How much would 100 percent renewable energy really cost?

July 8, 2019

Democratic presidential candidates talked hardly at all in the debates late last month about the Green New Deal, a proposal in Congress, to, among other things convert America's electric power completely to renewable sources. Americans have shown broad support for such a transition.

What's been left unaddressed—and which many candidates weren't prepared to discuss—is the cost.

Estimates vary by trillions of dollars, but now a respected consulting firm—one that has consulted with the oil industry for decades, yet predicts a rapid rise for electric cars—has compiled an estimate of the cost of converting to 100 percent renewable power in the U.S.: $4.5 trillion, or about a quarter of U.S. GDP for 2018.

“The mass deployment of wind and solar generation will require substantial investments in utility-scale storage to ensure grid resilience is maintained," said Dan Shreve, Wood Mackenzie's head of global wind energy research said in a statement.

The firm reports that transitioning the U.S. to 100 percent renewable electricity would require building 1,600 gigawatts of new wind and solar capacity to replace the fossil fuel generation in the U.S., along with 900 gigawatts of energy storage, which could include some combination of batteries, pumped hydro, and other types of storage to buffer the intermittent power from wind and solar.


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