07/01/2013 - 07:15

Meeting the world’s energy needs entirely with wind, water, and solar power

Mark A. Delucchi

Delucchi is a research scientist at the Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis. He specializes in economic, environmental, engineering, and planning analyses of...

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Mark Z. Jacobson

Jacobson is a professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Atmosphere and Energy Program at Stanford University. He is also a senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the...

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The combustion of fossil fuels is largely responsible for the problems of climate change, air pollution, and energy insecurity. A combination of wind, water, and solar power is the best alternative to fossil fuels, the authors write, because renewable energy sources have near-zero emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants, no long-term waste disposal problems, and no risks of catastrophic accidents. Compared with nuclear energy and biomass energy, the authors find that wind, water, and solar power, alone, would not only be advantageous but also feasible to meet 100 percent of the world’s energy needs. They explain how renewable energy systems can be designed and operated to ensure that power generation reliably matches demand; they calculate that these energy sources would cost less than fossil fuels when all costs to society are considered; and they recommend policies for easing the transition to energy systems based entirely on wind, water, and solar power.