The Cost-Benefit of a 100% Renewable Energy Future, Part II | weatherology°
By: Meteorologist Michael Karow
Updated: Mar 31st 2020

The Cost-Benefit of a 100% Renewable Energy Future, Part II

A previous article took a closer look at the global roadmap to a 100% renewable energy economy. Two more major parts of that roadmap, lead authored by Mark Z Jacobson of Stanford University, deal with the transition of jobs that will have to take place in the energy, mining, and transportation sectors, as well as future land-use changes that would have to take place with the switch to a 100% renewable energy economy. 

Estimating the number of jobs connected with fossil fuels that would be lost with the switch to renewables is a tall order, because so many facets of life and the economy depend on them. From mining, delivery, to power generation, also including jobs connected with internal combustion engine vehicles, almost 26 million jobs would be lost, according to the study’s authors. At the same time, though, the number of jobs that would be created in the wind, water, and solar sectors is estimated at over 54 million. This is a net gain of 28.6 million long-term, full-time jobs worldwide.

Land use is another realm where the switch to 100% renewables would create changes. The website AxionPower.com estimates if the whole world were powered by solar panels it would require a solar facility covering 115,625 square miles, about the size of New Mexico. Modeling for a more electric-grid-stable worldwide mix of wind, solar, and water, the authors of the Stanford study estimated a total increase in land use of 0.65% for the 143 countries studied. This equates to 1.85 times the size of California. The majority of this land would be required for spacing between wind turbines, which could also be used for agriculture or for solar panel installations.

For a technology and industry over 100 years old, the transition away from fossil fuels will provide significant challenges, especially for a target of a 100% renewable energy economy by 2050. As illustrated, though, the benefits to the economy, job creation, human health, and climate health far outweigh the costs in the long term.

mining fossil fuel
Mining for fossil fuels, one of the industries which will experience job losses in the switch to a renewable energy economy
electric car service job
Selling and servicing electric vehicles, one of the industries expected to experience job gains in the renewable energy future
land use renewables Jacobson 2019
New land-use required in the switch to 100% wind, water, and solar energy - [Jacobson et al., 2019]