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All of California is expected to run on renewable energy by 2050

It’s becoming more and more obvious, if it wasn’t already, that we don’t have that much time to cut greenhouse gas emissions before climate change is out of control: One recent U.N. report suggests that energy systems will have to completely transform by 2050. So what might that actually look like? One new project involves mapping out the details state by state, starting with a vision of a smog-free California in which every car and truck would run on electricity or fuel cells, and every watt of electricity would come from renewable sources like solar, wind, and wave power.

The entire state of California can—and will—get 100 percent of its energy from wind, water, and the sun in a matter of decades, according to a Stanford professor who just published an extensive report outlining the state’s renewable power potential. “There’s about a 95 percent chance that [California] will be powered by 100 percent clean energy” by 2050, Mark Z. Jacobson told me in a phone interview. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, is the lead author of a new paper published in the journal Energy that outlines how the Golden State can meet all of its energy demands with wind turbines, solar panels, tidal generators, hydroelectric dams, and geothermal power stations by midcentury. And zero fossil fuels or nuclear power. Previously, Jacobson has outlined how to do the same, in broader strokes, for the entire world. The authors propose creating in California “a long-term sustainable energy infrastructure that supplies 100% of energy in all sectors (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry) from wind, water, and solar power (without fossil fuels, biofuels, or nuclear power), and hence provides the largest possible reductions in air pollution, water pollution, and global warming impacts.”

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