How to renewable-power the States, state by state. “….Back in 2011 Stanford professor Mark Jacobsen envisioned what that might require, and followed that up with an analysis of how to accomplish it in New York State. ….Now he’s extended his analysis to all 50 U.S. states, laying out a resource roadmap to how each of them could meet 100 percent of their energy needs (electricity, transportation, heating) through renewable sources by 2050 — excluding nuclear, ethanol and other biofuels.”
“Note that none of these calculations are geared to optimize for the least-cost mix to get to 100 percent renewables usage. Levelized electricity costs from that renewables mix by 2030 are projected to be 4-11 cents/kWh (including local transmission), compared with 20-25 cents/kWh from fossil-fuel energy with added health and climate costs.
His latest results include two more deep-dives as he did for New York, showing how they could achieve all new energy capacity powered by renewables (under the aforementioned definition) by 2020, 80-85 percent of existing energy converted by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050. California, he finds, can get to a 100-percent renewables footprint with the following portfolio: 55 percent solar (both distributed and large-scale, including a lot of CSP), 35 percent wind (both on- and offshore), 5 percent geothermal, and 4 percent hydroelectric, plus a big contribution from energy efficiency. (Blending wind with solar, and combining that with hydro and CSP with storage, will largely smooth out intermittency problems, he concludes.) Ultimately that will create a net 178,000 permanent jobs, avoid $131 billion in annual healthcare costs, and pay off the 631 GW of new installed power within six years.

Change in percent distribution of California energy supply for all purposes (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industry) among conventional fuels and WWS energy over time based on the roadmap proposed. Credit: Stanford/Jacobson
….Overall the methodologies were pretty much the same: “look at the footprints and areas, and how many devices of each type we would need,” Jacobson explains. Compared to his previous calculations, these new findings extend the timeframe out to 2050, instead of just 2030. They’re also more updated to account for current installations, such as an extensive wind energy buildout since his 2011 study, and the most recent insight into job creation.
….So which states have the smoothest pathway, relatively speaking, to achieving 100 percent renewables? The key, he says, is tapping and improving existing large-scale hydro, without adding any new ones. “Any state with hydro is amenable to making this easier,” he says. Washington State would lead this pack due to its abundant hydro resources — up to 30 percent of what they’d need — plus a small but growing amount of wind and solar. He also notes the state has policies and leadership that are “very supportive of changing things.” Other states that could best leverage hydro include Idaho and New York. The growing influence of wind energy in some states (Iowa, South Dakota) will help, too.
….Maybe the biggest takeaway from Jacobson’s updates is that broadly speaking none of it is new. “We don’t have to invent a new technology to get this to work,” he says. “We have to get more efficient from a cost point of view.”