Getting to Decarbonization
Making the switch to very low- or zero-carbon electricity is a key step towards system-wide decarbonization. After all, an electric vehicle is only as low carbon as the energy used to charge its batteries.
The Midcontinent Power Sector Collaborative (MPSC) set out to better understand what choices would lead to the lowest cost decarbonization in the electricity sector when focusing primarily on supply-side measures like wind, solar, natural gas with carbon capture, and nuclear power. Taking into account key assumptions like natural gas prices, cost of renewables, and extending the life of nuclear plants, the MPSC’s modeling focused on two “book end” pathways: one looked at the lower end target of an 80 percent carbon reduction from 2005 levels, while the other looked at closer to zero carbon, or a 95 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2050.
80 Percent Decarbonization
In the scenarios looking at an 80 percent reduction from 2005 emissions from the region’s electricity system, the MPSC found that compared to the current trajectory, or “business as usual,” the region could be expected to rely less on uncontrolled coal and natural gas; more on emissions-free nuclear, wind, and solar; more on energy efficiency; and more on fossil units with carbon capture.
95 Percent Decarbonization
In the scenarios looking at a 95 percent reduction from 2005 emissions from the region’s electricity system, the MPSC found that compared to the current trajectory, or “business as usual,” the region could be expected to rely much less on uncontrolled natural gas and coal; much more on emissions-free nuclear, wind, and solar; more on energy efficiency; and much more on natural gas with carbon capture.
Great River Energy’s Efforts Toward Decarbonization
MPSC participant Great River Energy (GRE) is a generation and transmission power cooperative with 28 member-owner cooperatives that serve approximately 695,000 consumers in Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin. GRE has seen its carbon emissions drop 35 percent since 2005. How’d they do it?
One big part of GRE’s early success in reducing emissions is its pursuit of ambitious renewables goals. GRE met Minnesota’s 25 percent renewable energy standard in 2017 – eight years ahead of the required deadline. In June 2018, Great River Energy committed to providing its membership with energy that is 50 percent from renewable resources by 2030.