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Study Finds World Can Switch to 100% Renewable Energy and Earn Back Its Investment in Just 6 Years

There is no question that globally we are facing both an energy crisis and a climate crisis. Fuel prices and global temperatures are rising at an alarming rate. According to some researchers at Stanford University, we can actually solve both of these problems with the same solution: Switching fully over to renewable energy. Though the upfront costs are big, the savings are bigger. They say that if every country switched to 100% renewable energy, globally we would make the money back from start-up costs in just six years.

New Research Shows Switching To Renewable Energy More Feasible Than We Thought

For over 100 years, the world has run on oil and gas. The problem with this is that those are non-renewable energy sources. Once they are gone, they are gone forever – and we are running out. They are also inefficient and terrible for the environment, contributing tons of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere and directly amplifying the world climate crisis. We are paying huge amounts of money every day to power our cars, homes, businesses, and more with a form of energy that is polluting our air and contributing to the 7 million air pollution-related deaths per year. We need to change, and according to these Stanford researchers, changing is not only feasible, it is economically much better. (1)

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Professor Mark Jacobson teaches civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. He is also the director of the school’s Atmosphere/Energy program and was the leader of this new study. Jacobson explains that the combustion systems that most countries use actually use a lot of energy just to function and cost them a lot of money. If each country switched to 100% renewable energy, actual energy usage would drop 56% immediately. This is because clean energy systems are frankly just far more efficient. The best part is, it isn’t super complicated.

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“We do not need miracle technologies to solve these problems. By electrifying all energy sectors; producing electricity from clean, renewable sources; creating heat, cold, and hydrogen from such electricity; storing electricity, heat, cold and the hydrogen; expanding transmission; and shifting the time of some electricity use, we can create safe, cheap, and reliable energy everywhere.” he explained. (2)

The Good News Keeps Going

The cost per unit of energy for renewable systems is on average 12% lower than that of oil and gas. This adds up to a 63% lower annual energy cost. When you then factor in all of the health benefits of using this kind of energy – both human health and the health of our planet – you really have to wonder why we haven’t already made the switch. Social costs of switching to renewable, aka the health and climate costs, would decrease by 92%.

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Which Renewable Energies Did They Consider In The Study?

The team included just the following renewable energy technologies in their study:

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  • On- and off-shore wind electricity
  • Rooftop solar panels and solar panel power plants
  • Concentrated solar power
  • Solar heat
  • Geothermal electricity and heat
  • Hydroelectricity
  • Small amounts of tidal and wave electricity

For electricity storage, batteries were the most important technology that they considered. They also, however, included pumped hydroelectric storage, existing hydroelectric dam storage, and concentrated solar power electricity storage. The researchers found that batteries need to have just a four-hour storage capacity to function well. They also found that some seasonal heat storage was useful. 

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Cost Savings

The overall upfront cost of switching every single country in the world to renewable energy is massive: $62 trillion, to be precise. The cost savings, however, would be an immediate $11 trillion per year. The researchers estimate that it would take just 6 years to recoup the initial switching costs.

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On top of saving people huge amounts of money each year to power their homes, cars, and businesses, the switch to renewable energy would also create a lot of jobs. They estimate it would create 28 million long-term, full-time jobs globally. It would also only require about 0.53% of the world’s land to produce. Most of that land is taken up by empty spaces between turbines which can actually be used for other purposes.

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“It’s important to note that we did not include technologies that did not address air pollution, global warming and energy security together. It did not include bioenergy, natural gas, fossil fuels or bioenergy with carbon dioxide capture, direct air capture of carbon dioxide, blue hydrogen or nuclear power. We concluded that these technologies are not needed and provide less benefit than those we included,” said Jacobson. “Finally, our findings contend that a transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy in each country should occur ideally by 2035, and no later than 2050, with an 80 percent transition by 2030.”

Sources

  1. Low-cost solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy insecurity for 145 countries.” RSC. Mark Z. Jacobson, et al.
  2. No miracle tech needed: How to switch to renewables now and lower costs doing it.” The Hill. Mark Z. Jacobson. June 28, 2022.
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
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