Key Decarbonization Studies

The Key Decarbonization Studies

Below is a very high-level summary of the current key decarbonization studies that we have consulted to inform out understanding of how the Northwest might decarbonize its power and transport sectors. All of these studies are rich in detail and examples and we urge our visitors to download and consult these reports to understand how the grid and transportation can be decarbonized.

Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States 2050 Volume 1 Technical Report (James William et al., Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc., 2014)  Deep decarbonization requires three fundamental changes in the U.S. energy system: (1) highly efficient end use of energy in buildings, transportation, and industry; (2) decarbonization of electricity and other fuels; and (3) fuel switching of end uses to electricity and other low-carbon supplies. All of these changes are needed, across all sectors of the economy, to meet the target of an 80% GHG reduction below 1990 levels by 2050.”

Summary of the California State Agencies’ PATHWAYS Project: Long-Term Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scenarios, April 6, 2015, and California Pathways: GHG Scenario Results, April 6, 2015 (Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc., 2015.

  1. Significant increase in energy efficiency and conservation in buildings, vehicles & industry
    1. Higher efficiency in buildings & industry.
    2. Higher efficiency of vehicles and reduced demand for transportation services
    3. Switching to electric space conditioning & water heating in buildings
    4. Electric processes in industry
    5. Rapid ramp up of battery electric and/or fuel cell vehicles
  2. Fuel-switching away from fossil fuels in buildings & vehicles.
    1. Greater reliance on electricity and biogas for space conditioning and water heating in buildings
    2. Rapid increase in zero and near-zero emission vehicles
  3. Decarbonize electricity (~50% renewables in 2030 in CA)
    1. “A relatively diverse renewable portfolio of wind and solar across geographies;
    2. Increased imports and exports of power across the state’s transmission interties;
    3. An increase in the flexibility and efficiency of fossil gas generation and a phasing out of non-dispatchable fossil resources;
    4. Increase in responsive loads including flexible loads in buildings and industry and smart charging of electric vehicles; and
    5. Either flexible production of low-carbon fuels from electricity or an increase in long-duration energy storage.”
  4. Decarbonize liquid or gas fossil fuels with sustainable biofuels and/or synthetic decarbonized fuels
    1. Biofuels for liquid transportation fuels
    2. Biogas to replace fossil gas
  5. Reductions of non-energy GHGs
    1. Significant reduction in high GWP gases (e.g., methane & F-gases);
    2. No net emissions from forests and working lands.

100% Clean and Renewable Wind, Water, and Sunlight (WWS) All-Sector Energy Roadmaps for the 50 United States (Mark Z. Jacobson et al., Energy and Environmental Science, Stanford University, 2015) Roadmaps for reaching 100% wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) for all purposes (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry) by 2050. Excludes nuclear power, coal with carbon capture, liquid or solid biofuels, and fossil gas. Strategies to achieve 100% electrification of all energy:

  1. Electrify power sector
    1. Wind, concentrated solar power (CSP), geothermal, solar PV, tidal, wave, and hydroelectric power
  2. Buildings
    1. Air heating and cooling: electric heat pumps and some electric-resistance heating.
    2. Water heating: heat pumps with electric resistance elements and/or solar hot water preheating. Cook stoves: electric induction or resistance-heating
  3. Transportation
    1. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs)
    2. Hydrogen fuel cell (HFC)
  4. Industry
    1. Electric arc furnaces, induction furnaces, dielectric heaters, and resistance heaters and combusted electrolytic hydrogen
  5. Modest end-use energy efficiency improvements

Delivering on the U.S. Climate Commitment: A 10-Point Plan Toward a Low-Carbon Future (Hausker et al., World Resources Institute, May 2015) This report offers a ten-point action plan to meet a 2025 decarbonization target:

  1. Strengthen the Clean Power Plan
  2. Scale up programs for residential and commercial energy efficiency
  3. Continue and expand programs to reduce hydrogen fuel cell emissions
  4. Use emissions standards and voluntary programs to improve industrial energy efficiency.
  5. Set methane emissions standards for new and existing fossil gas and oil development
  6. Extend and strengthen GHG and fuel economy standards for passenger cars while reducing travel demand.
  7. Extend and strengthen GHG and fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
  8. Accelerate air travel management and establish standards for new aircraft.
  9. Reduce methane emissions from landfills, coal mines, and agriculture through standards or other measures.
  10. Reduce emissions from other sources while increasing carbon sequestration from forests and other land types.

Energy [R]evolution 2015: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook 2015 (Sven Teske, Greenpeace  International 2015) Greenpeace’s four top-level decarbonization strategies are:

  1. Reduced energy demand
  2. Electricity replaces fuels
  3. Reduced heat demand
  4. Increased share of renewable electricity

Decarbonizing Development (Stephan Hallegatte et al., World Bank, 2015) Models and modelers agree that action will be needed on four fronts:

  • Decarbonizing the production of electricity
  • Undertaking massive electrification (to increase reliance on clean electricity) and, where not possible, switching to cleaner fuels
  • Improving efficiency and reducing waste in all sectors
  • Preserving and increasing natural carbon sinks through improved management of forests and other vegetation and soils.