Mark Z. Jacobson is not only a clean, renewable energy expert, but he’s an athlete, an author, a globally recognized speaker and a legendary & beloved atmospheric science professor and climate leader at Stanford University. He’s also the author of a complete guide to renewable energy: “100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything,” which I reviewed for REW previously.
I recently conducted a Zoom interview with Jacobson in which he shares his journey from a competitive tennis player in smog-filled 1970s Los Angeles to his invitations to speak with Google execs, David Letterman, Vice President Joe Biden and attendees of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.
What drew him to these audiences?
In a nutshell, Jacobson, with the help of his students, his colleagues at UCLA, Cornell University and The Solutions Project used their math, science and technology expertise to map the globe for a 100% clean, renewable energy transition by 2050.
A lot of folks talk about it, but Jacobson did something about it.
Jacobson was first inspired to solve atmospheric pollution problems when he played competitive tennis in California as a teen. From there, he racked up degrees from Stanford and UCLA. His mapping work as a Stanford professor began with one state—New York—and that achievement led to 49 more states and, eventually, 143 countries.
In the interview below, Jacobson explains how he maps each region for clean, renewable energy. It’s a collection of data that is entered into a model, which can be updated as new information becomes available. As he explains (at 8:10 min) energy data for each fuel type used today is entered and its use projected out to 2050. The energy demand is then converted to renewable energy with each area mapped given their resources and space for new solar, wind and water technologies. Jacobson and his teams feed in the costs of climate on the environment and human health and create a balance between the supply of renewable energy and the demand for its use.
Jacobson revisits the creation of The Solutions Project just ten years ago this summer, when his friend, Marco Krapels, introduced him to actor Mark Ruffalo and filmmaker Josh Fox. The four men joined forces—and their social networks—to build the 100% renewable energy maps that would help policy makers make their case for an energy transformation. Cultural influencers came aboard to help, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Rockefeller, Robert Redford, Yoko Ono and Leilani Munter, then a professional race car driver. Her contribution to the energy transition story is a unique one that Jacobson details.
In the interview Jacobson shares details on his 100% clean, renewable energy home in Stanford, CA, which he meticulously designed. It’s become a showcase for how we can all harness the sun and become energy independent. Jacobson’s home—complete with four Tesla wall-mounted batteries—powers all of his family’s needs: heating and cooling, lighting, cooking, appliances, devices and his electric vehicles. He even sells excess electricity back to the power company.
One of the take-aways from this interview is how important public speaking is to the success of an idea. Not only did Jacobson have the determination as a young man to solve the climate crisis and air pollution, he also has the will, courage and emotional intelligence to get out into the world and share his knowledge with diverse audiences. From his appearance at the Nantucket Project to his talks at international energy conferences, Jacobson has made his life’s work resonate with students, investors, innovators and global leaders. It’s a super-hero kind of story and he’s still a young man.
What’s next for the brainy athlete from California? Stay tuned…
To watch the complete interview between me and Mark Jacobson, play the video below!