The new analysis provides a detailed blueprint for the United States to become carbon neutral by 2050.
According to the latest research report released by the U.S. Department of Energy, by 2050, by rebuilding the U.S. energy infrastructure to rely mainly on renewable energy sources, net carbon dioxide emissions from energy and industry can reach zero. The net cost per person per day is about $1. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), University of San Francisco (USF) and consulting firm Evolved Energy Research.
Researchers created detailed models of the entire US energy and industrial system to conduct the first detailed peer-reviewed study on how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world must reach zero net carbon dioxide emissions by the middle of this century in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Celsius And avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change.
Researchers have developed a variety of feasible technological approaches that differ greatly in the remaining use of fossil fuels, land use, consumer adoption, nuclear energy and bio-based fuel use, but share a series of key strategies. “By systematically improving energy efficiency, switching to electric technology, using clean electricity (especially wind and solar), and deploying a small amount of carbon capture technology, the United States can achieve zero emissions,” the author wrote in the “Carbon Neutral Path” America”, recently published in the scientific journal AGU progress.
One of the main authors of the study, Berkeley Lab senior scientist Margaret Tohn said: “The decarbonization of the US energy system is fundamentally a transformation of infrastructure.” “This means that by 2050, we Need to build many gigawatts of wind and solar power plants, new transmission lines, a batch of electric cars and light trucks, millions of heat pumps to replace traditional furnaces and water heaters, and more energy-efficient buildings – while continuing research and innovation new technology.”
In this transition, very few infrastructures need to be “retire early” or replaced before their economic life ends. “No one is asking consumers to replace their brand new cars with electric cars,” Torn said. “The key is that when current equipment needs to be replaced, efficient low-carbon technology must be used.”
The net cost of the approach studied is 0.2% to 1.2% of GDP, and certain trade-offs (such as limiting the amount of land provided to solar and wind farms) result in higher costs. In the lowest cost approach, about 90% of the electricity comes from wind and solar energy. One situation shows that the United States can use 100% renewable energy (solar, wind and bio-energy) to meet all its energy needs, but the cost is higher and it requires more land use.
Torn said: “We are surprised that today’s conversion costs are lower than similar studies five years ago, although this can achieve greater emission reduction targets.” “The main reason is the cost of wind, solar and electric vehicle batteries. The rate of decline is faster than expected.”
These scenarios are generated using a new energy model, which contains detailed information on energy consumption and production, such as the entire U.S. building stock, number of vehicles, power plants, etc. in 16 geographic regions of the U.S., and uses fossil fuel forecasts to calculate costs. And the renewable energy prices in DOE’s annual energy outlook and NREL’s annual technology benchmark report.
If the economic and climate benefits of decarbonizing our energy system are included, the cost figures will still be lower. For example, reducing dependence on oil will mean reducing investment in oil and reducing economic uncertainty caused by oil price fluctuations. Climate benefits include avoiding the effects of climate change, such as extreme droughts and hurricanes, avoiding air and water pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and improving public health.
The economic cost of these programs is almost entirely from the capital cost of building new infrastructure. But Torn pointed out that this expenditure has economic advantages: “All infrastructure construction is equivalent to employment, even potential employment opportunities in the United States, rather than sending money overseas to buy oil from other countries. There is no doubt that for fossil fuels Fuel-based industries and communities will require a well-thought-out strategy for economic transformation, but there is no doubt that building a low-carbon economy will bring a lot of work.”
The next ten years
The important finding of this study is that regardless of the long-term differences between the pathways, the actions required for the next 10 years are similar. In the short term, we need to increase the generation and transmission of renewable energy, ensure that all new infrastructure (such as cars and buildings) are low-carbon, and maintain current natural gas capacity to improve reliability.
“This is a very important discovery. Now, we do not need to fight fiercely on issues such as the construction of nuclear power plants in the near future, because in the next ten years, there will be no need for new nuclear energy to achieve net zero emissions. Instead, we should develop policies to Promote the necessary steps that we now know, while accelerating the pace of research and development, and further developing our choices for the choices we had to make since the 1930s,” said study lead author Jim Williams, associate professor of energy systems management. Affiliated scientist at USF and Berkeley Laboratories.
Net negative case
Another important achievement of this research is that this is the first published work. It gives a detailed roadmap to illustrate how the US energy and industrial system will become a source of negative CO2 emissions by the middle of this century. The carbon dioxide emitted is more than the addition.
According to this study, as the level of carbon capture, biofuels, and electricity fuels increase, the energy and industrial systems in the United States may emit 500 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, a “net negative impact.” (This will require more power generation, land use, and interstate transmission.) The authors calculated that the cost of this net negative route is 0.6% of GDP, which is only slightly higher than the cost of the main carbon neutral route (0.4 of GDP) %). GDP. Williams said: “From an energy point of view, this is socially affordable.”
When combined with the increase in the absorption of carbon dioxide by land mainly through changes in agriculture and forest management, the researchers calculated that the net negative emission scenario would put the United States on a global trajectory and reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 million parts. One (ppm)) distance. Many scientists describe the 350 ppm end point of this global trajectory as stabilizing the climate at a level similar to that required during the pre-industrial period.
Reference: James H. Williams, Ryan A. Jones, Ben Haley, Gabe Kwok, Jeremy Hargreaves, Jamil Farbes and Margaret S. Torn, “America’s Carbon Neutral Pathway”, January 14, 2021, AGU progress.
DOI: 10.1029 / 2020AV000284
The research was partially supported by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network initiated by the United Nations.