Carbon-Free Energy in 20 Years

According to two US researchers, it’s possible to provide for the whole world’s energy needs with just wind, water and solar power – and to make it happen within 20 years.

Mark Jacobson from Stanford University and Mark Delucchi from UC Davis laid out their plan in a 2009 scientific paper.

This took into account that:

  • the world adds approximately 1 billion people every 12 years
  • emerging economies want the Western lifestyle with its high energy needs.

Carbon and nuclear-free energy would cost the same amount of money currently spent on fossil fuel power – with none of the significant environmental and health costs of using fossil fuels.

Their plan calls for all new energy installations to be renewable by 2030, and all power to be renewable by 2050.

However, this kind of 100 per cent renewable energy, transport, and infrastructure is only possible within 20 years if there is a big commitment to meet this goal.


Can renewable energy compete with fossil fuels?
Peer-reviewed science indicates we can switch the entire world to renewables using 2009 technology in 20 years for the same long-term cost as sticking with fossil fuels.

Is renewable energy reliable?
Wind and solar peak production at different times of the day, and integrating wind over long distances can deliver 33 per cent of their energy with the same reliability as coal, oil, or gas power.

Are renewables too expensive?
Because oil need to be refined and energy lost as heat when burning fossil fuels, renewables are more efficient, we need less of them, and we end up spending less money.

Further reading

The full research paper: Jacobson, M.Z., and M.A. Delucchi. “Providing all Global Energy with Wind, Water, and Solar Power, Part I: Technologies, Energy Resources, Quantities and Areas of Infrastructure, and Materials.” 2010. Energy Policy, 39, pp. 1154-1169 doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2010.11.040.

Report in the Scientific American.