Building a Healthier and More Robust Future: 2050 Low-Carbon Energy Scenarios for California
The research team developed several long-term energy scenarios for California that detail how the state can meet its aggressive climate targets for 2030 and 2050 (40 percent and 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction from 1990 levels, respectively). The team harmonized assumptions with two concurrent California Energy Commission projects (led by Energy and Environmental Economics and the University of California, Irvine) using different models. The research team modeled the electricity system across the entire Western Electricity Coordinating Council to investigate the path dependence of electricity system buildout (or building for interim carbon targets in 2030 compared to grid planning and building for long-term stringent carbon reduction goals) and the impact of climate change on future electricity system buildout costs.
The results indicate that achieving a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 will be extremely difficult if a high percentage of vehicles are gasoline-powered and natural gas appliances are still in operation. However, this target can be met if California begins electrifying energy services and decarbonizing power generation at a substantially faster rate. For example, electrification of buildings must start by 2020 to meet the 2030 target. Critical to this task are programs supporting the greater adoption of clean technologies such as zero-emission vehicles and heat-pump water heaters. Non-energy interventions, such as a 25 percent reduction in hot water demand, will contribute substantially toward meeting the 2030 target. Electrification of the industrial sector will be more challenging, mostly due to higher costs, although the technical potential is high. The study also found that clean electricity generation technology adoption does not necessarily improve local air quality and public health. In the Central Valley, decarbonizing residential fuel combustion (such as wood-burning stoves and fireplaces) and diesel-powered transportation is more urgent than installing rooftop solar for improved air quality.