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Power Grid Load-Balancing, GHG Emissions, and Air Quality Impacts of California Renewable Energy Integration and Electrification


Continued release of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily emitted from combustion of fossil fuels, will result in further global warming, increasing the risk of severe and irreversible impacts for humans and ecosystems. An integrated mitigation approach combining deployment of energy efficiency measures, decarbonizing electricity generation sector and transformation of end-use fuels can be a feasible and cost-effective solution. State of California has adopted deep GHG emission reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, but decarbonizing the power supply sector cannot lead to such aggressive emission reductions by itself. Therefore, widespread electrification, i.e. switching direct fossil fuel use to electricity, is essential for meeting deep emission reduction targets.

The infrastructural transformation and the technology path required for achieving this ambitious GHG reduction goal are not well understood. This thesis analyzes grid and emission impacts of electrifying end-use sectors while decarbonizing power generation, using detailed modeling of infrastructure stocks and economic dispatch of electric grid. A set of scenarios are developed to study the impacts of electrification where each end-use sector is electrified based on the electrification potential and feasibility of implementation using the available electric technologies. In order to accommodate higher statewide electricity demand due to electrification, the electricity generation sector is decarbonized through installing higher levels of renewable power.

Results show that decarbonizing power sector without electrifying end-use sectors reduce GHG emissions only by 8 percent, while electrification of end-use sectors alongside decarbonizing electricity generation yields up to 40 percent GHG emission reductions compared to 1990 levels.

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