PublicationJournal Article High-​​resolution modeling of the western North American power system demonstrates low-​​cost and low-​​carbon futures

April 7, 2012
Publication Type:
Journal Article

Decar­boniz­ing elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion is cen­tral to reduc­ing green­house gas emis­sions. Exploit­ing inter­mit­tent renew­able energy resources demands power sys­tem plan­ning mod­els with high tem­po­ral and spa­tial res­o­lu­tion. We use a mixed-​​integer lin­ear pro­gram­ming model – SWITCH – to ana­lyze least-​​cost gen­er­a­tion, stor­age, and trans­mis­sion capac­ity expan­sion for west­ern North Amer­ica under var­i­ous pol­icy and cost sce­nar­ios. Cur­rent renew­able port­fo­lio stan­dards are shown to be insuf­fi­cient to meet emis­sion reduc­tion tar­gets by 2030 with­out new pol­icy. With stronger car­bon pol­icy con­sis­tent with a 450 ppm cli­mate sta­bi­liza­tion sce­nario, power sec­tor emis­sions can be reduced to 54% of 1990 lev­els by 2030 using dif­fer­ent port­fo­lios of exist­ing gen­er­a­tion tech­nolo­gies. Under a range of resource cost sce­nar­ios, most coal power plants would be replaced by solar, wind, gas, and/​or nuclear gen­er­a­tion, with inter­mit­tent renew­able sources pro­vid­ing at least 17% and as much as 29% of total power by 2030. The car­bon price to induce these deep car­bon emis­sion reduc­tions is high, but, assum­ing car­bon price rev­enues are rein­vested in the power sec­tor, the cost of power is found to increase by at most 20% rel­a­tive to business-​​as-​​usual projections.

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