The Personal Transition to Renewable Energy

Mark Z. Jacobson

Mark Z. Jacobson

Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson, a Stanford University scientist, gave a presentation on how to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy on April 5th, 2023.  Jacobson is a Professor of Civil and Environmental engineering at Stanford, and the Director of the Atmosphere/Energy program at Stanford. He has personally transitioned to living fossil-free, by generating his own electricity and electrifying his home.

The problem of climate change is inching closer and closer. Fossil fuel and biofuel air pollution cause 7 million air pollution related deaths per year worldwide. By 2050, Global Warming will cost an estimated 30 trillion dollars a year in damages, such as from wildfires, extreme heat events and storms, and shifts in agriculture.  In order to stay within the 1.5 degree celsius goal stated by the Paris Agreement, action needs to be taken now. The Paris Agreement was signed on December 12th, 2015, and is a legally binding international treaty, where 193 countries have committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to stay within 1.5 degrees celsius when compared to pre-industrial averages. To reach this goal, Jacobson said, “We need to solve 80% of the problem within seven years, and 100% within 13 to about 25 years.”

Jacobson’s solution is to eliminate fossil fuels by electrifying everything, and make sure that the electricity being generated comes from renewable resources. Battery powered cars should become more widely adopted, and Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles could be used for long distance, heavy transport. Electric heat pumps are also a great alternative to natural gas heaters, as they only use about a quarter of the energy. This is because heat pumps do not generate the heat, but rather move air around when it is needed, cooling or heating the building. Induction stoves are also great, as they use much less energy when compared to electric and traditional gas stoves, due to induction stoves only reacting to the metals of the pots, making them very efficient. The electricity would come from clean, renewable sources such as wind, water, and solar power.

As mentioned, Jacobson has committed to living fossil free. He does this by generating his own electricity via rooftop solar panels, which generate electricity that is then stored in batteries in his own home. During the 5 years of his energy generation, he has generated 120% of the electricity used in his home and for his electric car. The excess electricity was sold to the grid for an average of $860/yr through the CCA (Community Choice Aggregation). By owning an all electric home, Jacobson has avoided costs such as a Gas hookup fee, and Gas pipes fees, that add up to around 5-23k. In addition, he continues to save money by not needing to pay an electric bill, natural gas bill, and vehicle fuel bill that adds up to 3-10k in savings each year. With subsidies,  the entire system pays itself off in five years, and  without subsidies it takes around 10 years. Electrifying your home can be expensive, so Jacobson recommends introducing electric appliances to your home when your current ones become outdated or break, rather than outright buying new appliances.

–Rinta Taira


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