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 Charles F. Kutscher, Jeffrey S. Logan, Timothy C. Coburn

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, University of Colorado Boulder

Mission Zero Abstract:

Accelerating the US Clean Energy Transformation: Challenges and Solutions by Sector addresses the imperative for the United States to transition from fossil fuel dependence to clean energy sources. Authored by experts from the University of Colorado Boulder, the report outlines sector-specific challenges and solutions, aiming to eliminate energy-related carbon dioxide emissions which are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

The report emphasizes the urgency of this transformation, drawing parallels between the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact and the potential consequences of climate change. It suggests that lessons learned from the pandemic about preparedness and response should also apply to climate action. The authors argue that the transition not only addresses the existential threat of climate change but also offers significant health, social, and economic benefits. These include improved air quality, enhanced social equity, and the creation of good-paying jobs, particularly important for post-pandemic economic recovery.

Sector-specific strategies are detailed for electricity generation, buildings, transportation, and industry. These strategies involve adopting renewable technologies, increasing energy efficiency, electrification, and implementing policy changes to support these shifts. For instance, the electricity sector could utilize more wind and solar power, the buildings sector could focus on energy efficiency and electrification, the transportation sector could shift to electric vehicles, and the industrial sector could reduce emissions through innovations like green hydrogen and advanced recycling technologies. Each sector also comes with its list of policy recommendations aimed at facilitating these transitions.

Electricity Sector

  1. Clean Energy Standard (CES): Implement a national standard to ensure electricity providers gradually increase their share of renewable energy until it reaches 100% by a target year.
  2. Grid Modernization: Upgrade the electricity grid to accommodate more renewable energy sources and improve reliability and resilience.
  3. Research, Development, and Deployment (RD&D): Increase funding for RD&D to reduce costs and enhance the effectiveness of renewable technologies and energy storage solutions.

Buildings Sector

  1. Energy Efficiency Standards: Enforce stricter energy efficiency standards for new and existing buildings to reduce energy consumption.
  2. Electrification Incentives: Provide incentives for the electrification of building energy systems, replacing natural gas and oil with electricity derived from renewable sources.
  3. Building Codes and Retrofitting: Update building codes to require renewable energy integration and offer subsidies or tax rebates for retrofitting older buildings with energy-efficient technologies.

Transportation Sector

  1. EV Incentives and Infrastructure: Expand incentives for electric vehicles (EVs), including tax rebates, and invest in nationwide charging infrastructure to support EV adoption.
  2. Fleet Electrification: Set targets for the electrification of public and government vehicle fleets and encourage private fleet electrification through regulatory and financial incentives.
  3. Public Transit and Non-Motorized Transport: Invest in public transportation and infrastructure for non-motorized transport (e.g., cycling lanes) to reduce reliance on personal vehicles.

Industrial Sector

  1. Low-Carbon Process Technologies: Promote the adoption of low-carbon technologies for industrial processes, such as electrification and green hydrogen, through tax credits and research grants.
  2. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): Support the development and deployment of CCS technologies to reduce emissions from hard-to-abate industrial processes.
  3. Circular Economy Policies: Implement policies that encourage materials recycling and reuse to minimize waste and reduce emissions from material production.

Cross-Sectoral Policies

  1. Carbon Pricing: Introduce a carbon pricing mechanism to incentivize the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors.
  2. Federal and State Leadership: Encourage federal and state governments to lead by example by implementing sustainable practices in government operations and procurement.
  3. Public Education and Awareness: Increase public education efforts about the benefits of clean energy and the importance of climate action to build broad public support for transformative policies.

These recommendations aim to create a comprehensive framework that addresses the technological, economic, and social aspects of the clean energy transition.