Scientists release roadmap to guide 139 countries to 100% renewables, including hydro

A total of 139 countries worldwide could convert to 100% renewable energy — from wind, water and solar — by 2050, according to scientists in the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University.

To achieve this, these scientists present roadmaps that would:

  • Avoid 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming and millions of annual air pollution deaths
  • Reduce social cost of energy and create 24.3 million net long-term jobs
  • Reduce power disruption and increase worldwide access to energy

In an article published online in Joule magazine, they say, “… Every country must have an energy roadmap based on widely available, reliable, zero-emission energy technologies.”

These roadmaps “are far more aggressive than what the Paris agreement calls for, but are still technically and economically feasible,” they say. They are based on a solution of electrifying all energy sectors and providing all electricity with 100% wind, water and solar power.

The authors briefly address tidal and wave power, saying that “ … we assume that two technologies not yet widely used, tidal and wave power, are installed in small amounts in a few countries.”

Regarding the amount of generation needed, the authors do not propose building additional hydropower, instead saying the average capacity factors of hydropower plants are assumed to increase from their current world average values of about 42% to up 50%. “This assumption is justified by the fact that in many places, hydropower use is currently suppressed by the availability and use of gas and coal, which will be eliminated here. If current capacity factors are limited by low rainfall, it may also be possible to make up for the deficit with additional run-of-the-river hydro, pumped hydro, or non-hydro [wind, water and solar] energy sources.”

The final mix in these countries would be 4% hydropower, 0.58% wave, 0.06% tidal, and the remainder from solar (57.55%), wind (37.14%) and geothermal (0.67%).

The authors also address “the additional energy-storage capacity needed for balancing time-dependent supply and demand during a year,” but it is not clear how pumped hydro fits in the future mix.

For additional news on environmental issues related to hydropower, click here.

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