficient carbon pricing over time, either by further optimizing an increasingly ambitious state/ local/sectoral approach, or by moving to an economy-wide policy mechanism. Carbon pricing will enable cost-effective emission reductions through market forces that encourage the development and deployment of the most cost-effective low carbon solutions across the economy. In any scenario, the United States will need complementary policies as well, including programs and standards that encourage cost-effective energy efficiency improvements and infrastructure investments that support the emergence of low carbon solutions."


IEA sees global energy transition

low-carbon technologies expected to generate almost half of the world's electricity by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Nuclear's share of global electricity generation is set to remain around the current level.


BP Energy Outlook to 2035

World Energy Mix in 2035 will have more nuclear because China will build it Next Big Future; 3 Apr 2016

According to the 2016 edition of the BP Energy Outlook, launched last month, BP says world energy consumption will grow by 34% between 2014 and 2035, from 12,928 million tonnes oil equivalent (toe) to 17,307 million toe. Some 95% of this growth will come from non-OECD countries.
The global use of nuclear energy is forecast to grow by 1.9% per year from 574.0 million toe in 2014 to 859.2 million toe in 2035, which is an overall increase of 50%.
Nuclear output in the European Union and North America is expected to decline 29% and 13%, respectively, as ageing reactors are gradually retired and "the economic and political challenges of nuclear energy stunt new investments". However, output in China is forecast to increase 11.2% annually. BP said Japan's nuclear output will reach 60% of its 2010 level by 2020 as reactors restart over the next five years.
Coal's share of global primary energy production is expected to drop from 30% in 2014 to 25% in 2035.

Nuclear's share of primary energy to rise, says BP World Nuclear News; 10 Mar 2016

While global energy demand is expected to grow by 34% between 2014 and 2035, nuclear power generation will grow 50% in total over the same period, according to the latest Energy Outlook from oil and gas giant BP.

mix - plans

Steve Holliday, CEO National Grid: “The idea of large power stations for baseload is outdated”

Let’s Run the Numbers: Nuclear Energy v. Wind and Solar Mike Conley & Tim Maloney; The Energy Reality Project; 17 Apr 2015

  • It would cost over $29 Trillion to generate America’s baseload electric power with a 50 / 50 mix of wind and solar farms, on parcels of land totaling the area of Indiana. Or:
  • It would cost over $18 Trillion with Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) farms in the southwest deserts, on parcels of land totaling the area of West Virginia. Or:
  • We could do it for less than $3 Trillion with AP-1000 Light Water Reactors, on parcels totaling a few square miles. Or:
  • We could do it for $1 Trillion with liquid-fueled Molten Salt Reactors, on the same amount of land, but with no water cooling, no risk of meltdowns, and the ability to use our stockpiles of nuclear “waste” as a secondary fuel.


  • Steel
  • Concrete
  • CO2 (from material production and transport)
  • Land area
  • Deathprint (casualties from power production)
  • Carbon karma (achieving CO2 break-even)
  • Construction cost

Do The Math

100% Renewables / non-nuclear plans

Jacobson et al

This paper reviews and ranks major proposed energy-related solutions to global warming, air pollution mortality, and energy security while considering impacts of the solutions on water supply, land use, wildlife, resource availability, reliability, thermal pollution, water pollution, nuclear proliferation, and undernutrition. To place electricity and liquid fuel options on an equal footing, twelve combinations of energy sources and vehicle type were considered. The overall rankings of the combinations (from highest to lowest) were (1) wind-powered battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), (2) wind-powered hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, (3) concentrated-solar-powered-BEVs, (4) geothermal-powered-BEVs, (5) tidal-powered-BEVs, (6) solar-photovoltaic-powered-BEVs, (7) wave-powered-BEVs, (8) hydroelectric-powered-BEVs, (9-tie) nuclear-powered-BEVs, (9-tie) coal-with-carbon-capture-powered-BEVs, (11) corn-E85 vehicles, and (12) cellulosic-E85 vehicles. The relative ranking of each electricity option for powering vehicles also applies to the electricity source providing general electricity. Because sufficient clean natural resources (e.g., wind, sunlight, hot water, ocean energy, etc.) exist to power the world for the foreseeable future, the results suggest that the diversion to less-efficient (nuclear, coal with carbon capture) or non-efficient (corn- and cellulosic E85) options represents an opportunity cost that will delay solutions to global warming and air pollution mortality. The sound implementation of the recommended options requires identifying good locations of energy resources, updating the transmission system, and mass-producing the clean energy and vehicle technologies, thus cooperation at multiple levels of government and industry.
These build on Jacobson's 2009 paper.
  • Low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of intermittent wind, water, and solar for all purposes abstractpreprint Mark Z. Jacobson, Mark A. Delucchi, Mary A. Cameron, and Bethany A. Frew; Nov 2015
This study addresses the greatest concern facing the large-scale integration of wind, water, and solar (WWS) into a power grid: the high cost of avoiding load loss caused by WWS variability and uncertainty. It uses a new grid integration model and finds low-cost, no-load-loss, nonunique solutions to this problem on electrification of all US energy sectors (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry) while accounting for wind and solar time series data from a 3D global weather model that simulates extreme events and competition among wind turbines for available kinetic energy. Solutions are obtained by prioritizing storage for heat (in soil and water); cold (in ice and water); and electricity (in phase-change materials, pumped hydro, hydropower, and hydrogen), and using demand response. No natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or stationary batteries are needed. The resulting 2050–2055 US electricity social cost for a full system is much less than for fossil fuels. These results hold for many conditions, suggesting that low-cost, reliable 100% WWS systems should work many places worldwide.
Computer simulations by Professor Mark Z. Jacobson have shown that offshore wind farms with thousands of wind turbines could have sapped the power of three real-life hurricanes, significantly decreasing their winds and accompanying storm surge, and possibly preventing billions of dollars in damages.
links to paper, additional resources, video etc, and to other of Jacobson's works

The Solutions Project

Organisation promoting Jacobson's work

Commentary & criticisms of Jacobson et el

Analysis and critique of the 100% WWS Plan advanced by The Solutions Project Timothy Maloney; (Blog)

I've gone through the 100% WWS Plan at some length, and here's my critique of it. Spoiler alert: The amount of land that it needs is vast; the amounts of money and material are enormous beyond your wildest dreams; and it won't work.

Here's what it would take for the US to run on 100% renewable energy David Roberts; Vox; 2015

Blair King aka "A Chemist in Langley" has written several blog posts criticising the work of Jacobson (with and without Delucchi and others):

looks at Jacobson et al's dismissal of nuclear power, summarising that it is quite clear that the authors did not want to include nuclear power in the mix but that "instead of saying outright that they are excluding nuclear power to provide for an interesting research perspective they do so in a manner that smears nuclear power".
questions adequacy of supplies of the quantities of rare earth elements and lithium required in Jacobson et al's plans.
examines the feasibility of Jacobson et al's plans for storing the energy produced by intermittent renewables to cover gaps in availability.
examines Jacobson's 100% WWS scenario for Canada

Jani-Petri Martikainen ("a physicist with a keen interest on science and environmental and energy issues") PassiiviIdentiteetti blog:

The Environmentalist Case Against 100% Renewable Energy Plans Julian Spector; CityLab; 20 Jul 2015

Also reprinted by MotherJones as Why We Need Nuclear Power

Stanford Prof. Deletes Data From Study Showing Green Energy Will Kill Jobs Michael Bastach; Daily Caller; 13 Jan 2016

Claims that Jacobson deleted data showing net long-term job losses associated with his 100% WWS plans from a spreadsheet published on his website following criticism by a blogger, and subsequently admitted deleting the data but claimed it was "test" numbers.

Comments on Jacobson et al.'s proposal for a wind, water, and solar energy future for New York State Nathaniel Gilbraith & others, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University; 2 May 2013 [paywalled]

Abstract: Jacobson et al. (2013) recently published a paper arguing the feasibility of meeting all of the energy demands in New York State with wind, solar, and water resources. In this forum we suggest that the authors do not present sufficient analysis to demonstrate the technical, economic, and social feasibility of their proposed strategy.

A critical review of global decarbonization scenarios: what do they tell us about feasibility? Peter J. Loftus1 et al, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, Volume 6, Issue 1, pages 93–112; Jan/Feb 2015 [paywalled]

"Dozens of scenarios are published each year outlining paths to a low carbon global energy system. To provide insight into the relative feasibility of these global decarbonization scenarios, we examine 17 scenarios constructed using a diverse range of techniques and introduce a set of empirical benchmarks that can be applied to compare and assess the pace of energy system transformation entailed by each scenario. In particular, we quantify the implied rate of change in energy and carbon intensity and low-carbon technology deployment rates for each scenario and benchmark each against historical experience and industry projections, where available. In addition, we examine how each study addresses the key technical, economic, and societal factors that may constrain the pace of low-carbon energy transformation. We find that all of the scenarios envision historically unprecedented improvements in energy intensity, while normalized low-carbon capacity deployment rates are broadly consistent with historical experience. Three scenarios that constrain the available portfolio of low-carbon options by excluding some technologies (nuclear and carbon capture and storage) a priori are outliers, requiring much faster low-carbon capacity deployment and energy intensity improvements. Finally, all of the studies present comparatively little detail on strategies to decarbonize the industrial and transportation sectors, and most give superficial treatment to relevant constraints on energy system transformations. To be reliable guides for policymaking, scenarios such as these need to be supplemented by more detailed analyses realistically addressing the key constraints on energy system transformation."

Mark Z. Jacobson is proud that his models disagree with IPCC (and almost everyone else)

He then uses his climate model to determine how a mixture of wind, water and solar energy collectors can, in total, produce 40% less energy each hour than the conservatively estimated power demand in 2050 published by the Energy Information Agency. His explanation for producing less energy than the EIA expects society will need is that electrical machinery is that much more efficient than combustion machinery.
The reason for emphasizing that Dr. Jacobson describes his model as a climate model is that it is not an energy production system model, not an economic model, and not a production scheduling model. The characteristics of power system components like generators, transformers, HVDC conversion stations, transmission lines, transmission towers, network operating centers, and numerous less visible but no less important components are treated in generalized, almost cartoon form.
His cost and schedule estimates are substantially less credible than hand waving; they amount to something like the following: “I have no earthly idea what my ideas are going to cost and how they are going to be planned, scheduled and implemented, but trust me, I know this will be cheaper. All we need to do for comparison is to include all of the invisible gains society will receive when we stop burning fossil fuels and biomass.”

David MacKay's reply to a claim of Jacobson's

Is it feasable that “The US could replace all its cars and trucks with electric cars powered by wind turbines taking up less than 3 square kilometres - in theory, at least"?
This "3 square kilometres" assertion is hilarious. If only they put turbines on thinner poles, perhaps held up by guy wires, the "area" taken by the turbines could be even smaller. (In case anyone has not understood Jacobson's joke, the joke is that he's talking about the area of the bases of the wind turbines. Did he write the article on April 1st?)

STEWART BRAND VS. MARK Z. JACOBSON: DOES THE WORLD NEED NUCLEAR ENERGY? - A REBUTTAL TO JACOBSON Dr. Patrick L. Walden; TRIUMF (Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science)

Critique of the 100 Percent Renewable Energy for New York Plan Edward Dodge; The Energy Collective; 17 Nov 2013

I feel compelled to respond to a paper that is widely referenced by anti-hydrofracking activists as proof that New York can move beyond fossil fuels and power 100% of its energy needs with renewables. The WWS (Wind, Water and Solar) Plan for New York (Jacobson et al., 2013) is part of a series of papers authored chiefly by Prof Mark Jacobson from Stanford University that can be found here. The New York paper includes contributions from Cornell University professors Bob Howarth and Tony Ingraffea. Jacobson attempts to makes the case that society can acquire all of the energy it needs for all purposes in a relatively short period of time from a combination of solar, wind, hydro and geothermal. Jacobson is opposed to nuclear power and also opposes all hydrocarbon fuels whether bio or fossil based because of the contention that all CO2 emissions must be eliminated in order to prevent a catastrophic melting of the arctic sea ice. The plan calls for an 80% conversion to WWS by 2030 and 100% conversion by 2050. Unfortunately the plans are deeply flawed from a practical and technical perspective.
CSP in New York!

A critique of Jacobson and Delucchi's proposals for a world renewable energy supply Ted Trainer; Energy Policy - Volume 44; May 2012 [paywalled]

Jacobson and Delucchi have recently put forward a detailed case in support of the claim that renewable energy sources can meet total world energy demand. The following argument is that this proposal is unsatisfactory, primarily because it does not deal effectively with the problems set by the variability of renewable energy sources, and also because its analysis of investment costs is inadequate.
The claims of Jacobson and Delucchi are the possibility of a world energy supply from renewable sources are critically examined. It is concluded that these claims are not justified. The discussion reinforces the case that renewable sources cannot sustain. energy-intensive societies.

Breyer / Lappeenranta University of Technology

Simulation brings global 100% renewable electricity system alive for the first time Lappeenranta University of Technology; 3 Nov 2016

A new model developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) shows how an electricity system mainly based on solar and wind works in all regions of the world. It shows the functioning of an electricity system that fulfils the targets set by the Paris agreement by using only renewable energy sources.
The global Internet of Energy Model visualizes a 100 percent renewable energy system (100%RE) for the electricity sector for 2030. It can do this for the entire world which, in the model, has been structured into 145 regions, which are all visualised, and aggregated to 9 major world regions.
"With the simulation, anyone can explore what a renewable electricity system would look like. This is the first time scientists have been able to do this on a global scale." says Christian Breyer, LUT Solar Economy Professor and a leading scientist behind the model.
The model is designed to find the most economical solution for a renewable electricity system. The model shows how the supply of electricity can be organised to cover the electricity demand for all hours of the year. This means that best mix of renewable energy generation, storage and transmission components can be found to cover the electricity demand, leading to total electricity cost roughly between 55 and 70 euros per megawatt-hour for all 9 major regions in the world.
But the story does not end here. The researchers have ambitious goals to develop the model further. Future upgrades will go from looking only at the electricity sector to showing the full energy sector, including heat and mobility sectors. The model will also describe how to transition from the current energy system towards a fully sustainable one.

Global energy model solely reliant on renewables realistically simulated Jack Loughran; IET Engineering & Technology; 10 Nov 2016

An electricity grid system 100 per cent based on renewable energy production that works in all regions of the world has been successfully simulated using a complex computer model. Created by a team at the Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, it demonstrates how an electricity system that fulfils the targets set by the Paris Agreement by using only renewable energy sources could work.
This means that best mix of renewable energy generation, storage and transmission components can be found to cover the electricity demand, leading to total electricity cost roughly between 55 and 70 euros per megawatt-hour for all nine major regions in the world.

But the story does not end here. The researchers have ambitious goals to develop the model further. Future upgrades will go from looking only at the electricity sector to showing the full energy sector, including heat and mobility sectors.


slideshow presentation

Zero Carbon Britain (CAT)

The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)'s Zero Carbon Britain.

French Environment and Energy Agency (ADEME)

French Environment and Energy Agency (ADEME)'s Vers un mix eléctrique 100% renouvelable en 2050 (and responses "ADEME was wise in not publishing its scenario" by Hubert Flocard, and "Analysis and comments on the report: towards a mix 100% renewables in 2050" - both in French).

Commentary & criticism of ZCB, ADEME etc

Critical analysis of ADEME and CAT/ZCB scenarios with particular reference to energy storage in: Renewable Energy Storage and Power-To-Methane Roger Andrews; Energy Matters blog; 25 Jun 2015

The Renewables Future – A Summary of Findings Roger Andrews; 13 Aug 2015

Elliston, Diesdendorf and MacGill: Australia

Simulations of scenarios with 100% renewable electricity in the Australian National Electricity Market Ben Elliston, Mark Diesendorf, Iain MacGill

Dispelling the nuclear 'baseload' myth: nothing renewables can't do better! Mark Diesendorf; The Ecologist; 10 Mar 2016

The main claim used to justify nuclear is that it's the only low carbon power source that can supply 'reliable, baseload electricity', writes Mark Diesendorf - unlike wind and solar. But not only can renewables supply baseload power, they can do something far more valuable: supply power flexibly according to demand. Now nuclear power really is redundant.

Commentary & criticism of Elliston, Diesdendorf and MacGill

Critique of the proposal for 100% renewable energy electricity supply in Australia Dr Ted Trainer; Brave New Climate blog; 2 Jun 2014

Elliston and Riesz

Future high renewable electricity scenarios – Insights from mapping the diversity of near least cost portfolios B. Elliston, J. Riesz

This paper reports on future electricity generation scenarios modelled using NEMO, a model that applies a genetic algorithm to optimise a mix of simulated generators to meet hourly demand profiles, to the required reliability standard, at lowest overall industry cost. The modelling examined the least and near least cost technology portfolios for a scenario that limited emissions to approximately one quarter of those from the Australian National Electricity Market (NEM) at present. It was found that all the near least cost solutions (within 15% of the least cost solution) involved wind capacity in the range of 31-51 GW, with 98.8% of these near least cost portfolios having at least 35 GW of wind installed. In contrast, the near least cost solutions consistently involved much lower quantities of PV, with 90% of the near least cost portfolios having less than 4.9 GW of installed PV capacity. This suggests that policies to promote high levels of wind deployment and grid integration are likely to be important for achieving low cost, low emissions outcomes, while policies to promote significant PV deployment may be less warranted in the absence of cost effective supporting technologies, such as battery storage or significant demand side participation.
3/4 of peer-rev'd refs are author's own. Other is BZE which proposes Australia abandon aviation by 2020. - Oscar Archer ‏@ActinideAge

Greenpeace / Brainpool

Wind power with 'windgas' is cheaper and greener than Hinkley Point C nuclear plant Ecologist


  • Wind power as an alternative to nuclear power from Hinkley Point C: At a lower cost / Short analysis an behalf of Greenpeace Energy eG, January 2016 (German only)
  • Wind power as an alternative to nuclear power from Hinkley Point C: A cost comparison / Short analysis an behalf of Greenpeace Energy eG, January 2016 (English)
  • Effects of Hinkley Point C on the german electricity market / Study on behalf of Greenpeace Energy eG, July 2015 (German only)
  • Level of public funding of Hinkley Point C / Short analysis an behalf of Greenpeace Energy eG, June 2015 (German only)


What happens when the wind doesn’t blow? Southern Alliance for Clean Energy blog


energy [r]evolution 2012

Technological opportunities Changes to the power system by 2050 will create huge business opportunities for the information, communication and technology (ICT) sector. A smart grid has power supplied from a diverse range of sources and places and it relies on the gathering and analysis of a lot of data. Smart grids require software, hardware and data networks capable of delivering data quickly, and of responding to the information that they contain. Several important ICT players are racing to smarten up energy grids across the globe and hundreds of companies could be involved with smart grids.
There are numerous IT companies offering products and services to manage and monitor energy. These include IBM, Fujitsu, Google, Microsoft and Cisco. These and other giants of the telecommunications and technology sector have the power to make the grid smarter, and to move us faster towards a clean energy future. Greenpeace has initiated the ‘Cool IT’ campaign to put pressure on the IT sector to make such technologies a reality.

energy [r]evolution 2015

5th Edition
  • Project manager and lead author Dr. Sven Teske, Greenpeace International
  • Global Wind Energy Council steve sawyer
  • SolarPowerEurope oliver schäfer
  • research & co-authors
  • Overall Modelling: dlr, institute of engineering thermodynamics, systems analysis and technology assessment, stuttgart, germany: dr. thomas Pregger, dr. sonja simon, dr. tobias naegler

2030 Energy Scenarios report

In early 2015 we were commissioned by Greenpeace UK to design and test an ambitious, low carbon 2030 energy scenario using the 'Smart Household Energy Demand (SHED) model. It shows that it is possible for the UK's power system to be nearly 90% renewably delivered by 2030, while electrifying 25% of all heating demand - and putting 12.7 million electric cars on the road. But only if we can cut demand for space heating by 57% in the next 15 years - a major challenge.

4 ways the UK can get almost all its power from renewables – without Hinkley

Energy Revolution 2015

Skeptical science

Can renewables provide baseload power? based on


Planet on the Ballot Paul Krugman; NY Times; 29 Feb 2016

Paul Krugman Needs an Energy Reality Check Robert Bryce; National Review; 3 Mar 2016


Two Energy Futures

The stuff problem Danny Chivers; New Internationalist blog;


Scott Cato / South West England

Power To Transform index page

Summary leaflet – easy to read pages

Summary leaflet – full spread

A report commissioned by Molly Scott Cato MEP reveals:
  • The region has the renewable energy resources to meet more than 100% of its total energy needs, including replacement of liquid fuels.
  • A move to a renewable energy economy has the potential to create 122,000 jobs, an increase in employment of 4.5% across the region.
  • One third of energy needs can be met from marine and inshore estuarine tidal energy, with the remaining two thirds from onshore renewables.
  • The cost of delivering 100% renewable energy to the region would be around £60 billion. The equivalent cost of delivering 100% of energy needs from nuclear would be around £83 billion.
  • Renewables offer opportunities for ushering in a Smart Grid Energy Storage system that would balance the intermittency of some renewable technologies
  • Local Smart Grids developed in conjunction with renewable energy resources would reduce the need for large scale pylons and transmission systems. In the South West we can demonstrate just how much better a society powered by clean, green energy would really be. As is so often the case, the right environmental choice will also ensure greater economic justice and help us build flourishing local economies. Locally produced renewable energy will bring a huge economic boost and new jobs and benefit in particular some of our more deprived rural economies. The South West of England has some of the world’s best renewable energy resources, in great abundance and great variety. All that holds us back from a renewable energy revolution and energy security is a failure of political will. Our politicians must progress beyond the fossil-fuel past into the sunny uplands of our shared renewable future.

The power to transform the South West: How to meet the region’s energy needs through renewable energy generation

Researched and written by The Resilience Centre
Commissioned by Molly Scott Cato MEP
Funded by the Green/EFA group in the European Parliament
  1. The South West region has the renewable energy resources to meet more than 100% of its total energy needs, including replacement of liquid fuels and electrifying railways.
  2. We could generate 67,448,817 MWhrs/year of renewable energy as 42,690,806 MWehrs of electrical energy and 24,758,010 MWth of thermal energy (67,449 GWhrs/year) from 31,804 MW of Generating Capacity (thermal & electricity).
  3. [the report omits a point 3]
  4. 34% of energy needs can be met from marine and inshore estuarine tidal energy, and 66% from onshore renewables.
  5. To enable the devenopment of renewable energy generation we would suggest installing 12,051 MWe capacity of smart grid energy storage to balance intermittency of renewables and allow demand led local smart grids to be developed.
  6. This energy storage would provide 19,281,000 MWhrs/year or 29% of energy as demand required.
  7. An estimated 122,000 full time equivalent jobs could be created if we deliver and maintain this renewable energy generation regionally, an increase in employment of 4.5% for the region.
  8. We estimate that the capital cost of delivering such a programme would be £59,484m, including £8,784m on Smart Grid energy storage. This is 72% of equivalent nuclear costs for delivering the same amount of energy.
  9. The equivalent cost of delivering 100% of the South West energy needs from nuclear is £82,510m or 138% of the equivalent cost of delivering with renewable energy.
  10. Renewables costs provide for a local smart grid with energy storage and flexibility to meet spikes and drops in demand and reduce need for large scale pylons and transmission systems.
  11. Renewables costs include £500m/year investment in local/regional grid reinforcement and upgrade, equivalent to an increased annual expenditure on grid upgrade and management of 64% each year.
  12. The potential annual value added for delivering the constrained renewable energy resources of the South West would be £4,286m/year, equivalent to an annual growth rate of 4.0% year on year and equivalent to 48% of the total value of the tourism industry and 87% of the aerospace and defence industry in the South West


Nuclear Energy vs. Wind and Solar Mike Conley & Tim Maloney; 17 Apr 2015

Here's how much of the US would need to be covered in wind turbines to power the nation Leanna Garfield ; Business Insider UK; 26 Sep 2016

Though the US invested $14.5 billion in wind-power project installations last year, wind farms still provide less than 5% of the nation's energy, according to the American Wind Energy Association. AWEA's manager of industry data analysis, John Hensley, did the following math: 4.082 billion megawatt-hours (the average annual US electricity consumption) divided by 7,008 megawatt-hours of annual wind energy production per wind turbine equals approximately 583,000 onshore turbines. In terms of land use, those 583,000 turbines would take up about the total land mass of Rhode Island, Hensley says, because wind projects typically require 0.74 acres of land per megawatt produced.
Hensley considered that the average wind turbine has an output of 2 megawatts of power and is 40% efficient.
For comparison, solar projects operate at an average of 20% efficiency
When you multiply a wind turbine's average potential (2 megawatts) by its 40% annual energy efficiency, 365 days a year, you get Hensley's estimate of the megawatt-hours of energy production each turbine can produce (7,008).

David Roberts

The Eastern US could get a third of its power from renewables within 10 years. Theoretically. David Roberts; Vox; 31 Aug 2016

Model of Eastern Interconnect can accommodate 30 percent "variable generation" (VG)

David Roberts on the latest NREL 30% wind and solar study Russ Finley; Biodiversivist; 5 Sep 2016

consider this article to be a comment under David's article: The Eastern US could get a third of its power from renewables within 10years. Theoretically, which has no comment field.


How The Grid Works, & Why Renewables Can Dominate Christopher Arcus; CleanTechnica blog; 16 Dec 2015

Claims that high levels - though not not 100% - of renewables penetration could be achieved without significant storage.

The Environmentalist Case Against 100% Renewable Energy Plans JULIAN SPECTOR @JulianSpector; Citylab; 20 Jul 2015 (republished on Mother Jones as Why We Need Nuclear Power)

Leap Manifesto (Canadian)

Energy proposals based on Jacobson

Wind + storage for peak-smoothing

The Cost of Dispatchable Wind Power Euan Mearns; Energy Matters; 15 Jun 2015

I calculate how much storage would be required to deliver the diurnal peaks in demand from dispatchable wind – pumped – storage – hydro. I’ve taken this approach for a number of reasons:
  • The daily demand peaks fetch the highest prices and supplying these peaks follows the traditional finance model for pumped storage hydro – buying low and selling high
  • Servicing the peaks as opposed to base load minimises the amount of storage required (the demand peaks represent 18% of total demand in March 2015)
  • Supplying the demand peaks in the UK from wind + storage will allow about 20 GW of conventional generation to be retired
  • Allowing the fossil fuel generators to supply base load allows them to run at optimum efficiency and to minimise their CO2 emissions per unit of electricity produced. By way of contingency it leaves the door open for an all-nuclear base load supply.

Critique of 100% renewables plans generally

Energiewende and Caliwende – the Heavy Cost of Ideology Seeker Blog; 17 Jan 2016

A Brave New World - deep decarbonisation of energy grids J.P.Morgan; 19 Oct 2015

we focus on Germany and its Energiewende plan (deep de-carbonization of the electricity grid in which 80% of demand is met by renewable energy), and on a California version we refer to as Caliwende. We compare these systems to the current electricity mix, and to a balanced system with a mix of renewable and nuclear energy
Our primary conclusions:
  • A critical part of any analysis of high-renewable systems is the cost of backup thermal power and/or storage needed to meet demand during periods of low renewable generation. These costs are substantial; as a result, levelized costs of wind and solar are not the right tools to use in assessing the total cost of a high-renewable system
  • Emissions. High-renewable grids reduce CO2 emissions by 65%-70% in Germany and 55%-60% in California vs. the current grid. Reason: backup thermal capacity is idle for much of the year
  • Costs. High-renewable grid costs per MWh are 1.9x the current system in Germany, and 1.5x in California. Costs fall to 1.6x in Germany and 1.2x in California assuming long-run “learning curve” declines in wind, solar and storage costs, higher nuclear plant costs and higher natural gas fuel costs
  • Storage. The cost of time-shifting surplus renewable generation via storage has fallen, but its cost, intermittent utilization and energy loss result in higher per MWh system costs when it is added
  • Nuclear. Balanced systems with nuclear power have lower estimated costs and CO2 emissions than high-renewable systems. However, there’s enormous uncertainty regarding the actual cost of nuclear power in the US and Europe, rendering balanced system assessments less reliable. Nuclear power is growing in Asia where plant costs are 20%-30% lower, but political, historical, economic, regulatory and cultural issues prevent these observations from being easily applied outside of Asia
  • Location and comparability. Germany and California rank in the top 70th and 90th percentiles with respect to their potential wind and solar energy (see Appendix I). However, actual wind and solar energy productivity is higher in California (i.e., higher capacity factors), which is the primary reason that Energiewende is more expensive per MWh than Caliwende. Regions without high quality wind and solar irradiation may find that grids dominated by renewable energy are more costly
  • What-ifs. National/cross-border grid expansion, storing electricity in electric car batteries, demand management and renewable energy overbuilding are often mentioned as ways of reducing the cost of high-renewable systems. However, each relies to some extent on conjecture, insufficient empirical support and/or incomplete assessments of related costs

The Climate Challenge: Can Renewables Really do it Alone? Josh Freed, Matt Bennett, Matt Goldberg; Third Way think-tank; 16 Dec 2015

tl;dr: no

Can You Make a Wind Turbine Without Fossil Fuels? Robert Wilson; Carbon Counter; 11 Jun 2015

fossil fuel requirements and CO2 emissions of steel & concrete production - relevant to nuclear etc also


See also Nuclear advocacy

Why James Hansen might be underestimating nuclear energy’s growth potential and why Joe Romm is wrong

A Roadmap for U.S. Nuclear Energy Innovation

Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change James Hansen, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira and Tom Wigley

Decarbonising UK Power Generation – The Nuclear Option Energy Matters; 29 Apr 2016

Guest Post by Andy Dawson who is an energy sector systems consultant and former nuclear engineer.
How to decarbonise UK Power generation is a topic of heated debate, with renewables enthusiasts often keen to argue that there are a range of obstacles to the use of nuclear generation to meet more than a small proportion of total demand. Reasons cited are availability of space/sites, grid integration and the challenges of meeting variable demand. So, is an all-nuclear UK grid (with the small sleight of hand of pumped storage hydro in support) potentially viable? I’ll set out an argument that it is indeed so, and more so that it comfortably exceeds any current carbon intensity targets. The basic concepts arose from discussion on the website of the “Guardian” newspaper about the relative strength of fit between pumped storage on one hand, and nuclear or renewables on the other. That led me to do some basic numbers on how much pumped storage hydro (hereafter PSH) you’d need to meet UK daily demand variations on the assumption of a steadily generating nuclear fleet underpinning it. The first pass surprised me on how relatively close we were in terms of total PSH capacity (and in how few nuclear units basic demand could be supplied).

Potential for Worldwide Displacement of Fossil-Fuel Electricity by Nuclear Energy in Three Decades Based on Extrapolation of Regional Deployment Data Staffan A. Qvist, Barry W. Brook; PLOS one; 13 May 2015

The World Really Could Go Nuclear David Biello; Scientific American; 14 Sep 2015

In just two decades Sweden went from burning oil for generating electricity to fissioning uranium. And if the world as a whole were to follow that example, all fossil fuel–fired power plants could be replaced with nuclear facilities in a little over 30 years. That's the conclusion of a new nuclear grand plan published May 13 in PLoS One. Such a switch would drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nearly achieving much-ballyhooed global goals to combat climate change. Even swelling electricity demands, concentrated in developing nations, could be met. All that's missing is the wealth, will and wherewithal to build hundreds of fission-based reactors, largely due to concerns about safety and cost. "If we are serious about tackling emissions and climate change, no climate-neutral source should be ignored," argues Staffan Qvist, a physicist at Uppsala University, who led the effort to develop this nuclear plan. "The mantra 'nuclear can't be done quickly enough to tackle climate change' is one of the most pervasive in the debate today and mostly just taken as true, while the data prove the exact opposite."


Why nuclear power will never supply the world's energy needs

Derek Abbott, Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Adelaide in Australia, has concluded that nuclear power cannot be globally scaled to supply the world’s energy needs for numerous reasons