In a recent paper published in Energy Policy by Jacobson et al. (2013), the authors claimt hat it is "feasible" that the entirety of New York State's (NYS) energy consumption could originate from wind, water, and solar sources by 2030. The current paper is similar to several papers that the authors previously published regarding the use of wind and solar resources to meet global energy demands (Delucchi and Jacobson,2011; Jacobson and Delucchi, 2011). Like Trainer(2012, 2013), we suggest that the analysis performed by Jacobson et al.(2013) is insufficient to provide a reasonable defense of this claim.
In an energy systems context, three metrics have emerged to evaluate the feasibility of proposed policies or actions: technical potential, economic potential, and social potential. The technical criterion outlines the limits of what current or likely future technology could achieve given no other constraints (e.g.ignoring the cost of the technology). The economic criterion limits action to what is economically viable; for example, in many cases only actions that provide a positive net present value are likely to be adopted. Finally, the social criterion poses additional constraints and considerations due to society's values.
The feasibility analysis performed by Jacobson et al. (2013) is incomplete and scientifically questionable from both the technical and economic perspectives, and it implicitly assumes, without sufficient justification, that social criterion would not produce even larger feasibility barriers.
In conclusion, our energy system is the backbone of our economy. We cannot accept an unreliable or unaffordable energy system. It is our belief that the analysis presented by Jacobson et al.(2013) substantially under estimates the costs and consequences of a transition to solely wind, water, and solar power by 2030 and in doing so provides a misleading assessment that is counterproductive for guiding sound, rational energy policy.