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80 Percent Renewable Energy Achievable By 2050, Expert Study Shows

Solar rooftop

According to a new study from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), accessing renewable energy sources with current commercially available technologies could supply as much as 80 percent of total electricity generation in 2050.

As some of the most credible experts on advanced energy, this is a huge finding from the NREL. The detailed analysis makes it clear that renewable energy is now readily accessible and can provide a large chunk of the energy needed to run a prosperous and growing economy. The only question is whether or not the United States is ready and willing to take advantage of the opportunity and start moving in this direction. Some other heavily industrialized nations, such as Germany, already are.

The crazy part of this research is that nothing is needed other than the technology we already have available, to make such a huge shift in US energy consumption. The scientific community doesn’t have to make huge breakthroughs to reach this level of renewable energy use, as everything we need already exists. Of course, there are other technologies and breakthroughs that would be nice to have to get us to 100% renewable use quickly, but the fact that we can get to 80 percent right now says a lot about what could happen in the next decades.

ThinkProgress makes a great point about how we need to acknowledge this reality, but actually implement the changes into the system. In a similar fashion to the past development of railroads, highways, rural electrification, and the Internet, if we keep the potential payoff and benefits in mind rather than the initial costs and hard work, things will move much more efficiently in the right direction. Incentives to businesses and consumers will be an important way to get everyone on board and to increase productivity.

The research found that wind and solar power are the two biggest resources that have shown steady increase and will continue to do so. Nuclear power will remain stable but probably won’t see much growth in terms of percentage used, and a reliance on fossil fuels may finally come to an end.

It all boils down to the fact that a cleaner environment may not be as technologically challenging as we often think, and it has more to do with creativity, innovation, and putting current methods and technologies to proper use. Do you think we can do it?

Via Climate Progress
Image CC licensed by Tim Fuller


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  • Energy Manifesto

    Much as I have great respect for NREL I totally disagree with the findings of this study. I have provided a detailed analysis in a recent blog posting. http://debarel.com/blog1/?p=158. This NREL study breeds complacency at a time when we need to redirect funding and support to measures and technologies that will make renewables a reliable source of electricity. We are NOT on the right track and the sooner we figure that out the better.

    Your reference to the success story of Germany also needs a second look. Check out my blog posting on the financial impacts of renewables. http://debarel.com/blog1/?p=216. Germany’s “success” story is totally dependent upon the existence of all the old thermal generation assets – many of which are destined to be shut down because they cannot be run profitably. It is ironic that the newest and most efficient gas-fired plants in the world will be closed while Germany builds new coal-fired plants. A very comprehensive and objective article on the state of the German Energiewende can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/renewable-power-germany-s-energy-gamble-1.12755. One quote worth noting “In 2011, more than 200,000 blackouts exceeding three minutes were
    reported — and experts warn of a growing risk of major power failures”.

    The goal of transitioning to a sustainable energy environment is achievable but NOT using existing technologies. We need to invest many billions of dollars in storage technology rather than continuing rampant subsidization of PV Solar and Wind. For more details see my Sustainable Energy Manifesto at http://debarel.com/blog1/?p=152