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  • Writer's pictureBen Haley

350 ppm Pathways for the United States

Updated: Feb 6, 2020

Evolved Energy Research today released 350 ppm Pathways for the United States, its report on decarbonizing the U.S. economy consistent with returning the world’s global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to 350 ppm by 2100. This report represents a first-of-its-kind attempt to demonstrate the technical approaches that would be necessary to achieve the cumulative emissions targets suggested by science as necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We conclude that:

  • It is technically possible to transition the U.S. off of fossil fuels at a pace consistent with 350 ppm trajectories

  • Placing the U.S. energy system on a pathway to 350 ppm is affordable and would increase the total cost of the energy system in the U.S. by only 2-3% of GDP

  • Delay is exceedingly costly as a strategy when examining cumulative emissions targets. Under conservative land use assumptions, we’ll be out of our mid-century emissions budget by 2030.

  • There are multiple scenarios that achieve this scale and pace of reductions. Examples include relying on no new nuclear, or limited biomass, or no net negative technologies. Even if one of these potential strategies is removed, the necessary emissions reductions can still be achieved.

This represents the first public report that demonstrates the use of the RIO (Regional Investment and Operations) model which fully optimizes the supply-side of decarbonized energy systems including investments in renewables, thermal generation, electricity storage, biofuels, electric fuels (electrolysis and power-to-x), and direct air capture. The report details one of the most sophisticated and complete representations of a net-zero emissions energy economy ever undertaken. It includes a discussion of the key role that electric fuels need to play for fossil fuel displacement as well as economic balancing of the electric system; the development of a carbon capture sector that both sequesters the carbon directly as well as provides feedstocks for power-to-x-processes; strategies for achieving reliable electric system operations that defy the conventional understanding that the problem can only be addressed with low-cost batteries; and regional infrastructure investment implications.

Finally, this report establishes a new analytical framework of “robustness”, where we examine the feasibility of alternative portfolios if key sectoral strategies or markers of technological progress are not achieved. This suggests a higher level of “reliability” of the target achievement that is not always examined by other analyses of this type.

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