The Washington Post was blasted online Monday after it published an article claiming that power blackouts, even ones caused by natural disasters, could be avoided nationwide by switching to 100% renewable energy sources.
The article, titled “A year after Texas cold spell, study shows renewable energy could help prevent blackouts,” focuses on the blackouts that rocked the state of Texas in the winter of 2021.
A recent study shows that electricity blackouts can be avoided across the nation — perhaps even during intense weather events — by switching to 100 percent clean and renewable energy, such as solar, wind and water energy. https://t.co/Z3de3RgzM5
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 21, 2022
Millions of Texans were without power in the midst of rare winter storms in Texas, as The Daily Wire reported last February. Gas prices also soared across the state, as demand skyrocketed while the freezing temperatures impacted much of the state’s infrastructure and caused production to slow dramatically. At the same time, nearly half of the state’s wind turbines, which produce nearly 20% of the state’s electricity, were frozen in the winter storm.
Against the background of the Texas blackouts, the Post article went on to cite an October 2021 study from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, which claimed that a complete switch to 100% renewable energy would cut end-use energy demand by more than half, approximately 57%, and decrease private energy costs by approximately 63%, compared with a “business-as-usual” scenario. Extreme weather events, like the Texas blackouts or the rolling blackouts that affected California throughout the summer of 2020, could be “avoided at a low cost,” The Washington Post wrote. Per the Post, the study claimed that building more alternative energy sources would lower energy demand by 60% in California and 56% in Texas. The study also determined that its predictive model would have enough energy supply to meet demand every 30 seconds.
But the study was conducted based on a model of 2050 and 2051, and the authors make several assumptions about energy infrastructure. First, the researchers imagined that all vehicles by 2050 would be powered either by electricity or by hydrogen fuel cells. Fossil fuel power generators and home heating systems were also replaced by wind turbines, solar panels, and electric heat pumps and hot water heaters. The researchers also added some new geothermal energy sources, but no new hydroelectric power plants. Mark Jacobson, the lead researcher, told the Post that in the team’s prediction, “many homes would also have their own storage and wouldn’t need to rely on the grid as much.” The team also relied on a nationwide, interconnected energy grid to make up for deficiencies in the energy supply, such as less wind or low sunlight during the winter, or in case of a severe weather event like in Texas.
Twitter users blasted the Post, citing the study’s myriad assumptions and taking issue with many of its claims.
“Yup, just a puny ~3,700,000 MW (w/ 4 hrs) of batteries and ~390,000 MW of HVDC and ~5,900,000 MW of generation,” wrote Dr. Christopher Clack, an environmental researcher who published a paper in 2017 refuting a previous paper by Jacobson on the same topic.
Yup, just a puny ~3,700,000 MW (w/ 4 hrs) of batteries and ~390,000 MW of HVDC and ~5,900,000 MW of generation. I shall just leave this here again (lots of the same issues remain): https://t.co/I1jB1J0LSz https://t.co/Xjh7gdWHV1
— Dr Christopher T M Clack, PhD (@DrChrisClack) February 21, 2022
“This preposterous ‘study’ by Stanford assumes a 57%, FIFTY SEVEN PERCENT, reduction in end-use energy demand,” A Twitter user wrote. “Do you realize how much you’d have to devastate our standard of living for that? Half the population gonna live in mud huts now?”
This preposterous “study” by Stanford assumes a 57%, FIFTY SEVEN PERCENT, reduction in end-use energy demand.
Do you realize how much you’d have to devastate our standard of living for that? Half the population gonna live in mud huts now? https://t.co/WNIdYAs4yH
— Oilfield Rando (@Oilfield_Rando) February 21, 2022
“If we switched to ‘100 percent clean and renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and water energy,’ we’d have daily blackouts since it’s literally not possible for those sources of energy to fully power our nation given the technology that’s on the market,” one user wrote.
If we switched to "100 percent clean and renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and water energy," we'd have daily blackouts since it's literally not possible for those sources of energy to fully power our nation given the technology that's on the market. https://t.co/uApQ4p0iwf
— John Hawkins (@johnhawkinsrwn) February 21, 2022
A number of users took particular issue with Jacobson’s track record and pointed out that he sued Clack for critiquing his work.
The utter bullshit that undergirds Mark Jacobson’s research was obvious to some of us over a decade ago, obvious to many more after he sued his academic critics, but apparently will never be obvious to a subset of peer reviewers and journalists. https://t.co/a9uvnMAA7p
— Alex Trembath (@atrembath) February 21, 2022
Oh, come on, this again? It is literally the same model with flawed assumptions & implausible scenarios that he keeps regurgitating across journals.
So many experts have spent time in trying to engage & point out flaws in their methodology but he never wants to listen. https://t.co/bxvKrJcI9M
— Arvind Ravikumar (@arvindpawan1) February 21, 2022
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