Meeting the Challenge of Our Time:

Pathways to a Clean Energy Future for the Northwest 

Meeting the Challenge of Our Time: Pathways to a Clean Energy Future for the Northwest is the first economy-wide analysis to examine decarbonization pathways mapped to the Northwest’s economic and institutional realities. The Clean Energy Transition Institute commissioned this study to understand how Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington could technically and economically achieve a low-carbon economy over the next three decades.

Complete Study

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Executive Summary

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Key Findings Summary

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Technical Report

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Additional transmission between the Northwest and California reduces the cost of decarbonization by an estimated $11.1 billion in net present value over the 30-year study period (accrued to the combined California and NW region).


Electricity will need to be 96% clean by 2050 and used to heat and cool buildings and power vehicles that currently use fossil fuels.


The carbon intensity of liquid and gas fuels decreases by 70% in 2050.


The share of electricity grows from approximately 23% today to 55% from 2020 to 2050 and total energy demand decreases by 34%, despite a 30% increase in population.

This study is unique in offering a blueprint that broadly frames the opportunities and trade-offs for the Northwest to achieve economy-wide deep decarbonization by 2050.

Key Decarbonization Strategies


Energy Efficiency

Reducing energy consumed to provide energy services 


Electricity Decarbonization

Reducing the emissions intensity of electricity generation 


Fuel Decarbonization

Reducing the emissions intensity of liquid and gaseous fuels 



Switching end uses from fuel to electricity




Capturing CO2 from a facility or removing CO2 from the atmosphere 

Additional Resources

Overall demand and supply for clean electricity would increase significantly as electrification decreases liquid fuel and gas demand for the transport, building, and industrial sectors. Biofuels and synthetic liquids produced with clean electricity would significantly reduce the carbon intensity of liquid fuels, while synthetic gas would decarbonize pipeline gas. Coal retirement and new renewable energy would decarbonize the electricity supply.

A major finding of Meeting the Challenge of Our Time: Pathways to a Clean Energy Future for the Northwest is the crucial role that power-to-X will play in 2040–50 to create synthetic gas or synthetic liquid fuels. Power-to-X is a term that describes a variety of different technologies and processes that enable surplus electric power to be stored or used to produce fuels.

Transitioning the Northwest to a low-carbon energy system relies on five decarbonization strategies: energy efficiency, electricity decarbonization, fuel decarbonization, electrification, and carbon capture.


The Clean Energy Transition Institute promotes strategies to achieve deep decarbonization and accelerate the transition from fossil fuel to clean energy, focusing on the low-carbon pathways, urban clean energy, and clean energy economics.


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© 2019 Clean Energy Transition Institute

Seattle, WA