Saskatchewan

U.S. professor turns up heat on Sask. premier's renewable energy comments

Mark Jacobson, the U.S. professor who was in a Twitter scrap over renewable energy recently that involved Saskatchewan's premier and a prominent environmental advocate says he hopes Brad Wall will see the light on solar, wind and waves.

Brad Wall says goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050 an 'absurdity'

Switching from a fossil fuel based economy to a renewable energy econony can be accomplished by 2050 with a net increase in jobs, Stanford University engineering professor Mark Jacobson says. (Left: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg, Right: EPA)

The U.S. professor who was in a Twitter scrap over renewable energy recently that involved Saskatchewan's premier and a prominent environmental advocate says he hopes Brad Wall will see the light on solar, wind and waves.

Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at California's Stanford University, is part of a group of academics who have calculated how much it would cost 139 countries to completely switch over to renewable energy by 2050.

Wall called Jacobson's numbers — and the Leap Manifesto that makes use of them — an "absurdity" when he spoke to the Petroleum Club in Calgary earlier this month. 

For Canada to shift to 100 per cent renewable in 34 years as Jacobson suggests would require tens of thousands of wind, solar and wave energy facilities worth $1.86 trillion when inflation is factored in, Wall said.

"That would be, by the way, triple the national debt," Wall told the Calgary audience. "A number so big as to be meaningless."

Premier Brad Wall says for Canada to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy would require $1.86 trillion using Mark Jacobson's numbers. But Jacobson says Wall has forgetten to subtract the savings of switching to an economy that doesn't use fossil fuels. (Neil Cochrane/CBC)

 
But Jacobson said Wall's math misses some important things, including that inflation was already factored in.

"I think it's a classic case of giving incomplete information about the numbers," Jacobson said in an interview with CBC Radio's The Morning Edition host Sheila Coles.

Recently Premier Brad Wall quoted energy and climate expert Mark Jacobson and it caused quite the stir on twitter. Jacobson joined Sheila Coles to talk about how he feels Wall was "misinformed." 11:15

The total amount refers to upfront capital costs, is spread out over 34 years, and doesn't factor in the enormous savings that will be achieved by switching to renewables, he said.

"This is an investment that pays itself off over the time," he said. "It's investors and businesses that are investing that money, like buying wind farms, installing wind farms or even consumers buying their own solar panels for their roof."

Over 34 years, the health-related savings due to less air pollution in Canada would total an estimated $3.5 trillion, he says.

At the same time, the global environmental impact of a Canadian switch to an all-electric economy would amount to savings of $8 trillion (all figures in U.S. dollars).

Switching to 100 per cent renewable energy would mean some current jobs would disappear, but many more would be created, resulting in a net increase of 100,000 jobs, he said.

Jacobson, who got into a three-way Twitter debate earlier this week with Wall and environmental writer Naomi Klein, said he wasn't upset by how Wall was using his numbers.

"I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt that we was not aware of all the numbers and the context of the numbers," he said.

"But now that he is being made aware of it, I'm hoping hoping he'll actually go forward and say, 'Well, actually, it's more beneficial for Canada.'"

With files from The Morning Edition