Despite their promises, 200 US cities will not switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050, according to a recent study published in the journal Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability by IOP Publishing.
According to the analysis, gas will undoubtedly continue to be the main energy source in the US by 2050 because the infrastructure plans currently in place to adopt renewable energy cannot produce enough energy. According to recent estimates, the output of renewable energy will need to triple to account for even 45% of total energy production.
The findings show that renewable energy is frequently employed as a supplement to fulfill rising energy needs rather than as a means of shifting away from fossil fuels. The study offers a distinctive perspective on city-level energy use through an energyshed framework.
An energyshed is a comprehensive framework that encompasses a region's land, infrastructure, population, earnings, and environmental effects, as well as the ways in which these factors affect energy use.
Using this methodology, Baylor University researchers looked at a sample of US cities that have committed to using only renewable energy sources by 2050, such as Boston, Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City, Columbia, and San Diego. They discovered that these cities are expected to meet only 10% of their targets in the next 30 years.
The Energyshed method shows that while the need for this transition is clear, the best pathways to achieve it are greatly debated. Many areas are faced with conflicting sustainability goals, such as changes to infrastructure, energy storage, land and resource use, biodiversity, economic development, and more. This can lead to ‘analysis paralysis,’ which is one of the major blockers for decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Dr. Kayla Garrett, Study Author and Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Environmental Science, Baylor University
Kayla Garrett continues, “The energyshed approach shows much overlap between the needs and goals of neighboring communities and how they can work together. This knowledge can foster cooperation for funding, land acquisition, infrastructure, distribution, and storage for renewable energy. Conversations are needed between those who apply the market approach to supply and demand versus those with sociopolitical approaches.”
Garrett. P. Kayla., et al., (2024). When energy doesn't add up: use of an energyshed framework in assessing progress towards renewable energy transitions. Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability. doi.org/10.1088/2634-4505/ad0fef