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Study Says Total Renewable Power Possible in KY by 2050

A new analysis finds that if Kentucky would switch from coal to 100 percent wind, water and solar by 2050, it would save big. (PNS/Greg Stotelmyer)
A new analysis finds that if Kentucky would switch from coal to 100 percent wind, water and solar by 2050, it would save big. (PNS/Greg Stotelmyer)
December 8, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. - All 50 states and 139 countries can shift to 100 percent wind, water and solar power by 2050, according to a new analysis from Stanford University.

Factoring in the health and climate-related costs of air pollution, the research showed that the transition would save money and spark more employment. When all costs are included, said Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson, wind now is the cheapest energy source in the United States - even without subsidies - and solar is nearly as cheap.

"By transitioning, we'd create 2 million more jobs, both construction and permanent operation jobs, than we would lose," said Jacobson, director of the Stanford University Atmosphere/Energy Program.

The study projected that 142,000 construction jobs and 48,000 operation jobs would be created in Kentucky by a total switch to wind, water and solar. Critics of renewables argue they would raise the price of electricity, but Jacobson said that's only true if you ignore the negative health impacts of air pollution.

The study claimed that a 100 percent transition would dramatically reduce health costs while requiring 39 percent less energy than burning fuel. Jacobson said some of the most important hidden costs of coal show up where the industry is the strongest.

"Since 1970, the United States has spent over $80 billion on the black-lung program," he said. "Coal miners themselves, they're suffering, and 500 die per year."

According to Jacobson, coal only looks cheap when some very real costs are ignored.

"The rest of us are paying that cost," he said. "So, while somebody's using coal electricity, someone else is getting a cardiovascular disease. Say you're having a heart attack - you're more likely to die of that heart attack when you're in polluted air than when you're in clean air."

The Stanford study labeled the projected savings "money in your pocket," claiming the annual energy savings per Kentuckian in 2050 would be $516 if the state switched to total renewable power.

A link to a Kentucky interactive map is online at thesolutionsproject.org.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY