An Achievable Vision of a Clean Energy Future
Clean energy technologies offer an historic opportunity to build an energy future that produces large benefits: modernization of our energy systems, better options for all consumers to control energy costs, advanced economic growth, and dramatically reduced climate pollution. Numerous studies show that by leading on clean energy innovation states can save residents and businesses money, keep more energy dollars in the region, grow the workforce, and secure a healthier future. As a result, Northeast states are making commitments to build a clean energy future, and as they do, questions arise: what impact will current efforts to expand clean energy resources have over time? Where can we do more to advance this future? What amount of clean energy is needed to adequately reduce carbon pollution and meet current emissions targets?
EnergyVision 2030 analyzes these questions by taking a comprehensive look at where efforts to expand clean energy resources can lead, how consumer adoption and market penetration rates can grow, and what increases in clean energy efforts are needed to attain state and regional emissions goals.
EnergyVision 2030 data show that progress is being made and with further strategic action, expanding adoption of modern, market ready technologies can reduce climate pollution emissions 45% by 2030: a target needed to put the region on the path to meet scientifically directed emissions reductions of 80% by 2050. This is a goal most of the Northeast states have made a commitment to in some form. By acting now to reform outdated rules and financial incentives that still encourage investments in old and expensive energy choices and taking steps to facilitate consumer adoption and remove barriers, the region can benefit all residents and achieve its climate commitments.
EnergyVision 2030 suggests one pathway to advance adoption of clean energy technologies in four core areas—grid modernization, electric generation, buildings, and transportation—and demonstrates that even relatively modest increases of clean energy technologies can significantly reduce emissions while delivering consumer and economic benefits for all.
Three EnergyVision 2030 Scenarios
Acadia Center modeled three scenarios to assess the options states have to reduce their emissions:(1) the Baseline Scenario (“business as usual”), which projects emissions in 2030 without any policy changes, (2) the Primary Scenario, which achieves a 45% reduction from 1990 levels, and (3) the Accelerated Scenario, which examines options for states to reduce emissions more quickly — reaching a 50% reduction by 2030. In each scenario, Acadia Center analyzed the energy system by sector: buildings, transportation, industries, and electricity generation. The following summaries describe how these scenarios were developed and what they suggest states can do to meet their goals by 2030.
The Baseline Scenario is a “business as usual” forecast for the Northeast. It captures what the Northeast’s energy system will look like if no new policies are adopted. To develop the Baseline Scenario, Acadia Center used the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2016 Annual Energy Outlook as well as forecasts from the New York and New England Independent System Operators, with changes to reflect recent policy actions by states.
In the Baseline Scenario, wind and solar power increase to the limits set by current state commitments made through renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) and related purchases of renewable energy. In this scenario, renewables (Solar and Wind) will be 24% of the energy mix in 2030. Older coal, oil, and nuclear plants that are no longer economical come offline. The five large nuclear plants in the region (Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Connecticut, Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire, and Ginna Nuclear Power Plant, Nine Mile Point Nuclear Generating Station, and James A. Fitzpatrick Power Plant in New York) will remain in operation through 2030, which assumes license renewals for some plants.
In addition, the Baseline Scenario projects that electric vehicles will make up 5% of cars and light trucks by 2030. In buildings, heat pumps will make up just 3% of heating stock and average annual energy efficiency will decrease from today’s levels to 1%.
If states continue on their current path as modeled in the Baseline Scenario, they will reduce emissions only 30% from 1990 levels by 2030. If states do not meet a 45% reduction by 2030 they are at risk of missing 80% by 2050. Luckily, the states can take action to reach a 45% reduction using market-ready clean energy technologies.
If Northeast states follow the path laid out in the EnergyVision 2030 Primary Scenario, they will reduce emissions 45% from 1990 levels by 2030. This reduction will put the states on a straight path to an 80% reduction in 2050. The Primary Scenario is the focus of Acadia Center’s analysis and is highly achievable if states redouble their efforts to build a clean energy future.
In the Primary Scenario, Acadia Center increased renewable generation to levels greater than the current state RPSs in New England, while maintaining the recently established Clean Energy Standard in New York. The remaining generation mix was designed to keep nuclear and imported hydropower at the Baseline Scenario levels, with fossil fuel generation dispatched to meet the remaining load.
In addition to generation resources, 2,000 MW of demand response, 1,800 MW of advanced load management, and 4,200 MW of energy storage capacity were added to the grid to optimize load. In buildings, electric and natural gas efficiency annual incremental savings goals were increased from the Baseline Scenario to an average of 2.5% and 1.4%, respectively across all states; heat pumps replaced fossil fuels for 13% of residential building heating needs. In transportation, electric vehicles increase to 17% of cars and light trucks based on state commitments, and 2.5% of medium duty vehicles like box trucks and buses are electrified.
The Accelerated Scenario examines the emissions reductions that could be achieved with stronger actions to accelerate growth in clean energy markets. If states follow the Accelerated Scenario they will achieve 50% emissions reduction by 2030.
In the Accelerated Scenario, renewable generation was ramped up in both New England and New York beyond the levels in Primary Scenario. As with the Primary Scenario, the remaining generation mix maintained the same level of nuclear and imported hydropower, and fossil fuel generation was dispatched to meet the remaining load.
Grid modernization resources were increased to 5,000 MW of total demand response, 3,000 MW of advanced load management, and 6,000 MW of energy storage capacity. Electric and natural gas efficiency annual incremental savings were increased to 2.7% and 1.6% respectively across all states, and heat pumps were increased to replace 16% of fossil fuel in residential building heating. In this Accelerated Scenario, electric vehicles comprise 23% of cars and light trucks, with 5% of medium duty vehicles also electrified.