Many scientists and academics have argued over how long it would take the United States to reach 100% renewable energy production. It is extremely hard for a fossil fuel-based economy to completely convert to renewables, which is why it is more important to focus on how much of our production can be switched instead of figuring out when we can reach 100%. A recent study from UC Berkley found that reaching 80-90% renewable energy production is significantly easier. In their models, 70% of energy would come from wind, solar, and battery storage; 20% would be from hydropower and nuclear energy; the last 10% would be from burning fossil fuels.
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Not only can the US reach 90% renewable energy production by 2035, but it can be done at no extra cost to the ratepayers (everyone that pays for electricity). By 2035, all existing power plants in the US will be paid off, meaning there is no financial loss by shutting those facilities down. In addition, renewable energy production is cheaper than it ever has been. In the last decade, the price of industrial-sized batteries and large scale solar has dropped 90% while wind has decreased in cost by 70%. Those numbers are extremely encouraging because the prices have dropped much faster than experts predicted.
Transitioning to cleaner energy production has many socio-economic benefits as well. It is estimated that to reach the 90% goal by 2035 over half a million new jobs will be created per year. Eliminating fossil fuel-based energy production will also save an estimated 85,000 lives a year by decreasing the number of toxic chemicals spewed into our atmosphere. The current price of fossil fuels does not accurately factor the health and environmental effects of their emissions.
While the US is slowly moving towards cleaner energy production, the 2035 benchmark cannot be met without help from our lawmakers. With sound policy focused on a shift towards renewable energy production, the 90% threshold can be reached. Even though overall energy demand is increasing, with the number of electric vehicles on the road and several other factors, experts believe that the demand can be met with no additional fossil fuels.