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Market News

 August 23, 2007
Advanced technologies could halve utility costs

 California, USA - Aggressive development and implementation of a full portfolio of advanced electricity technologies could reduce the economic cost of cutting future U.S. CO2 emissions by more than 50 percent while meeting the continuing growth in demand for electricity, concludes a new study from the Electric Power Research Institute.

Previous EPRI work has shown that absent investments in advanced technologies, significant reductions in future emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases will result in higher prices for electricity and natural gas, and reduced economic growth.

However, by developing and deploying advanced electricity technologies, such as a "smart" electricity grid, plug-in hybrid vehicles, new advanced nuclear reactors, and clean coal technologies with carbon capture and storage, this EPRI study shows that the same cuts in future U.S. CO2 emissions could be accomplished at much lower cost -- saving as much as $1 trillion in future U.S. economic growth under some scenarios analyzed. The 'full portfolio' of advanced technologies suggested by EPRI would include:

  • End-use energy efficiency
  • Renewable energy
  • Advanced light water nuclear reactors
  • Advanced coal power plants
  • CO2 capture and storage
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles
  • Distributed energy resources

The aggressive development and deployment of several of these advanced technologies could reduce U.S. electricity sector CO2 emissions by roughly 45% by 2030, relative to government projections, concludes the report.

Achieving the indicated emissions reductions requires deployment of a diverse set of new and existing technologies with no "silver bullet" that provides the bulk of emissions-reductions. The generation mix would shift substantially from current projections: coal would remain a critical part of U.S. electricity supply, though with CO2 capture; nuclear energy and renewables would expand their share; and natural gas-fired generation would decline.

EPRI's analysis reveals four key strategic technology deployment challenges that must be met for the U.S. electricity sector to significantly reduce CO2 emissions over the coming decades:

  • Deployment of smart distribution grids and communications infrastructures to enable widespread end-use efficiency technology deployment, distributed generation, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

  • Deployment of transmission grids and associated energy storage infrastructures with the capacity and reliability to operate with 20-30% intermittent renewables in specific regions.

  • Deployment of advanced light water reactors enabled by continued safe and economic operation of the existing nuclear fleet.

  • Deployment of commercial-scale coal-based generation units operating with 90% CO2 capture and with the associated infrastructures to transport and sequester the captured CO2.

The study builds upon previous studies which estimated the technical feasibility of achieving large-scale CO2 emissions reduction using advanced electricity technologies, and includes new work that identifies the research, development and deployment pathways necessary for these technologies to reach their full potential.

Read the full study, "The Power to Reduce CO2 Emissions -- The Full Portfolio" (PDF).

EPRI is an independent, nonprofit center which conducts research on key issues facing the electric power industry on behalf of its members, energy stakeholders and society.



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