California’s population is expected to grow over the next 40 years from 37 million to 55 million, doubling its energy demands. Given those numbers, is it possible for the Golden State to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, as required by an executive order?
Yes, says scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in a new report – but not without bold policy and behavioral changes, coupled with scientific innovation. The report was sponsored by the California Council on Science and Technology and funded by the California Energy Commission, the S.D. Bechtel Foundation and the California Air Resources Board.
The new report, entitled “California’s Energy Future—The View to 2050,” illustrates a number of different scenarios that would allow California to meet its ambitious emissions targets using a combination of measures that might include electrification, enhanced efficiency, nuclear energy, renewable energy sources, grid modernization, and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).
According to the report, the first 60 percent in targeted emissions reductions can be achieved with currently available technology – if it is deployed at rates that are aggressive, but feasible.The remaining 20 percent reduction in emissions will have to come from advancements in several technologies still under development, which may include artificial photosynthesis, fusion energy, more efficient and sustainable biofuels, hydrogen fuel, more effective CCS and advanced batteries for both vehicles and grid storage – all of which, as you might imagine, Berkeley Lab is working on.
One of the report’s key findings is that the state’s current electricity grid is “entirely unsustainable” in terms of balancing supply and demand and integrating more renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. The report calls for either greatly expanded storage capacity on the state’s grid, or a high-tech, super intelligent system that can distribute resources with a high degree of efficiency.