ORIGINAL REPORTING: What's Missing From The 100% Renewable Energy Debate
What's missing from the 100% renewable energy debate; Media coverage of a scholarly feud over fuel mix transition misses the broader implications of cross-sector decarbonization
Herman K. Trabish, Aug. 3, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Following the debate highlighted in this story, the discussion has increasingly turned in the direction described.
The news media can be distracted by stories that seem more important than they are. An example is the recent debate between Stanford professor Mark Jacobson and former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientist Christopher Clack over whether the U.S. can be powered entirely by renewable resources in 2050. The New York Times headlined it “Fisticuffs.” The Washington Post called it a “bitter and personal feud.” A 2015 paper written by a Jacobson-led team argued electrification of all U.S. energy sectors can be done by 2050 with almost 100% wind, water, and solar (WWS) resources, plus energy storage. That supply mix and demand response can keep the U.S. grid “stable at low cost,” it concluded. But Clack, now CEO of renewable energy software firm Vibrant Clean Energy, argues that 100% renewables is a “valuable hypothetical aspiration” but should not be presented as a scientific article because it overlooks “technical and economic barriers” needed to get to 100% renewables.
Jacobson responded by arguing Clack's critique was “riddled with intentional misinformation” and does not invalidate his conclusions. Media reports focused on the dispute about the resource mix and often overlooked how the energy system is evolving. But other researchers have begun to address the possibility of coupling together the many sectors of the economy that consume energy. They are thinking about new efficiencies from using electricity generated by renewables for heating and cooling and transportation. Many power system analysts agree that a 100% renewables penetration is technically feasible, but will require technology advances and new approaches like “cross-sectoral coupling,” now emerging in Europe and states where penetrations are growing fast, will electrify the transportation, industrial, and heating and cooling sectors of the economy to make the system more efficient, economical, and reliable… click here for more