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EMF 37: Deep Decarbonization & High Electrificatio Scenarios for North America

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John Weyant 


The EMF 37 study was initiated to help model builders and model users better understand the potential role of electrification in economy-wide decarbonization pathways in important economic sectors—transportation, buildings, and industry. Much of the deep decarbonization literature points to the decarbonization of the power sector followed by the electrification of all major end uses in the economy, but there is a lack of consensus on the ultimate potential for electrification, and rate at which it can be implemented given technical, behavioral, regulatory and economic limits – and competition from other promising emission mitigation options. This study is designed to explore the opportunities, limitations, trade-offs, and robustness of results associated with high electrification of the energy systems in North America.

The major motivating questions for this EMF study are:

  • To what extent can the transportation, buildings, and industrial sectors be electrified, particularly in the context of policies to achieve deep decarbonization and “net-zero” emissions? How might technological and behavioral change and decarbonization efforts alter the extent of electrification?
    • Beyond decarbonization efforts, what are the key drivers of electrification in the transportation, buildings, and industrial sectors?
    • How might the availability of other decarbonization options such as carbon management and low-carbon fuel sources (e.g., biofuels or hydrogen in various forms) compete with electricity to moderate the extent of electrification?
  • What are the implications of high electrification scenarios on the energy system and economic and environmental outcomes in North America in reference projections and across a broad range of decarbonization scenarios?
  • How does technological change in the power sector shape electrification pathways?

Importantly, the study is designed to engage nearly all existing North American focused energy and economy-wide energy-economy models, as well as sectoral and technology experts forming study groups focused on transportation, industry, buildings and carbon management. These study groups were formed in early 2020 to help inform the study design for the very beginning of the study.

So far over 30 national scale energy systems models from the public and private sector as well as from leading NGOs have been participation and early implementation of the study design process and each of the four study groups which started with participation of 6-8 specialists in their sectors and, a small but highly motivated selection of systems modelers to work with them on the evolution of the study design. and to improve the sectoral fidelity of their own models.

The full EMF 37 working group (which currently includes with over one hundred participants) has been meeting once a month since November of 2020 to review a small set of initial scenarios, and work together to design a more comprehensive set of scenarios by the summer of 2021. The modeling teams will run these scenarios by the fall of 2021, at which point the full group will again review the comparative results and use that to produce a new set of scenarios to be run in early 2022.

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