Energy infrastructure needs for a net-zero economy

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The Decarb America Research Initiative analyzes policy and technology pathways for the United States to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Our work aims to advance our understanding of the tradeoffs between different proposed strategies for achieving net-zero emissions and to identify the national, regional, and state-level economic opportunities that a new clean energy economy will generate. Our analytical results are intended to inform policymakers as they consider options for addressing climate change and modernizing America’s energy systems.

To develop these results, Decarb America commissioned Evolved Energy Research and Industrial Economics, Inc. to undertake a rigorous, multi-part modeling analysis (more information is available at About the Initiative). The analysis explores five main research topics: 1) Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions; 2) Energy Infrastructure Needs for a Net-Zero Economy; 3) Power Sector Deep Dive; 4) Clean Energy Innovation Breakthroughs; and 5) Impacts on Jobs and the Economy.

This report presents key takeaways on topics (1) and (2) from our modeling results to date, with a focus on infrastructure needs for a net-zero economy. These modeling results address four critical questions:

  • What types of clean energy infrastructure are we likely to build—and where—to achieve net-zero by 2050? 
  • How will this infrastructure differ from today’s energy systems?
  • How much clean energy infrastructure needs to be deployed, and how quickly? 
  • What are the challenges for achieving rapid deployment on a large scale?

Overall, our early findings underscore the magnitude of the net-zero challenge: decarbonizing the U.S. economy by mid-century will require new clean energy infrastructure to be developed, financed, sited, and constructed at unprecedented rates. But our results also highlight the economic benefits that a major national investment in infrastructure modernization can create: All regions of the country have an opportunity to develop new clean energy industries, and the energy-producing states of today can continue to lead domestic energy production in a net-zero future.

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