Powering the Americas with renewable energy

Elsevier’s Atlas Award highlights report published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews that may provide the key to success for using renewable energy effectively


Amsterdam, January 20, 2020

One of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to ensure access to affordable and clean energy for all people by the year 2030. An analysis in Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews,published by Elsevier, shows that it is both feasible and cost-effective to power the Americas with 100 percent renewable energy.

Recognized at the RELX SDG Inspiration Day, hosted at Amsterdam’s KIT Royal Tropical Institute, the authors accepted their Atlas Award in person after being selected from research published across Elsevier’s 4,000 journals. The Atlas external advisory board, made up of individuals from NGOs, agreed that the increased use of renewable energies, including solar- and wind-power, would be key to achieving such a lofty goal. To further emphasize the use of renewable energy, the existing energy system would need further national and international grid connections.

“Our results clearly reveal that the existing renewable energy and energy storage options coupled with an [interconnected] electricity grid are sufficient to fulfill the electricity demand in the Americas at a competitive price,” said researcher Arman Aghahosseini, based at the Laboratory of Electrical Engineering, at LUT School of Energy Systems, LUT University, Lappeenranta, Finland.


Philippe Terheggen, Elsevier’s Managing Director of STM Journals presents the Atlas Award to Arman Aghahosseini during the SDG Inspiration Day at the KIT Royal Tropical Institute in November 2019 (Credit: Todd Fredericks).

Interconnections amongst energy grids is important for the success of renewable energy as sources of renewable energy are not evenly distributed, or available throughout the year, explained Mr. Aghahosseini. Alongside colleagues including Christian Breyer, also of LUT University, the research group expanded electricity grids to make it possible to transfer excess electricity in one region to other nearby regions. Low-cost energy systems can also be achieved by optimizing various flexibility options, including supply response, demand response, grids, sector coupling and storage.

The researchers reviewed several scenarios for powering the Americas, from a decentralized power system, to a fully centralized and interconnected one. Their findings show that an interconnected grid leads to an estimated 15 percent drop in the costs of delivering energy. They also found that grid interconnection also increases the overall efficiency and credibility of the energy system as a whole. While there was a modest benefit of interconnecting North and South America, the difference was  negligible.

Overall, the findings show that an interconnected, renewable energy grid is more cost-effective than continuing with “business-as-usual,” they write. That’s true even without taking the cost of greenhouse gas emissions into account. The bottom line is that this study and others show that there are no technical or economic barriers to achieving a fully sustainable energy system in the coming decade.

“The major barriers seem to be political,” said Mr. Aghahosseini. “We as researchers have the responsibility to investigate all the opportunities to help governments, organizations, and all citizens build a healthy planet.”

The full story and interview with the authors is available on Elsevier Connect.

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Notes for editors
The article is “Analysing the feasibility of powering the Americas with renewable energy and inter-regional grid interconnections by 2030,” by Arman Aghahosseini, Dmitrii Bogdanov, Larissa S.N.S. Barbosa, and Christian Breyer (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2019.01.046). It appears in Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, volume 105 (May 2019), published by Elsevier.

The above paper was published open access and can be read by clicking the above DOI hyperlink.

About Renewable & Sustainable Energy Review
Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews communicates the most interesting and relevant critical thinking in renewable and sustainable energy in order to bring together the research community, the private sector and policy and decision makers. The aim of the journal is to share problems, solutions, novel ideas and technologies to support the transition to a low carbon future and achieve our global emissions targets as established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

About Atlas, Research for a better world
Science impacts everyone's world. With over 1,800 journals publishing articles from across science, technology and health, our mission is to share some of the stories that matter. Each month Elsevier’s Atlas showcases research that can significantly impact people's lives around the world or has already done so. We hope that bringing wider attention to this research will go some way to ensuring its successful implementation.

With so many worthy articles published the tough job of selecting a single article to be awarded "The Atlas" each month comes down to an Advisory Board. The winning research is presented alongside interviews, expert opinions, multimedia and much more on the Atlas website: www.elsevier.com/atlas

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we’re committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. www.elsevier.com

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