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Deep Decarbonization for the Southeast

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

This report, Low-Carbon Transition Strategies for the Southeast  is the latest publication of the US Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, led by Evolved Energy Research and US DDPP Director Jim Williams.

This report explores unique opportunities and challenges for the Southeast region (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee) in the broader context of the transformative changes to the U.S. energy system that are required to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to net-zero emissions in 2050. The scale and rate of physical changes to the U.S. energy system will be significant, and the Southeast will play a critical role in enabling a national transition. The implications of these changes for the region will be far-reaching, offering opportunities to grow new industries and jobs, as well as the chance to deploy climate mitigation and adaption policies that help to ensure an equitable energy transition.

The Southeast region plays a unique role in some facets of the transition and faces distinct challenges when compared to the rest of the country. From renewable resource endowments and differences in climate to unique regional considerations for an equitable transition, the Southeast will see significant opportunities but also face important policy and planning decisions on a pathway to deep decarbonization. The report contains the following sections explore key decarbonization topics for the Southeast in greater detail:

• Bountiful solar, but limited wind: the Southeast’s renewable resource endowments push the region to rely heavily on local solar with wind generation imported from outside the region.

• Continuing the coal phaseout: deep decarbonization accelerates the phase-out of coalfired electricity generation that is already underway, and the role of gas as a replacement resource evolves from today to mid-century.

• Nuclear relicensing trade-offs: the Southeast’s nuclear fleet has continuously supplied about one-third of electricity generation for the past decade, and there is an operating nuclear reactor in each of the six states of the region. Relicensing reactors in the region to continue operations through 2050 could support deep decarbonization, and nuclear retirements will raise trade-offs for other resource additions.

• Rethinking building energy use: the region has historically been behind in energy efficiency deployment, but deep decarbonization presents an opportunity to re-imagine policy and move towards fuel switching. The region’s hot and humid climate makes it ideal for electrifying residential and commercial buildings without significant electric transmission and distribution peak load impacts.

• EVs and jobs: with numerous manufacturing facilities that support the automotive industry inside the region, the Southeast is uniquely positioned to propel the massive electrification effort for cars and trucks.

• Advanced biofuels: an abundant supply of biomass feedstocks in the region could be utilized to develop advanced biofuels to develop new related industries that support national decarbonization.

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