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Clean Energy Future Assesses Technology and Policy

A new report prepared by five Department of Energy National Laboratories assesses technologies and policies to meet the energy-related challenges of the United States as it enters the 21st century. It concludes that a number of policies and measures described in the report can lead to faster development and deployment of energy-efficient, low-carbon technologies, and that the successful implementation of these policies can reduce energy inefficiencies, oil dependence, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions at essentially no net cost to the U.S. The policies include increased R&D; voluntary agreements to promote energy efficiency in vehicles, buildings and equipment, and industrial processes; programs promoting cogeneration; electric sector restructuring; and a domestic carbon cap and trading system.

The study, Scenarios for a Clean Energy Future, led by Marilyn A. Brown of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Mark D. Levine of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Walter D. Short of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is the most comprehensive study of the role of energy technologies in reducing local and global environmental emissions that the U.S. Department of Energy has ever commissioned. Researchers at Berkeley Lab led two of the chapters: Jon Koomey, Carrie Webber, and Celina Atkinson (buildings) and Ernst Worrell and Lynn Price (industry). Jon Koomey and Etan Gumerman also led the integrated modeling to create the energy scenarios in the study.

Energy Issues Facing the U.S.

Carbon emission reductions by sector in the advanced scenario.

Figure 1. Carbon emission reductions by sector in the advanced scenario.

The report identifies a number of energy-related issues that will affect the U.S. in the next century: the potential for climate change from human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases; increases in acid rain from growth of energy generation; oil supply vulnerability and price volatility arising from the concentration of oil supplies in unstable parts of the world; and potential economic and physical disruptions during restructuring of the U.S. electricity sector. The study identifies and assesses public policies and programs to address these issues.

The Clean Energy Future (CEF) study created three scenarios of energy use: business-as-usual (BAU), moderate, and advanced. The BAU scenario is similar to the Department of Energy's Reference Case, published in the Annual Energy Outlook 1999. The moderate and advanced scenarios both assume a variety of policies and programs that are implemented to improve the energy efficiency of the buildings, industry, transportation, and electricity sectors.

Carbon emission reductions by sector in the moderate scenario.

Figure 2. Carbon emission reductions by sector in the moderate scenario.

Two significant differences from the moderate scenario are the advanced scenario's assumption that the U.S. adopts a cap on carbon emissions, and a carbon emission-trading system, and that the federal government doubles its appropriations for cost-shared R&D.

Three Scenarios and Their Results

As shown Table 1, the study finds that through the adoption of cost-effective technologies and policies, the U.S. can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 5% below the business-as-usual level in 2010 under the moderate scenario, and by either 13% or 17% in the advanced scenario, depending on whether the carbon permit-trading charge is assumed to be $25 or $50/ton. Primary energy use is 3% below BAU under the moderate scenario, and 8% to 10% below BAU in the advanced scenarios in 2010.

Table 1. Selected Results for 2010 and 2020.
  2010 Scenarios
  1990 1997 BAU Moderate Advanced
($25/tC)a
Advanced
($50/tC)b
U.S. Primary Energy Use
(Quadrillion Btu)
84.2 94 110.3 106.5 101.3 99.5
Energy Use Reductions
(Percent Change from BAU)
(-3.5%) (-8%) (-10%)
U.S. Energy Bill
(Billion 1997$)
516 552 650 595 599c 634c
Energy Bill Reductions
(Percent Change from BAU)
(-8%) (-8%) (-3%)
U.S. Carbon Emissions
(Million Metric Tons)
1,346 1,480 1,769 1,684 1,540 1,467
Carbon Emissions Reductions
(Percent Change from BAU)
(-5%) (-13%) (-17%)
  2020 Scenarios
  1990 1997 BAU Moderate Advanced
($25/tC)a
Advanced
($50/tC)b
U.S. Primary Energy Use
(Quadrillion Btu)
84.2 94 119.8 110.3 99 97
Energy Use Reductions
(Percent Change from BAU)
(-8%) (-17%) (-19%)
U.S. Energy Bill
(Billion 1997$)
516 552 694 594 542c 572c
Energy Bill Reductions
(Percent Change from BAU)
(-14%) (-22%) (-18%)
U.S. Carbon Emissions
(Million Metric Tons)
1,346 1,480 1,922 1,743 1,478 1,357
Carbon Emissions Reductions
(Percent Change from BAU)
(-9%) (-23%) (-29%)

a This variation of the Advanced scenario has a domestic carbon trading system that equilibrates at a carbon permit charge of $25/tC.

b This "standard" Advanced scenario includes a domestic carbon trading system that equilibrates at a carbon permit charge of $50/tC.

c The energy prices used to calculate this energy bill include the cost of the carbon permit charge.

 

Some Conclusions

CEF concludes that the energy cost savings from more efficient use of energy throughout the economy can equal or exceed the direct cost of the policies and technologies deployed in the moderate and advanced scenarios. The growth of domestic "green" industries—wind, bioenergy and others—creates new employment. However, in the advanced scenario certain sectors that might experience job loss, such as the coal industry, will need special additional attention to address the transition of workers to other jobs.

An important use of this report is to provide the technical and economic underpinnings for the policies that could be employed to reduce the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. By 2010, the moderate scenario brings CO2 emissions 20% of the way back towards 1990 levels, the advanced scenario with a carbon permit value of $25/tC brings them 54% of the way down, and the advanced scenario at $50/tC closes 71% of the gap.

— Allan Chen

For more information, contact:

  • Marilyn A. Brown
  • (865) 576-8152; fax (865) 241-0112
  • Walter D. Short
  • (303) 384-7368; fax (303) 384-7411
  • Jon Koomey
  • (510) 486-5974; fax (510) 486-4247
  • End-Use web site
  • Ernst Worrell
  • (510) 486-6794; fax (510) 486-6996
  • Lynn Price
  • (510) 486-6519; fax (510) 486-6996

Download the report and appendices in PDF format.

Download the detailed result spreadsheets for all the combinations of scenario runs.

The five national laboratories participating in the study are Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley, National Renewable Energy, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest national laboratories.

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