Environment

New research confirms energy needs can be met by renewables

"There are some persistent myths that 100-percent renewable systems are not possible," says co-author of the new research Brian Vad Mathiesen. "Our contribution deals with these myths one-by-one, using all the latest research."
"There are some persistent myths that 100-percent renewable systems are not possible," says co-author of the new research Brian Vad Mathiesen. "Our contribution deals with these myths one-by-one, using all the latest research."
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"There are some persistent myths that 100-percent renewable systems are not possible," says co-author of the new research Brian Vad Mathiesen. "Our contribution deals with these myths one-by-one, using all the latest research."
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"There are some persistent myths that 100-percent renewable systems are not possible," says co-author of the new research Brian Vad Mathiesen. "Our contribution deals with these myths one-by-one, using all the latest research."

Could renewable sources meet 100 percent of our energy demand? Yes, according to new research which scrutinises the arguments against. "There are no roadblocks on the way to a 100-percent renewable future," the research states, while pointing out that existing research already holds the answers to the common objections raised.

The article is a direct response to a review paper published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews last year, written by Benjamin Heard and colleagues. This questioned a 100-percent renewable future, raising the risk of extreme weather events causing low sunlight and wind availability, as well as the ability of electricity grids to handle a high degree of variation in source power.

In response, scientists have scrutinized dozens of existing studies to address the concerns of last year's paper one by one. Their conclusion? There is nothing stopping a future when all our energy is provided by renewable sources. "Here we analyse the authors' methodology and find it problematic," the response says.

The new research counters that the technology already exists to address the supply concerns raised, pointing to synthetic gas, itself produced by renewable energy in times of surplus, as just one way to make up the temporary energy deficit in a worst case scenario.

They reject the claim that 100-percent renewable energy would require a "re-invention" of the power system – stating that "directed evolution" is sufficient instead, with the technologies needed for grid regulation already being used in many countries.

"While several of the issues raised by the Heard paper are important, you have to realize that there are technical solutions to all the points they raised, using today's technology," says lead author Tom Brown in a press release.

"Furthermore, these solutions are absolutely affordable, especially given the sinking costs of wind and solar power," adds co-author Christian Breyer.

Though the original research correctly states that Iceland is the only 100-percent renewable nation, the response points out that there are regions of other countries, including Germany, New Zealand, Scotland and Denmark, that have also achieved 100-percent renewable energy. Further, there are other countries getting very close, with Paraguay (99 percent), Norway (97 percent), Uruguay (95 percent) and Costa Rica (93 percent) top of the list.

The new paper highlights an example raised in the original research of an energy blackout in South Australia, blamed on wind as the power source. However, the new article counters by saying that subsequent improvements to the controls would have prevented the blackout, and that this wasn't down to a fundamental shortcoming in wind energy.

"There are some persistent myths that 100-percent renewable systems are not possible," adds co-author Brian Vad Mathiesen. "Our contribution deals with these myths one-by-one, using all the latest research. Now let's get back to the business of modelling low-cost scenarios to eliminate fossil fuels from our energy system, so we can tackle the climate and health challenges they pose."

The scientists come from five bodies: the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Delft University of Technology and Aalborg University.

Their article appears in the same journal that the original was published in, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

Source: Lappeenranta University of Technology

11 comments
DevonWilson
I endorse the idea that the world energy demand can be met by renewable energy alone even without storage.The reason why this can happen is the advent of decentralized hydro technology.This is a hydro system that can be deployed basically anywhere and is completely eco-friendly and weather proof.
Daishi
Inexpensive renewable technologies are essentially here. The next problem to solve will be inexpensive renewable storage. Pumped hydro is a type of clean renewable storage (the most common today). Clean grid storage methods are mostly sparse today because up until recently there has been no real need for them to exist. Renewables are creating the need now. Create an arbitrage market for storage and you will see more R&D in the space.
S Michael
Storage is the key. Spend a billion on battery research and reap the benefits. The first country to develop a new battery will be the leader.
aksdad
Instead of scrutinizing other academic papers and playing with math, they might try pulling their heads out of their institutional bubbles and scrutinize actual power plants and the real world to see why renewables can’t provide 100% of the world’s power needs. Renewables aren’t practical without viable power storage. “Viable” means “cheap enough to compete with existing energy production methods”. Since no such technology exists, the next best thing is backup from “base load” power plants which means available 24/7, 365 days a year. Which means coal, natural gas, or nuclear. That’s right folks, without fossil-fueled power plants, renewables can’t work. Yet.
JimFox
I don't believe this for a second-it takes no account of future energy demand growth nor of the unpredictable CC effects. MSR's are the future, not renewables alone.
JimFox
Do not believe it- assumptions likely based on existing energy demand; which will likely double in 10 years. Nuclear MSR's are the true solution. "This is a hydro system that can be deployed basically anywhere and is completely eco-friendly and weather proof." Controversial claim- who can say what CC effects will have on hydro? Wind/solar are essential components but what % of world energy do they now supply? Something around 14% as far as I can discover- encouraging but hardly conclusive.
JimFox
Professor William Laurance from James Cook University in Australia. "Hydro projects are such a disaster for tropical rainforests that I don't consider them 'green' energy at all," added Laurance. Wind turbines and solar panels can also cause environmental harm, but on a much lower scale compared to hydropower. However, these industries have expanded enormously in the past decade. In total, renewable energy accounts for a quarter of global electricity
Robert Schreib
Dear Sirs, To fight global warming, have the United Nations create 'The Global 50/50 Lottery', the world's first honest global lottery, to raise the massive funds needed to buy clean electricity generating wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, ocean and water systems, to replace the electricity from out coal burning electric power plants, which are emitting the carbon dioxide that is causing global warming. Remember, human greed is like a force of nature that can move mountains. If we can exploit it to fight global warming, we just might beat it!
Nik
Wind and solar energy are both 'backyard' solutions to energy supply as they are intermittent, short lived, expensive, and worse, unreliable. The only real alternative, consistent, energy supply is geothermal. The USA has loads of it available, (Yellowstone etc.) but it's mostly ignored. Iceland uses lots of it, sometimes they get more than they want, in the form of a volcano! The Earths subterranean heat source is constant, clean, and ample to supply all humanities needs for as long as they may exist. Even the Romans used it! The technology already exists and is well developed. The oil industry has the necessary experience and equipment for deep drilling works. Governments, worldwide, need to wake up and start investing in geothermal generating plants. Ignoring it is utterly stupid.
amazed W1
Along with Robert Schreibs suggestion, the United Nations MUST also make a realistic prolonged attempt to convince all nations that the global population of humans cannot go on increasing for ever and realistically should go backwards. Bleats from the sociologists about the way the extended family works and from economists that only expanding ecomies can work should be the first points of attack. With better medical care no person should be genetically responsible for more than two offspring and with econmists forgetting their desire to be in favour with politicians can get down to the way it really works.