Research Article

The Technology Path to Deep Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cuts by 2050: The Pivotal Role of Electricity

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  24 Nov 2011:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1208365

This article has a correction. Please see:


Reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 is the subject of vigorous policy debate, but there has been little physically realistic modeling of the energy and economic transformations required. We analyzed the infrastructure and technology path required to meet this goal in a specific economy (California), using detailed modeling of infrastructure stocks, resource constraints, and electricity system operability. We find that technically feasible levels of energy efficiency and decarbonized energy supply alone are not sufficient. Rather, widespread electrification of transportation and other sectors is required. Decarbonized electricity becomes the dominant form of energy supply, posing challenges and opportunities for economic growth and climate policy. The transformation demands technologies that are not yet commercialized and coordination of investment, technology development, and infrastructure deployment.