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Open Access Publications from the University of California

California’s Energy Future: The View to 2050 - Summary Report

  • Author(s): Yang, Christopher
  • et al.

This report assesses technology requirements for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in California to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 as required by Executive Order S-3-05 (2005). Details of this analysis, assumptions and data are to be found in forthcoming reports, including a detailed analyses for specific energy technologies. The present document serves to synthesize the results and present the major findings.

The challenge of meeting these GHG emission targets is large:•    By 2050, California’s population is expected to grow from the 2005 level of 37 million to 55 million. Even with moderate economic growth and business-as-usual (BAU) efficiency gains, we will need roughly twice as much energy in 2050 as we use today.•    To achieve the 80% reduction goal, California’s greenhouse gas emissions will need to fall from 470 MtCO2e/yr (million metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year) in 2005 to 85 MtCO2e/ yr in 2050, with most of those emissions (77 MtCO2e/yr) coming from the energy sector. Accomplishing this will require a reduction from about 13 tons CO2e per capita in 2005 to about 1.6 tons CO2e per capita in 2050.

This study has developed a set of energy system “portraits”, each of which meets the challenge of providing the energy needed for future growth while striving to achieve the required greenhouse gas emissions reductions. We use the term energy system portrait to mean a set of energy sources, carriers and end-use technologies that meet all the energy needs of Californians projected for 2050. An energy system portrait describes an end-state or target energy system that could be a goal for California. This study connects related sectors of the energy system in order to account for trade- offs and inter-relationships. For example, if vehicle electrification is chosen as a strategy to reduce emissions, we also have to account for the emissions produced by the generation of the additional electricity needed for the vehicles.

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