Is it possible to decarbonize the economy of the United States, and get to net-zero emissions by 2050? A team of researchers from 15 countries who are part of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project think so, based on their deep modeling of the US economy as part of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). We introduced this work at a high level in Episode #129, during our conversation with Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, the Director of the SDSN. In this episode, we take a deep dive into the modeling itself with one of the modelers involved in the project. We’ll look at the specific energy technologies, devices, and grid management strategies that will make decarbonization by 2050 possible, and see why they think that decarbonizing the US is not only achievable by 2050, but practical, and very, very affordable.
We have seen numerous models showing how a mostly- or fully-decarbonized energy system can work, but how do we actually plot a path from where we are now to a deeply decarbonized energy system in the future? What are the specific policy pathways that we need to follow? And how can we make sure that we’re making the right moves now to put ourselves on those paths?
In this episode, we speak with renowned economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University about why deep decarbonization must be our goal for the global economy, as well as some of the main pathways to that goal. Based on numerous studies, including the output of the multi-country Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, as well as several major papers which are in the process of being published under the auspices of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), we discuss how energy transition is actually very affordable and practical, and will ultimately deliver a better world on numerous fronts. Dr. Sachs shares with us not only his vision for a global energy transition, but some deep insights, based on his 40 years of study, about the importance of strong leadership in achieving it, and some of the interesting parallels between this moment and the Great Depression.
In this live conversation recorded at Stanford Energy Week in January 2019, Chris Nelder hosts a freewheeling chat with Jonathan Koomey about some of the things we think we know, and a lot of the things we don’t know about energy transition. They talked about:
the vogue concept in energy transition to “electrify everything,” sometimes also called “deep decarbonization”
how to reduce greenhouse gases that are not the products of combustion
the fast-changing trends in electric vehicles, and how we’re going to accommodate the loads of EVs on the power grid
the ways to move space heating and other thermal loads over to the power grid, and how we might be able to meet those needs without combustion or electrification
how much electricity storage we’ll really need in a deeply decarbonized future
how much seasonal storage we’ll need, and what kinds
differences between economic optimizations made today for a future 20-30 years off and technical optimizations made along the way
what the options might look like in 20-30 years, particularly if we are at the beginning of a vigorous and deliberate energy transition
whether space heating, transportation, and other loads might find themselves in competition for economic carrying capacity on the grid as they become electrified.
So join us for this wide-ranging romp through some of the more interesting questions in energy transition!