By Staffan A. Qvist, et al.

A number of analyses, meta-analyses, and assessments, including those performed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the International Energy Agency, have concluded that deployment of a diverse portfolio of clean energy technologies makes a transition to a low-carbon-emission energy system both more feasible and costly than other pathways. In contrast, Jacobson et al. MZ, Delucchi MA, Cameron MA, Frew BA (2015) Proc Acad Sci USA 112(49):15060–15065] argue that it is feasible provide “low-cost solutions to the grid reliability problem with penetration of WWS [wind, water and solar power] across energy sectors in the continental United States between 2050 2055”, with only electricity and hydrogen as energy carriers. In this paper, we evaluate that study and find significant shortcomings in the analysis. In particular, we point out that this work used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions. Policy makers should treat with caution any visions of a rapid, reliable, and low-cost transition to entire energy systems that relies almost exclusively on wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.