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  • Gabe Kwok

Prioritizing Innovation for Decarbonization

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

Achieving net-zero GHG emissions by mid-century requires a shift to low-carbon technologies throughout our energy system, many of which are not yet at significant commercial scale. This suggests that R&D has a critical role to play in enabling the technologies that are necessary to rapidly reduce emissions. How should federal decision-makers prioritize innovation efforts to best contribute to climate goals?

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) commissioned EER to develop an analytical framework for assessing and prioritizing R&D funding in the energy sector to support economy-wide decarbonization. We developed a novel approach to understand how technologies deploy and interact within the energy system under various technology innovation scenarios and carbon policies. For this study, we evaluated fifteen promising technology areas, ranging from carbon-free electricity generation technologies to negative emissions technologies.

Key analytical findings include:

  • High-priority areas for R&D funding include renewables and electric end-use & conversion technologies due to their robust deployment across policy and innovation trajectories

  • There are significant interactions between technologies within and across sectors, with a breakthrough for one technology having positive or negative deployment impacts on others; this suggest that the most impactful R&D efforts will coordinate clusters of technologies and consider system-wide interactions

  • R&D can accelerate deployment of key technologies and drive forward emissions reductions, allowing the U.S. to achieve net-zero prior to 2050

The report provides a description of the framework and modeling tools employed, analytical results for each technology area and considerations for innovation decision-making.

Download the Technical Report

Download the Summary Report

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