Illustrative Strategies for the United States to Achieve 50% Emissions Reduction by 2030
This analysis shows one possible pathway to reduce economy wide emissions in the US by 50%. Other pathways and strategies could be feasible and need to be explored further.
- The United States can employ several strategies to realize the economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions needed to achieve a 1.5°C pathway. Our illustrative assessment shows that by 2030 a few strategies can reduce emissions by 50% from 2005 levels (excluding land use and agricultural emissions), consistent with establishing a 1.5°C pathway. Most of the emission reductions (about 80%) derive from realizing 80% carbon-free electricity by 2030, retiring all coal-fired generation by 2030, and selling only electric new cars by 2030 and trucks by 2035.
- Due to dramatic recent declines in battery prices, rapid electrification of transport will lead to significant net savings to consumers, averaging about $1000 per year per household (cumulative saving of $2.7 trillion between 2020 and 2050). Moreover, due to deep reductions in renewable energy prices, 80% clean power and retiring all coal power plants by 2030 can be achieved without increasing wholesale electricity costs compared to today. Emissions reductions from the other strategies modeled for this analysis also potentially can be achieved without a net increase in consumer costs or energy expenditures.
- The 2030 scenario modeled in this analysis points to wide-ranging economic and social benefits, including 500,000 to 1 million new energy sector jobs in the 2020s and avoiding over 240,000 premature deaths through 2050 due to improved air quality. Further analysis is required to assess the sectoral distribution of the job gains and spatial resolution of the public health benefits.
- Efficiency gains related to electrification have led to electric cars, trucks, and heat pumps that are 3 to 5 times more efficient than conventional products. Electrification will increase electricity demand only modestly (about 2% per year), requiring building of 100 GW of new wind and solar capacity, and 20 GW of new battery capacity every year between 2021 and 2030 in order to ensure an 80% clean grid. For comparison, in 2020 the United States and China installed 31 and 120 GW, respectively, of grid connected wind and solar capacity.
- Electrification also has benefits for the reduction of shorter-lived pollutants like methane and f-gas that have significantly higher global warming potential than CO2.
- A robust policy environment and rapid infrastructure investments are required to capture the benefits outlined herein.
- We draw significantly on sectoral deep dives in the 2035 Power and 2035 Transport reports
- Economy-wide assessment performed using Energy Policy Simulator (EPS)
- Power sector strategies modeled using ReEDS and operational feasibility tested using PLEXOS
- Vehicle stock turnover model to assess the fleet level impacts of vehicle sales electrification
- Sectoral emissions and economic data obtained from EPS
- Hourly profiles of electricity demand from NREL’s Electrification Futures Study
- Power sector costs based on NREL's Annual Technology Baseline 2019
- Transportation costs from the latest ICCT reports and BNEF data
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