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Is a 100 Percent Renewable Energy Target Truly Feasible?

​While 100% renewable energy targets are becoming increasingly more common, the question remains as to how we'll get there.

Yesterday, the city of San Diego, California revealed its Climate Action Plan. The aggressive plan—which was drafted by former interim mayor Todd Gloria and revised by current mayor Kevin Faulconer—sets a date of 2050 for substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions. The more ambitious aspect, however, is the city’s goal of going 100% renewable by 2035.

Mayor Faulconer believes the plan makes sense both socially and economically.

“This plan provides a framework to create new jobs in the renewable energy industry with the installation of solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations,” Faulconer said at a press conference announcing the plan. “Together we will improve public health and air quality by reducing carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and other particulate matter, and we will decrease San Diego's dependence on imported water.”

San Diego isn’t the only one jumping on board the 100% target train, either. Cities, countries, and even companies from around the world are looking to go 100% renewable in the not-so-distant future.  

In our magazine this month, we feature a report that believes the entire state of California has the potential to go 100% renewable.

While all of these sound like great outcomes, one has to wonder: is it more than just a pipe dream?

According to the Renewables 100 Policy Institute: absolutely.

The Renewables 100% Policy Institute is an advocacy group whose mission it is to “study and accelerate the global transition to 100% renewable energy.”

The institute has created Go 100%, which is a project that attempts hopes to act as a virtual hub for 100% renewable energy initiatives, offering tools such as ways to connect with supporters and interactive maps that show cities and projects shooting for 100%.

The institute believes that the reality of 100% renewable energy is a question of ‘when’ and ‘how,’ not ‘if.’

With more and more 100% renewable targets being announced, it would seem that is the case. And with larger organizations and nations coming on board, a renewable powered world would seem inevitable.

Not everyone is convinced, however.

Alan Y. Wayne, writing for The Harvard Crimson, believes that a 100% renewable energy target for the U.S. has one massive roadblock in its way.  

“Regardless of political pressure (which many have blamed for our lack of renewables), having a fully renewable-powered United States is physically impossible—and you can blame the sorry state of the U.S. energy grid,” he writes.

Wayne notes that there are two massive problems with the gird: the lack of electricity storage and the inability to transmit electricity over long distances.

While this may be less of an issue for smaller portions of the country, it still raises very legitimate concerns: can our again energy infrastructure handle the shift to 100%, and if not, what will it take to get there?

As stated by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute, the transition to 100% renewable energy is more of question of ‘when’ and ‘how.’ As more announcements are made about transitions, it would seem we have some kind of answer to the ‘when.’

The big question that looms, however, is the ‘how.’ 


Energy Digital Weekly