Bright Green Impossibilities | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Bright Green Impossibilities

After reading some information at Friends of Science, I got to thinking about how impossible it will be for us to do what so many people are demanding that we do. This is to go to zero CO2 emissions by 2050 by getting off of fossil fuels.

So let’s take a look at the size of the problem. People generally have little idea just how much energy we get from fossil fuels. Figure 1 shows the global annual total and fossil energy consumption from 1880 to 2019, and extensions of both trends to the year 2050. I note that my rough estimate of 2050 total annual energy consumption (241 petawatt-hrs/year) is quite close to the World Energy Council’s business-as-usual 2050 estimate of 244 PWhr/yr.

Figure 1. Primary energy consumption, 1880-2019 and extrapolation to 2050. A “petawatt-hour” is 1015 watt-hours

So if we are going to zero emissions by 2050, we will need to replace about 193 petawatt-hours (1015 watt-hours) of fossil fuel energy per year. Since there are 8,766 hours in a year, we need to build and install about 193 PWhrs/year divided by 8766 hrs/year ? 22 terawatts (TW, or 1012 watts) of energy generating capacity. (In passing, for all of these unit conversions let me recommend the marvelous website called “Unit Juggler“.)

Starting from today, January 25, 2021, there are 10,568 days until January 1, 2050. So we need to install, test, commission, and add to the grid about 22 TW / 10568 days ? 2.1 gigawatts/day (GW/day, or 109 watts/day) of generating capacity each and every day from now until 2050.