EFI California Energy Study Outlines Agenda to Maintain Global Leadership

The Energy Futures Initiative, founded in 2017 by former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz and colleagues, presents pathways for meeting California’s aggressive 2030 low-carbon energy goals and the innovation agenda needed for mid-century deep decarbonization. 

WASHINGTON, D.C (April 10, 2019) : The Energy Futures Initiative, Inc. (EFI), a not-for-profit think tank dedicated to driving innovation in energy technology, policy and business models, unveiled the findings of a study outlining how the state of California can maintain its global leadership position in forging a low-carbon energy economy at Stanford University today.

The study, Optionality, Flexibility & Innovation: Pathways for Deep Decarbonization in California, examined the pathways and technology options that California policymakers must consider as it plans and executes an unprecedented transformation of its energy system. 

The Summary for Policy Makers is available for download at www.energyfuturesinitiative.org. The full report will follow later this month. 

The state has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 80% or more below 1990 levels by 2050, with an ambitious interim target of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. The high-level outcome of the study is that California can indeed meet its aggressive 2030 and mid-century targets. However, doing so will require success across multiple sectors of the economy, with multiple technologies contributing in each. Meeting the goals and managing costs will require a strong focus on innovation and maximum optionality. 

EFI explored two separate but overlapping policy streams: a pathway to achieve the 2030 intermediate decarbonization goal, and a major effort to achieve deep decarbonization by mid-century, in line with California’s 2018 SB 100 legislation, which mandates net zero emissions electricity by 2045. 

The 2030 pathways are built by sector: agriculture, buildings, electricity, industry, and transportation. It further identifies key policies and technologies that currently contribute to the state’s ability to meet its 2030 goals and where technology innovation and policies need support. It also sets forth an innovation-centered approach to meeting the 2050 goal. 

The report team, led by EFI founder and CEO Ernest J. Moniz, conducted a modeling-informed analysis that included a top-down assessment of California’s deep decarbonization, as well as multiple bottom-up models that approximated how various technologies can contribute to the reduction of emissions.  Professor Moniz, who served as the 13thU.S. Secretary of Energy, is also an Emerson Collective Distinguished Fellow.

“California is a world leader in setting its economy on a path to low carbon, with ambitious goals for both 2030 and 2050,” said Moniz. “As Gov. Gavin Newsom noted in his inaugural State of the State address, policymakers must craft innovative, longer term solutions for California’s energy future. We hope that our report is a starting point for action.” 

 The report notes that Transportation is the single biggest emitting sector in the state and requires transformational change by 2030, and a range of energy innovations by 2050 to reduce emissions not only from light-duty vehicles but also from heavy-duty vehicles, aviation, marine and rail. For 2030, adherence to the planned CAFE standards has a larger impact than the shift to battery vehicles or to lower carbon fuels, but all three are essential for meeting the reduced emissions targets. 

“More than 950,000 Californians are employed in energy jobs, making the sector a key part of the state’s economy,” said EFI Principal Melanie Kenderdine. “The state’s workforce expertise, robust scientific and technological capacity and forward-looking political leadership positions it to be a first mover in the move to low carbon.”

The study identified multiple technology innovation domains that need to be pursued aggressively to underpin success in meeting the deep decarbonization objective, including:

·      Renewable generation technologies

·      Energy Efficiency 

·      Hydrogen 

·      Carbon Management (Direct Air Capture & CCUS)

·      Advanced Storage 

·      Renewable Natural Gas/Biogas

·      Electrification & Fuel Switching 

·      Smart Systems & Other Platform Technologies

 “Our approach was to match that capacity with pathways that minimize the disruptions to the state’s existing energy sector and find ways to accelerate the development of clean energy technologies, which potentially can provide hundreds of thousands more new jobs,” said Alex Kizer, EFI’s Director of Strategic Research.

The report’s initial findings will be discussed at a workshop today at Stanford University. Professor Moniz and colleagues will present and discuss the technologies, policies, investments and innovation needed for California to meet the state’s aggressive carbon reduction goals. 

The California study is the ninth report issued by EFI since its inception in 2017.  All of EFI’s analysis is independent and available to the public at no charge.  Report sponsors have no control over analytic content.