A 100% Renewable Future isn’t just about Climate
By Ethan Heil
Renewable energy could save over 5 million lives each year.
That’s the takeaway from a recent meeting among Stanford University Professor, Mark Jacobson and the Point Energy Innovations team.
Jacobson, notably, has led a research effort detailing how 139 countries – representing 95% of all carbon emissions, worldwide – could transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050. His research provides a way forward in light of growing international concern over a changing climate and the recent signing of the Paris Agreement – a historic commitment among 195 countries agreeing to limit greenhouse gas emissions and reduce global warming. The keystone component for meeting these ambitious emissions reductions requires a shift away from conventional, carbon-intensive energy sources based on coal, oil and natural gas combustion.
The climate benefits of carbon-free, renewable energy have been well-documented, but Jacobson suggests that the human health benefits are just as great, if not greater than, the far-reaching environmental benefits. The combustion of fossil fuels to power our cars, homes and offices releases particles and pollutants into the atmosphere. These emissions in turn contribute to 5.5 million premature air pollution deaths annually at a cost of $15-25 trillion each year (in addition to the costs associated with climate change).
Recognizing that buildings account for one third of our planet’s energy consumption, Jacobson and the Point Energy team discussed the crucial role of net zero energy buildings in enabling a cleaner, healthier and more renewable future. Net zero energy buildings produce at least as much energy as they consume. Green design practices in conjunction with on-site renewable energy provide an opportunity to convert buildings from a climate liability into a renewable asset. Jacobson’s own house provides a prime example of this opportunity. Pairing energy-efficient design techniques with a rooftop photovoltaic (PV) solar array allows his newly-constructed home to produce more energy than it consumes – and still have enough left over to charge his electric car. Point Energy Innovations applies similar principles on a larger scale, promoting cost-effective, environmentally sustainable approaches to reduce building energy consumption and integrate on-site renewable generation.
While many of us at Point Energy are familiar with the benefits of renewable energy from a climate and environmental sustainability perspective, our discussions with Jacobson highlighted the inextricable link between energy and human health. With this in mind, the Point Energy team will continue working towards a paradigm shift within the built environment from energy negative to energy positive by promoting the development of innovative, efficient and net zero energy buildings.