The six New England states have adopted decarbonization goals to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury. To meet these targets, New England must take aggressive action to reduce carbon emissions in transportation, buildings, industry, and electricity generation. The region’s electricity sector faces two related challenges – how to achieve deep carbon reductions and how to maintain system reliability – even as the sector experiences rapid growth due to electrification of end uses in other sectors. These challenges are especially acute in New England, a region where extreme cold weather events drive large peaking energy needs and geography constrains the available resource choices. A new study, prepared by E3 and EFI and funded by Calpine Corporation, assesses the resources and innovations that New England will need to cost-effectively meet economy-wide GHG reductions without sacrificing electricity sector reliability.
The study evaluates New England’s electricity sector reliability needs under deep decarbonization by midcentury. Two economy-wide pathways, “High Fuels” and “High Electrification”, represent bookend scenarios for electricity demand. The authors performed detailed electricity capacity expansion and reliability modeling for each scenario, identifying optimal generation portfolios given the unique constraints of New England’s energy system. The study also identifies complementary innovation priorities based on the region’s energy requirements and local innovation capabilities. Achieving net zero carbon emissions will require transformational change in all energy end-use sectors. Renewable generation, 47-64 GW, provides the bulk of the region’s primary energy. Serving electric load reliably requires maintaining a significant quantity of firm generating capacity – up to 46 GW in the High Electrification scenario.
The study also identifies key innovation priorities such as advanced nuclear, carbon capture, and regional carbon dioxide removal, to accelerate the evolution of a cost-effective low-carbon power sector, and discusses the potential for regional institutions to contribute to this innovation.
E3’s primary authors to the report are Elizabeth Mettetal, Sharad Bharadwaj, Manohar Mogadali, Saamrat Kasina, Clea Kolster, Vignesh Venugopal, Ben Carron, Ari Gold-Parker, Robbie Shaw, Zach Ming, Amber Mahone, and Arne Olson. EFI primary authors are Alex Breckel, Alex Kizer, Sam Savitz, Anne Canavati, Richard Randall, and Tomas Green.