Emission Reductions in the Electricity Sector by 2030: High Resolution Modeling of Rapid Decarbonization Scenarios
Decarbonizing electricity production is central to greenhouse gas reduction. Exploiting intermittent renewable energy resources demands a new class of power system planning models with high temporal and spatial resolution. SWITCH, a mixed-integer linear program developed at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley, is used to analyze capacity-expansion in the Western North American electricity grid under various policy scenarios and hourly operational constraints at minimal cost. Results indicate that Renewable Portfolio Standard targets are achievable in the absence of other policy mechanisms at a cost of conserved carbon of $28/tCO2 (the cost to NOT emit a tonne of carbon relative to a baseline scenario), but allow emissions to remain above 1990 levels by 2030. If the power system is planned with a carbon tax of $60/tCO2, the optimal grid changes dramatically, favoring either nuclear power or a mix of solar, wind and natural gas generation. Emission reductions of up to 55% below 1990 levels are shown to be possible at a cost of conserved carbon of $36/tCO2.