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  • Writer's pictureBen Haley

Decarbonization Not a Risky Business

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

Evolved Energy Research’s work is featured in a new report titled "From Risk to Return: Investing in a Clean Energy Economy.” This report is from the Risky Business Project, an initiative founded by Michael Bloomberg, Hank Paulson and Tom Steyer, that originally examined the risk that climate change poses to the American economy. In this follow-on report, the focus shifts to the opportunities that can be found in transforming our energy system to mitigate against the potential damage of catastrophic climate change. Our contribution to the report was the development of a detailed regional representation of the U.S. energy economy out to 2050 using the EnergyPATHWAYS model.

We developed four decarbonization pathways that achieve an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 leveraging the three pillars shown above. The results of this analysis allowed us to determine the ultimate scale of the economic opportunities and infrastructure requirements of different clean energy pathways. The report and associated results can be found here.

In addition to our contributions to the main report, we wrote a supplementary study that estimates the value of a passenger transportation sector characterized by high levels of shared, electric autonomous vehicles (AVs). We evaluated how this nascent technology may affect energy use, emissions, infrastructure and costs in the energy sector through 2050. The full case study is available here .

The key findings from our autonomous vehicle case study include:

  • AV technology encourages the adoption of electric vehicles. Coupling AV technology with ride-sharing has important implications for battery electric vehicles (EVs), which have suffered from tepid sales due to the high per-mile cost of personally owning and operating the vehicle. Shared autonomous EVs would be driven more frequently than personally-owned EVs, resulting in lower per-mile costs, which should encourage their adoption.

  • The size of the light-duty vehicle fleet will substantially decrease. We estimate that AVs will halve the size of the light-duty vehicle fleet by 2050, despite additional vehicle miles traveled. Fleets of highly-utilized, driverless vehicles could be hailed on-demand, constantly ferrying passengers to their destination without the need for the passenger to return the vehicle, reducing the need for conventional vehicles which sit idle most of the time.

  • AVs facilitate a cost-effective deep decarbonization pathway. Our analysis shows that the deployment of AVs significantly reduces the cost of decarbonizing the U.S. energy system. In prior work, the single largest source of incremental costs is associated with transitioning the light-duty vehicle fleet to zero emission vehicles. The penetration of AVs modeled in this analysis reduces these costs by $300 billion per year in 2050, allowing the U.S. to achieve deep decarbonization with cost savings.

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