EPRI Says Electricity Sector Could Reduce CO2 by 41%

The Electric Power Research Institute's "Prism and Merge" analyses shows that a full portfolio of electricity sector technologies could simultaneously address the challenge of growing load demand while meeting carbon constraints and limiting increases in the cost of electricity. The research shows that the sector could potentially reduce annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2030 by 41 percent relative to 2005 emissions levels, but that it will require sustained research, development and demonstration and aggressive deployment of the full technology portfolio.

The full portfolio includes coal-fired generation with carbon capture and storage, renewable resources, and nuclear generation, as well as significant efficiency improvements throughout the electricity production and delivery system and reduced consumption through end-use efficiency. It requires deployment of advanced technologies by 2030 comparable to those assumed in the Prism analysis; an 8 percent reduction in electricity consumption through improved end-use efficiency; 45 new nuclear units; new renewables generation equivalent to four-fold increase in current wind and solar generation capacity; and, 100 million plug-in electric vehicles.

An increase in the use of decarbonized electricity through electro-technologies present opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions in applications such as heat pumps, water heaters, ovens, induction melting and furnaces.

"Our analyses clearly show the imperative for the electricity sector to move aggressively to deploy a full portfolio of technologies that will lead to low-carbon energy future while limiting costs to the nation's economy," said Steve Specker, president and chief executive officer. The results indicate that the full portfolio could reduce the cost to the U.S. economy of reducing emissions by more than $1 trillion by 2050. Deployment of the full portfolio could result in an 80 percent increase in the real wholesale cost of electricity by 2050 relative to current costs, compared with a projected increase of more than 210 percent with a limited portfolio.

If expended today these costs would represent an average of about $16,000 per household in the full portfolio scenario compared to $28,400 in a limited portfolio that excludes new nuclear generation or carbon capture and storage.

The institute in 2007 published its first Prism and Merge analyses, which laid out the U.S. electricity sector's potential for reducing CO2 emissions and an economically optimum technology portfolio that could meet demand growth and carbon emissions constraints. This 2009 research is based on reducing carbon emissions targets by 80 percent by 2050, consideration of new technology options, and inclusion of recent advances in technology and cost projections that take into account the impact of the current global economy.

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