Can we go full renewable?

An interesting and very recent literature review on the deep decarbonisation of energy supply. The conclusions of about 30 peer-reviewed academic papers are pretty interesting.

http://innovationreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/EIRP-Deep-Decarb-Lit-Review-Jenkins-Thernstrom-March-2017.pdf.

This is a really cool paper. I’ve emailed it around the office for others to read!

We should not be too surprised that 50-70% carbon reduction is relatively easy compared to going 100% zero-carbon. Getting the whole way to decarbonisation will be hard, especially given current technological limitations.

For example, it sounds intimidating that the the total energy storage capacity implied by 100% renewable energy for the United States is equivalent to 37.8 Billion Tesla Power Wall 2.0 home energy storage systems. But equally, battery technology is going to make big strides in the next decade(s). As just one of many examples, see https://news.utexas.edu/2017/02/28/goodenough-introduces-new-battery-technology?utm_source=emailsharebutton&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=utnewsshares.

I personally am a big fan of David Roberts, formerly at Grist and now at Vox, who has covered this issue in a pretty accessible fashion at http://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/4/7/15159034/100-renewable-energy-studies.

His review of the evidence ends with this line:

Above all, the haziness of the long-term view argues for humility on all sides. There’s much we do not yet know and cannot possibly anticipate, so it’s probably best for everyone to keep an open mind, support a range of bet-hedging experiments and initiatives, and maintain a healthy allergy to dogma.

We’ve barely begun this journey. We don’t know what the final few steps will look like, but we know what direction to travel, so we might as well keep moving.

We at Bulb heartily agree.

@a_r_schein that’s great! I’m glad you considered it a useful piece of information.

Thanks a lot for sharing such an interesting David Roberts article. I didn’t know him but I will follow his work from now on for sure. (twitted already (twitter.com/joaomariac))

Keeping an open mind, and a systems thinking perspective is vital to avoid big technical lock-ins and remain flexible. Our energy system needs that. It’s very refreshing to see that Bulb is so aware of the importance of this approach.

Thanks.

One interesting theme of this discussion that’s pertinent to Bulb’s theory of change:
-In the short term, there’s so much low-hanging fruit for decarbonisation that it’s shameful that we’re not picking it as efficiently and zealously as possible. The big question is how to encourage as much zealousness as possible.

  • In the long-term, we need to think deeply about which long-term fruit to invest in picking, and we do need to avoid big technical lock-ins.
    It’s a bit of a mental corkscrew to hold both ideas in the mind at once.

Yup! That’s the challenge. Good that we are at least aware of it.