Nature & Environment

Renewable Energy: United States Plans to Convert to 100 Percent by 2050

Catherine Griffin
First Posted: Jun 09, 2015 12:13 PM EDT

There may be a way to convert 100 percent of the United States to renewable energy. Scientists have developed plans for each of the 50 states to outline how each can achieve this transition by 2050.

"The main barriers are social, political and getting industries to change," said Mark Z. Jacobson, one of the researchers, in a news release. "By showing that it's technologically and economically possible, this study could reduce the barriers to a large scale transformation."

In order to find out what actions needed to be taken in each state, the scientists first analyzed the current energy demands for each state. Then, they looked at how these demands would change under business-as-usual conditions by the year 2050. They also looked at the amount and source of fuel consumed and calculated the fuel demands if all fuel usage were replaced with electricity.

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"When we did this across all 50 states, we saw a 39 percent reduction in total end-use power demand by the year 2050," said Jacobson. "About 6 percentage points of this is gained through efficiency improvements to infrastructure, but the bulk is the result of replacing current sources and uses of combustion energy with electricity."

The scientists then worked on finding out how best to power electric grids. They focused on meeting each state's new power demands using only renewable energies. In the end, they were able to create individual roadmaps for each state so that it could achieve an 80 percent transition by 2030 and a full conversion by 2050.

"When you account for health and climate costs-as well as the rising price of fossil fuels-wind, water and solar are half the cost of conventional systems," said Jacobson. "A conversion of this scale would also create jobs, stabilize fuel prices, reduce pollution-related health problems and eliminate emissions from the United States. There is very little downside to a conversion, at least based on this science."

The findings are published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

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