70%, 80%, 99.9%, 100% Renewables — Study Central

Solar panel, wind turbine & globe via Shutterstock

A number of research teams have tackled the whole “how much could (or should) renewable energy power our grid?” question. Of course, the regions studied, goals of the studies, technology assumptions, and other parameters have varied, so the studies come to various conclusions. Here are some of the most notable studies I’ve seen:

Country-, region-, city-, county-, and mode-specific studies can also be found here.

Of course, there are already countries getting high penetration levels of wind and solar power:

“Comparing finite and renewable planetary energy reserves (Terawatt‐years). Total recoverable reserves are shown for the finite resources. Yearly potential is shown for the renewables.”

Finite energy reserves and annual renewable planetary energy reserves (Terawatt‐years). In other words, total known and recoverable reserves are shown for the finite resources (coal, uranium, petroleum, and natural gas), while yearly potential is shown for the renewables.

And for some studies on the theoretical potential of renewable energy, you can also check out:

Top image via Shutterstock

  • Joris75

    100% RE may be nice to have, but what we need is 100% zero-carbon energy. Striving for 100% RE is inefficient because it leaves out nuclear power. We can’t afford inefficient solutions to the climate crisis. We are already late to solving the problem. The IPCC recommends quadrupling nuclear power in order to succeed in limiting global warming to 2°C.

    • Bob_Wallace

      ” The IPCC recommends quadrupling nuclear power”

      Bad advice. Nuclear is far more expensive than renewable generation and takes many years longer to bring online. Years during which we could avoid burning fossil fuels.

      Cheaper, quicker, safer – renewable energy.

      • Joris75

        I love how you attack the IPCC. I love how that makes you look like a regular climate denialist idiot. I love how you don’t seem to realise that.

        Keep doing what your doing, champ. You have my blessing.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Joris, can you not do simple math? You know, figure out that 15c/kWh is more than 4c/kWh?

          Do you understand the basics of economics? How increasing the cost of electricity would hurt our economy?

          Can you understand how installing a wind or solar farm in a year allows us to shut down coal use far sooner than building a nuclear reactor that may take 6 to 15 years to bring online?

          Don’t be calling me an idiot when you show no ability to grasp even simple concepts.

          And don’t call anyone names on this site. We don’t go there.

          • Joris75

            No wind farm or solar farm can shut down a coal plant. Not without a new coal plant to back up the wind or solar farm. That is why Germany builds new coal plants: because wind or solar do NOT replace fossil fuel plants.

            What wind and solar plants do is something else: they merely save fuel. They allow a fossil fueled plant to reduce its power output when the sun shines or the wind blows. That’s nice, but it can only be taken so far, for obvious reasons. It won’t lead to a shutdown of fossil plants, just as surely as the sun sets in the evening and the wind dies down after blowing.

            Coal fuel costs less than 2 ct/kWh of electrical generation. Wind and solar can’t compete with that. So they are not competitive and won’t be until all global coal reserves are mined and burned. Truly, wind and solar are luxury energy sources, which cannot compete with 2 ct/kWh fossil fuel.

            But thanks be to Providence that nuclear fission fuel *does* compete with coal fuel, and extremely so.

            Uranium or thorium fuel costs about 0.0015 ct/kWh of electrical generation: It’s one thousand times cheaper than coal. It makes coal utterly obsolete, which solar and wind do not and cannot.

            The volume of waste for nuclear is one million times smaller in size than fossil fuel waste. That is why nuclear waste is always contained, and fossil waste isn’t.

            Fossil pollution kills more than a thousand times as many people as nuclear pollution ever has. New nuclear plants built today are safer than legacy plants such as the ones at Fukushima. They will certainly kill far, far fewer people even than solar or wind power ever could.

            Nuclear fission fuel reserves are also more than one thousand times as large as fossil fuel reserves, lasting essentially indefinitely.

            Speculating about a 100% RE future is great. Insisting on 100% RE future and combating the nuclear option is a grave mistake at best, or a crime against humanity at best. We must end fossil burning as quickly as we can and nuclear fission fuel is the only known competitive replacement of fossil fuel. We cannot let the nuclear option be destroyed until all fossil fuel burning has been ended.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Please, Joris, don’t make claims that you pull out of your nether regions.

            No one is building coal plants to back up wind and solar. That would be a stupid thing to do. Coal is not able to turn on and off rapidly enough to do that job. Right now we’re using natural gas (highly dispatchable) while we wait for storage prices to drop.

            Germany is not building coal plants to fill in for wind and solar. Germany started a program some years back to replace its inefficient coal plants with more efficient supercritical plants. And they aren’t replacing MW with MW. They’re building far less than they are closing. In fact, Germany recently completed a coal plant which will probably never be turned on.

            When you look at coal costs be sure to add in the cost of transporting coal. Wind is already cheaper in the US.

            The high cost of nuclear has nothing to do with fuel costs. The cost of building reactors makes nuclear unaffordable. And the operating expense of existing (paid off) reactors in the US is high enough that about 25% of the 104 reactors we had a couple years back is driving them into bankruptcy.

            “The volume of waste for nuclear is one million times smaller in size than fossil fuel waste.”

            Big deal. We’re moving to renewables and won’t have to worry about either, except for the horrendous messes we’ve already made.

            “Fossil pollution kills more than a thousand times as many people as nuclear pollution ever has”

            Again, the bogus “nuclear is better than coal”. Both are dead men walking. Accept reality.

            You’re just posting crap, Joris. If you’d like to figure out what you don’t know then read and ask questions. Please don’t litter this place up with nuclear trash.

            If you’re one of those closed-minded nuclear advocates then please wander off to where nuclear fans share their fantasies.

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  • Green_Mom

    This page is so helpful. Thanks for compiling the studies in one place.

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  • Otis11

    “The Coal For Uruguay” => “The Goal For Uruguay”

    • yikes, bit of a different meaning there. thanks, sharp eyes.

  • @google-81ed4c99f329fa148d40e110fe17af07:disqus & @AEman:disqus: Agreed (120%). This isn’t a page about solving the problem, but simply about studies that have looked into renewable grid or even grid + transport penetration.

    • Bob_Wallace

      We need a summary sentence or three for each….

  • Zach,
    I have to agree with James W here. 100% has to be a floor. Then we also have to deal directly with the methane that has begun venting from the arctic. We will also need to find a way to lower the CO2 but that is a technical problem that is waiting for a political consensus. But aren’t all of our problems a result of the lack of a political will? We’ve known for decades what has to be done but only a grudging little has occurred.

    • Fletch

      you said it….lack of political will. Isn’t it another term for laziness?

      • Considering what is causing the discord in congress (corrupted by money from vested interests) I’d call it criminality as adverse to simple laziness.

  • James Wimberley

    You miss out 120%. That’s for the massive carbon sequestration required by Hansen’s 350 ppm of CO2 objective. He may be wrong. but it’s a serious analysis and proposal. 80% renewable is not. As a matter of logic, to stabilise the climate we must at least go carbon-neutral. So 100% renewable is the floor, not he ceiling.

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