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Feasibility of a 100% Global Renewable Energy System
Article

Renewable Energy Equivalent Footprint (REEF): A Method for Envisioning a Sustainable Energy Future

1
Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM), University of South Australia, Adelaide 5001, Australia
2
Research and Innovation Services, University of Newcastle, Newcastle 2308, Australia
3
Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra 2601, Australia
4
Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver, Denver, CO 80208, USA
5
School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, D02 PN40 Dublin, Ireland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Energies 2020, 13(23), 6160; https://doi.org/10.3390/en13236160
Received: 10 September 2020 / Revised: 16 November 2020 / Accepted: 20 November 2020 / Published: 24 November 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rethinking Energy: Earth System Science Approaches 2021)
We present an alternative approach to estimating the spatial footprint of energy consumption, as this represents a major fraction of the ecological footprint (EF). Rather than depicting the current lack of sustainability that comes from estimating a footprint based on uptake of carbon emissions (the method used in EF accounting), our proposed “Renewable Energy Equivalent Footprint” (REEF) instead depicts a hypothetical world in which the electricity and fuel demands are met entirely from renewable energy. The analysis shows that current human energy demands could theoretically be met by renewable energy and remain within the biocapacity of one planet. However, with current technology there is no margin to leave any biocapacity for nature, leading to the investigation of two additional scenarios: (1) radical electrification of the energy supply, assuming 75% of final energy demand can be met with electricity, and (2) adopting technology in which electricity is used to convert atmospheric gases into synthetic fuel. The REEF demonstrates that a sustainable and desirable future powered by renewable energy: (i) may be possible, depending on the worldwide adoption of consumption patterns typical of several key exemplar countries; (ii) is highly dependent on major future technological development, namely electrification and synthetic fuels; and (iii) is still likely to require appropriation of a substantial, albeit hopefully sustainable, fraction of the world’s forest area. View Full-Text
Keywords: ecological footprint; renewable energy; carbon emissions; biocapacity ecological footprint; renewable energy; carbon emissions; biocapacity
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MDPI and ACS Style

Ward, J.; Mohr, S.; Costanza, R.; Sutton, P.; Coscieme, L. Renewable Energy Equivalent Footprint (REEF): A Method for Envisioning a Sustainable Energy Future. Energies 2020, 13, 6160. https://doi.org/10.3390/en13236160

AMA Style

Ward J, Mohr S, Costanza R, Sutton P, Coscieme L. Renewable Energy Equivalent Footprint (REEF): A Method for Envisioning a Sustainable Energy Future. Energies. 2020; 13(23):6160. https://doi.org/10.3390/en13236160

Chicago/Turabian Style

Ward, James, Steve Mohr, Robert Costanza, Paul Sutton, and Luca Coscieme. 2020. "Renewable Energy Equivalent Footprint (REEF): A Method for Envisioning a Sustainable Energy Future" Energies 13, no. 23: 6160. https://doi.org/10.3390/en13236160

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