Five Deep Decarbonization Strategies

Eileen V. Quigley
July 8, 2019
Idaho Falls Wind Farm

The deep decarbonization framework for the Northwest deep decarbonization pathways study, Meeting the Challenge of Our Time: Pathways to a Clean Energy Future for the Northwest centers around five decarbonization strategies as depicted in the graphic below and described as follows:

Energy Efficiency: Reducing Energy Consumed to Provide an Energy Service

Energy efficiency is a critical cost-reduction decarbonization strategy: the less energy needed, the less investment required for new energy resources.

The study finds that aggressive building and appliance efficiency improvements cause per capita energy consumption to decrease 50 percent from 2020 to 2050. Efficiencies in planes, marine vehicles, and industrial processes are also essential.

Electricity Decarbonization: Reducing Electricity Generation Emissions Intensity

A clean grid is an integral decarbonization strategy. The region achieves its emission reduction goal with an electricity grid that is 96% clean by 2050.

The average carbon intensity of electricity generation—already relatively low in the Northwest due to hydroelectricity—decreases to near-zero by 2050. The share of electricity from gas-fired generation is just 3.7% in 2050. In addition, increased electricity grid integration between the Northwest and California would save $11.1 billion.

Fuel Decarbonization: Reducing the emissions intensity of liquid and gaseous fuels

Liquid and gas fuel carbon intensity decreases by 70% in 2050, when all passenger vehicles and nearly half of all freight trucks are electric. Biomass is best reserved for the harder-to-decarbonize sectors, namely aviation, maritime, and long-haul trucking.

Electrification: Switching end uses from fossil fuel to electricity

Electricity consumption increases by more than 50% and comprises one-half of all energy demand in 2050, with cars previously powered by gasoline and diesel fuels and buildings and water heated and cooled by gas and oil switching to clean electricity.

Carbon Capture: Capturing CO2 from a facility or removing it from the atmosphere

Emerging technologies that deploy hydrogen created through electrolysis by renewable energy with captured carbon dioxide to produce either synthetic gas or liquid fuels will play a key role by 2040. Four million metric tons of CO2 will need to be captured annually by 2050, with about half used to produce synthetic fuels and the other half sequestered.

Meeting the Challenge of Our Time: Pathways to a Clean Energy Future in the Northwest, page. 54


Eileen V. Quigley

Founder & Executive Director
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