Before the world can transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewables it must come up with a transition plan that has some realistic chance of working. So far Energy Matters has evaluated a few such plans, including ADEME and the Centre for Alternative Technology and most recently Lappenranta, and has concluded that none of them does. There are, however, a large number we haven’t looked at. Now a recent study evaluates 24 of these plans and reaches the same conclusions. It finds that none of them meets the criteria necessary to provide a reasonable guarantee of success, or even comes close, and questions whether a 100% renewable electricity system is in fact feasible.
This is not a typical Energy Matters post in that it does not provide any original data analysis. It simply synthesizes a study written by others. The study in question is the 2017 paper entitled Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems by Heard, Brook, Wigley and Bradshaw (hereafter Heard et al., link to the full paper kindly supplied by Ben Heard.) And the most remarkable thing about the study isn’t what it says but who wrote it. The authors are not, as one might expect, climate change skeptics, but firm believers in the threat that climate change allegedly poses and the need to do something constructive about it, as the following statement attests:
With the fate of modern society and global environments at stake, eﬀective action on climate change demands credible, evidence-based plans …..
The authors are also not nonentities. Barry Brook is a leading environmental scientist with hundreds of publications to his credit, Tom Wigley is “one of the world’s foremost experts on climate change and one of the most highly cited scientists in the discipline” and Corey Bradshaw has co-authored books with Paul Ehrlich.
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