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Up to 139 countries could use 100% renewables, researchers claim

WORLDWIDE: Nearly 140 countries could be powered entirely by wind, hydro and solar power by 2050, a new study has claimed.

Wind would provide around 37% of the 139 countries' energy use, the researchers claim (pic: TRIG)
Wind would provide around 37% of the 139 countries' energy use, the researchers claim (pic: TRIG)

Scientists at Stanford University in the US found that for 139 countries, 100% renewable energy use for all purposes is possible by mid-century.

Wind would take up a sizeable proportion of this, with 23.5% of the total being provided by onshore wind and 13.6% by offshore — a total of 37.1%.

To reach this target, an equivalent of more than 2.5 million 5MW turbines would need to be installed by 2050, the team calculated. This would add a total of 12.5TW of capacity.

Under this model, only solar PV would provide more energy (57.6%), the researchers believe.

The roadmaps for the 139 countries — 71% of the world’s 195 nations — are "far more aggressive than what the Paris agreement calls for", the scientists admit.

But the plans are "still technically and economically feasible", the team of researchers, led by a professor of civil and environmental engineering, Mark Jacobson, wrote in the energy journal Joule.

The roadmaps require rapid electrification of the countries’ respective energy sectors and consumers making individual changes, including switching to electric heat pumps for air and water heating, for example.

The researchers predict an 80% conversion to renewables by 2030, with the final fifth being achieved over the next 20 years.

Following the blueprints would avoid 1.5C global warming above pre-industrial levels and prevent "millions of annual air-pollution deaths", the team claimed.

The researchers estimate their plans would cost around $124.7 trillion — but add that this would be roughly equal to the direct price of fossil-fuel infrastructure during this period.

They also believe that the overall cost of their proposed system would be less because it eliminates hidden health and climate costs of fossil fuels.

"These roadmaps provide the first specific plans ever produced by country for the world to avoid 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming," Jacobson said.

"The beautiful part is that such a transition will also create over 20 million more permanent full-time jobs than lost worldwide, save consumers money and avoid over 3% of each country’s GDP in air pollution health costs alone."

Implementing the roadmaps would face "substantial" barriers such as political and public will and grid stability, the team conceded.

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