Introducing a new report, developed by Evolved Energy, the modelers behind SDSN's Zero Carbon Action Plan (ZCAP) and the US Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP).
This report inaugurates a series of annual updates that aim to move pathways analysis in the U.S. beyond isolated proofs-of-concept towards becoming a practical implementation tool for addressing next-stage challenges in energy and climate change mitigation. These are detailed technical blueprints for the transition to a net-zero economy, including the production and use of energy, the land carbon sink, and non-energy greenhouse gas emissions. We used sophisticated, fine-scaled software modeling to map the infrastructure changes, technologies, and costs required to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century along various alternative pathways, while maintaining U.S. economic productivity and a reliable energy system. A growing list of long-term pathways studies in the last few years indicates increasing interest in this type of work. However, a lack of transparency and standardization across these studies renders comparison of results, methods, data sources, and input assumptions difficult. Pathways studies to date are largely a set of one-off snapshots of possible futures, with relatively little coordination between research efforts or continuity over time.
The objectives of this project, supported by Breakthrough Energy, are similar in some ways to those of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO): providing an annually refreshed objective benchmark for use by a wide variety of audiences. The AEO is an indispensable tool, but where the AEO’s focus is a long-term forecast of business as usual, our analysis is focused specifically on pathways to deep decarbonization to enable better decision making by policy makers, better informed advocacy, and more clarity for the business community.
In the wake of the newly passed Inflation Reduction Act, which our initial modeling estimates will decrease U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, this study charts a course to their complete elimination by mid-century. It analyzes multiple pathways to net-zero and how it can be reached given many potential twists and turns along the way, such as the rise and fall of oil prices, technology breakthroughs or stagnation, and public preferences. The timeline below shows key milestones in a Central scenario that maintains an ambition to reduce emissions by 50%-52% from 2005 levels by 2030 and achieves net-zero emissions by 2050.
Many of the modeled scenarios first appeared in the scholarly journal AGU Advances in 2021. This new work accounts for the latest changes in technologies and cost forecasts, and for ever-increasing modeling capabilities, including the health benefits of improved air quality. Annual updating aims to ensure that decision-makers have the best possible information on which to base policy, benchmark progress, identify gaps, and highlight opportunities.