PublicationJournal Article Cost and impact of weak medium term policies in the electricity system in Western North America

March 6, 2021
Publication Type:
Journal Article

We study the cost and lock in of car­bon inten­sive tech­nolo­gies due to weak medium-​​term poli­cies. We use SWITCH WECC—a power sys­tem capac­ity expan­sion opti­miza­tion model with high tem­po­ral and geo­graph­i­cal res­o­lu­tion. We test three car­bon cap sce­nar­ios. For each sce­nario, we opti­mize the power sys­tem for a medium time­frame (2030) and a long time­frame (2050). In the medium time­frame opti­miza­tions, by 2030 coal replaces gas power. This occurs because the long opti­miza­tion fore­sees the stronger car­bon cap in 2050. There­fore, it is opti­mal to tran­si­tion towards cleaner tech­nolo­gies as early as 2030. The medium-​​term opti­miza­tion has higher costs in 2040 and 2050 com­pared to the long opti­miza­tion. There­fore, to min­i­mize total costs to reduce emis­sions by 80 % in 2050, we should opti­mize until 2050 or have stronger car­bon cap poli­cies by 2030 (such as 26 % car­bon emis­sions reduc­tions from 1990 lev­els by 2030 across the WECC).

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