Jacobson Renewables Plan Inadequate, Implausible and Invalid

cost of renewables - Tom ShepstoneTom Shepstone
Natural Gas NOW


Mark Jacobson, fractivist oracle and author of bizarre plan to power New York and rest of US with renewables only, gets trashed in new scientific evaluation.

Back in January, 2016, I wrote a post about fractivist Mark Jacobson, the author of a wacky plan to power New York (later expanded to include the rest of the US). I offered the following:

New Yorkers have already heard a lot about Jacobson’s plan, which is the foundation for something called The Solutions Project; a scheme to convince the public the world can go 100% renewable energy in relatively short time. He sits on the Board of Directors, along with Josh Fox, the Little Green Bully Mark Ruffalo and Van Jones, the disgraced 9-11 truther. It is funded by the Park Foundation (who else?), the Wallace Global Fund and the Elon Musk Foundation, among others. Jacobson is also part of Tony Infraffea’s Park Foundation funded PSE Healthy Energy group of fractivist junk scientists.

Jacobson’s big idea first got traction in New York, in fact, when Tony’s gang (including Bob Howarth, art economist Jannette Barth, Stan Scobie, Jacobson and himself) published a journal article entitled “Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight.” The whole thing is ridiculous if anyone has, like me, had experience trying to get wind farms approved in upstate second-home communities largely occupied by Manhattanites, but that’s another story.

I was far from the only one to question the Jacobson renewables plan. Many did so, in fact, and now a thorough takedown of the plan has been produced by a team of 21 scientists from a wide array of respected institutions ranging from NASA to Columbia University to the Brookings Institution. They found “significant shortcomings in the analysis. They say it employed “invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.”

Jacobson Renewables Plan

Mark Z. Jacobson

That’s a pretty big hurt. It follows other controversies surrounding Mark Jacobson’s work. The Jacobson renewables plan is shattered after this study. The whole report, found here, reached the following conclusions (multiple study references to Jacobson reports are simply referred to herein as the Jacobson renewables plan – emphasis added):

Many previous studies of deep decarbonization of electric power illustrate that much can be done with wind and solar power but that it is extremely difficult to achieve complete decarbonization of the energy system, even when using every current technology and tool available, including energy efficiency and wind, hydroelectric, and solar energy as well as carbon capture and storage, bioenergy, and nuclear energy. In contrast, the [Jacobson renewables plan] asserts that it is cost-effective to fully decarbonize the US energy system primarily using just three inherently variable generating technologies: solar PV, solar CSP, and wind, to supply more than 95% of total energy in the proposal presented in the [Jacobson renewables plan]. Such an extraordinarily constrained conclusion demands a standard of proof that the [Jacobson renewables plan] does not meet.

The scenarios of the [Jacobson renewables plan] can, at best, be described as a poorly executed exploration of an interesting hypothesis. The study’s numerous shortcomings and errors render it unreliable as a guide about the likely cost, technical reliability, or feasibility of a 100% wind, solar, and hydroelectric power system. It is one thing to explore the potential use of technologies in a clearly caveated hypothetical analysis; it is quite another to claim that a model using these technologies at an unprecedented scale conclusively shows the feasibility and reliability of the modeled energy system implemented by midcentury.

From the information given by the [Jacobson renewables plan], it is clear that both hydroelectric power and flexible load have been modeled in erroneous ways and that these errors alone invalidate the study and its results. The study of 100% wind, solar, and hydroelectric power systems extrapolates from a few small-scale installations of relatively immature energy storage technologies to assume ubiquitous adoption of high-temperature PCMs for storage at concentrating solar power plants; UTES for heating, cooling, and refrigeration for almost every building in the United States; and widespread use of hydrogen to fuel airplanes, rail, shipping, and most energy-intensive industrial processes. For the critical variable characteristics of wind and solar resources, the study in the [Jacobson renewables plan] relies on a climate model that has not been independently scrutinized.

The authors of the [Jacobson renewables plan] claim to have shown that their proposed system would be low cost and that there are no economic barriers to the implementation of their vision. However, the modeling errors described above, the speculative nature of the terawatt-scale storage technologies envisioned, the theoretical nature of the solutions proposed to handle critical stability aspects of the system, and a number of unsupported assumptions, including a cost of capital that is one-third to one-half lower than that used in practice in the real world, undermine that claim. Their LOADMATCH model does not consider aspects of transmission power flow, operating reserves, or frequency regulation that would typically be represented in a grid model aimed at assessing reliability. Furthermore, as detailed above… a large number of costs and barriers have not been considered in the [Jacobson renewables plan].

Many researchers have been examining energy system transitions for a long time. Previous detailed studies have generally found that energy system transitions are extremely difficult and that a broad portfolio of technological options eases that transition. If one reaches a new conclusion by not addressing factors considered by others, making a large set of unsupported assumptions, using simpler models that do not consider important features, and then performing an analysis that contains critical mistakes, the anomalous conclusion cannot be heralded as a new discovery. The conclusions reached by the study contained in the [Jacobson renewables plan] about the performance and cost of a system of “100% penetration of intermittent wind, water and solar for all purposes” are not supported by adequate and realistic analysis and do not provide a reliable guide to whether and at what cost such a transition might be achieved. In contrast, the weight of the evidence suggests that a broad portfolio of energy options will help facilitate an affordable transition to a near-zero emission energy system.

There’s not much to add other than the fact Jacobson is furiously trying to distract from the obvious import of this takedown by claiming the study is funded and/or associated with money from a rogues gallery of renewables enemies, despite the impressive list of researchers from universities (including Jacobson’s own Stanford), and entities such as the National Science Foundation. I couldn’t help but notice, though, at least one of the researchers had received funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which happens to be a Josh Fox funder. This was no stacked deck, but Mark Jacobson’s deck – the one he used to build his house of cards – just collapsed in a heap. As for Mark Ruffalo; well, the little guy still believes…

Jacobson Renewables Plan

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12 thoughts on “Jacobson Renewables Plan Inadequate, Implausible and Invalid

  1. Nice that this wizard got his comeuppance. Very sad to see Musk donating money to this moron, and of course in a roundabout way that’s our New York State tax payer money that Musk is donating.

  2. https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/100-percent-renewables-plan-has-significant-shortcomings-say-experts

    There is a line in this long-winded article on the same subject which gets at the heart of the matter as it specifically mentions the problems which might occur when a STATE or governing body adopts this plan as policy only to find out the real world challenges there would be implementing it. It also speaks directly to one of the major problems with the antifracking movement which Jacobson is part of: policies enacted based on misinformation , hysteria and more will and do have consequences.

    The fact that Jacobson responded in ecowatch which is one of the worst enviro “news” sources around is telling.

    By the way I called up one of the organizations currently receiving grant money from Jacobson and the antifracking movement through the solutions project, the misappropriately named energy democracy alliance. The guy on the phone who only has a job because of this funding didn’t want to answer my questions about the organization. How’s that for a group pretending to wave a flag of democracy and being an agent of the people of new York?

  3. When you live in a PollyAnna World, you get Pollyanna studies. The facts are that solar is coming and coming fast but natual gas is a very clean bridge fuel. Bridge fuel…there’s a phrase we haven’t heard for awhile.

  4. I think we (the energy industry) are taking the wrong tack with regard to initiatives such as “The Jacobson Renewables Plan.” Let them try it. If the people in the state of NY want to invest trillions of $$ to decarbonize, so be it. One of three things will happen: success and the solutions project saves the world, limited success where the infrastructure frequently leaves users asking, “What gives?” and an eventual return to sanity, or miserable failure that convinces the rest of the world this is not a path to sustainability. In their quixotic quest for illogical results, perhaps they will stumble on a solution. I/we think not, but who thought oil from shale would ever be viable?

    • Tony- Germany already did the experiment for NY so we know it’s result #3. 45 cents/KWH electricity, to say nothing of the completely ignored problems of heat and hot water in this frigid cloudy region.

      The inmates run the asylum here though. Only solution is get the hell out of this corruption infested blue state.

  5. http://www.roanoke.com/opinion/commentary/smusz-pipelines-endanger-water-supply/article_e27c1fcf-4b99-5035-a22f-77f229e32daf.html

    Being susceptible to Mark Jacobson’s magical unicorn study is just one symptom of FRACK FEVER. It causes brain damage. Otherwise intelligent people start saying all kinds of incredulous things. The article above is a perfect example. There have been plenty of good examples though in fact. All over all kinds of news articles, letters to the editor, in transcripts, on video and more for YEARS now.

    The mainstream media should have been covering frack fever and the antifracking pipeline resistance movement way more accurately a long long time ago. It is not too late though. Do they recognize there is an antifracking pipeline resistance movement in fact in the United States that has long been misinforming them and the public and many yet though? How can this incredible problem be brought to their attention? We obviously know that some publications and reporters cannot see the facts. Who can?

  6. Tom, you discredit yourself more than Jacobson when you throw around words like bizarre.

    Jacobsons study is valid. Like most studies, it is subject to improvement. That’s what valid peer reviews are for.

    It’s difficult enough to advance science in a politicized context….

    • See: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/business/energy-environment/renewable-energy-national-academy-matt-jacobson.html

      Money quote: “A common thread to the Jacobson approach is how little regard it shows for the political, social and technical plausibility of what would undoubtedly be wrenching transformations across the economy.”

      Unlike you, Michael, I’ve had to stand before your friends and actually defend solar and wind projects they fought after preaching to the rest of us that renewables were nirvana – until they were proposed next door. I did it last night in fact in the Town of Delaware. You were nowhere to be seen.

      • Exactly. The fractivist community is for any and all renewables until a site is proposed in their back yard. Then they embarrass themselves by protesting what they wanted or they simply run and hide. It’s happened numerous times in California, and then there’s the infamous wind farm off Nantucket which would somehow impede the yachting crowd…it goes on and on. Maybe a better strategy would be to let them have their way, and watch them fail on their own. If the NIMBY mentality existed in the oil patch, I can’t imagine what our economy and country would look like. We would be choking on coal soot and would have deforested the entire country for firewood.

      • I don’t fight solar and wind. That’s where I get my energy from.

        You won’t find me in the town of Delaware. I live in NYC, where I can buy green power and walk, ride a bike, or use mass transit.

  7. Fake News only promotes this Fake Religion…to question the pros and cons is absolute heresy. The people from the land of unicorns and rainbows will burn anyone at the stake when they themselves are some of the largest consumers of “petroleum-based” fuels and products, directly and indirectly. It is high time for NY to be split into two states, with the 14 downstate counties ( including the 5 counties of NYC) to fend for themselves.

  8. Pingback: Our Favorite Big Green and Fractivist Stories This WeekNatural Gas Now

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