This article evaluates whether the world can transition to a future global electricity system powered entirely by nuclear power plants, wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal facilities, hydroelectric stations, and biomass generators by 2030. It begins by explaining the scenario method employed for predicting future electricity generation, drawn mostly from tools used by the International Energy Agency. The article projects that the world would need to build about 7744 Gigawatts (GW) of installed electricity capacity by 2030 to provide 37.2 thousand terawatt‐hours (TWh). Synthesizing data from the primary literature, the article argues that meeting such a projection with nuclear and renewable power stations will be difficult. If constructed using commercially available and state‐of‐the‐art nuclear and renewable power stations today, the capital cost would exceed $40 trillion, anticipated negative externalities would exceed $1 trillion per year, and immense strain would be placed on land, water, material, and human resources. Even if nuclear and renewable power technologies were much improved, trillions of dollars of investment would still be needed, millions of hectares of land set aside, quadrillions of gallons of water used, and material supplies of aluminum, concrete, silicon, and steel heavily utilized or exhausted. Because of these constraints, the only true path towards a more sustainable electricity system appears to be reducing demand for electricity and consuming less of it. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
International Journal of Energy Research – Wiley
Published: Oct 25, 2010
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