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PATHWAYS Model

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Graph of electricity demands by sector

PATHWAYS analysis of annual electricity demands by sector and scenario in Minnesota. Both scenarios include aggressive energy efficiency measures; the High Electrification scenario includes high adoption of electric space heaters and household appliances, electric vehicles, and electrolysis to produce hydrogen for heavy-duty vehicles.

E3’s PATHWAYS model helps clients plan for and achieve economy-wide decarbonization. It identifies GHG reduction measures from transportation, buildings, industry, electricity, and other sectors, and captures interactions among measures to create a detailed picture of emissions reductions and costs through 2050.

As a “stock rollover” model, PATHWAYS considers realistic timing of investments to replace appliances, vehicles, buildings, and other infrastructure. It pays special attention to the dynamics between electricity generation and new loads from transportation and buildings, as well as the role of low-carbon fuels such as advanced biofuels, hydrogen, and synthetic fuels.

Originally developed in 2008, PATHWAYS has performed several groundbreaking studies including an analysis of the technology path to deep, long-term emissions cuts that appeared in the journal Science and a U.S.-wide study for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21).

PATHWAYS is also the analytical engine behind the California Energy Commission’s landmark 2018 study of deep decarbonization in a high renewables future and the California Air Resources Board’s economy-wide blueprint for reducing emissions 40 percent by 2030 as required by SB 350.

Recent projects, such as our work supporting Xcel Energy’s resource planning and corporate climate strategy, have paired PATHWAYS with E3’s RESOLVE model for greater insight into electric sector decisions. We have also enhanced its capabilities around negative emissions technologies (e.g., biorefining with CCS and direct air capture) to support clients in pursuing carbon neutrality.

PATHWAYS is customized for each engagement to reflect state and regional GHG emissions and specific client needs. Our model for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, for example, identified measures to achieve steep emissions reductions from vehicles, while our model for gas utility NW Natural addressed the challenges of meeting winter peak energy needs in buildings in the Pacific Northwest.

Milestones​ in reducing California emissions 80% by 2050 in a High Electrification scenario, as identified by E3’s PATHWAYS model. (Source: California Energy Commission, “Deep Decarbonization in a High Renewables Future,” 2018.)

 


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