Biomass enables the transition to a carbon-negative power system across western North America
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2488
Sustainable biomass can play a transformative role in the transition to a decarbonized economy, with potential applications in electricity, heat, chemicals and transportation fuels. Deploying bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) results in a net reduction in atmospheric carbon. BECCS may be one of the few cost-effective carbon-negative opportunities available should anthropogenic climate change be worse than anticipated or emissions reductions in other sectors prove particularly difficult. Previous work, primarily using integrated assessment models, has identified the critical role of BECCS in long-term (pre- or post-2100 time frames) climate change mitigation, but has not investigated the role of BECCS in power systems in detail, or in aggressive time frames, even though commercial-scale facilities are starting to be deployed in the transportation sector. Here, we explore the economic and deployment implications for BECCS in the electricity system of western North America under aggressive (pre-2050) time frames and carbon emissions limitations, with rich technology representation and physical constraints. We show that BECCS, combined with aggressive renewable deployment and fossil-fuel emission reductions, can enable a carbon-negative power system in western North America by 2050 with up to 145% emissions reduction from 1990 levels. In most scenarios, the offsets produced by BECCS are found to be more valuable to the power system than the electricity it provides. Advanced biomass power generation employs similar system design to advanced coal technology, enabling a transition strategy to low-carbon energy.