THE PATH TO CARBON-DIOXIDE-FREE POWER: SWITCHING TO CLEAN ENERGY IN THE UTILITY SECTOR, USA BAILIE ALISON, BERNOW STEPHEN, CASTELLI BRIAN, O’CONNOR PETE, ROMM JOSEPH, 2003-04

The United States must dramatically reduce its emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide to levels that will prevent worst-case threats to humans; and ensure that economic development is sustainable. To achieve this goal, emissions from the power sector, currently responsible for more 40 percent of annual U.S. CO2 emissions, must be dramatically reduced. Fortunately, there are technologies available today affecting both electricity consumption and production that could bring this change.

This report examines the policies and measures needed to accelerate the use of those technologies and dramatically reduce U.S. heat-trapping gas emissions by 2020. The goal is to set the nation on the path to achieving zero-carbon electricity by mid-century.

The presented portfolio of policies and measures would bring overall economic benefits to the United States. In 2020, the net savings to households and businesses are more than $80 billion a year. Contrary to the claims of some, taking action today is more economically beneficial than delaying.  Delay locks in another generation of inefficient capital stock, raises future costs and undercuts our ability to maintain the leadership.

The case provide the same or better electricity services to businesses and homeowners by 2020 relative to the business-as-usual while requiring 25 percent less electricity generation. Relative to current levels, use of non-hydro renewable energy increases by a factor of 12 by 2020 in. In the Base Case it increases by a factor of less than 2.5.

The reduction in electricity-related CO2 emissions is more dramatic than the reduction in electricity consumption because of the shifts toward renewable energy, lower-carbon fuels and more efficient power generation. In the base case, electricity-related carbon dioxide grows by more than 30 percent from 2000 to 2020. 

In the case, the United States promptly begins to reduce these emissions. By 2020, emissions are about 60 percent below current levels. And this is all achieved without the price of CO2 rising above $15 a ton.

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