The Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, Calif., has updated its “Prism and Merge” analysis that shows how a full portfolio of electricity sector technologies could simultaneously address the challenge of growing load demand while meeting carbon constraints and limiting increases in the cost of electricity.

The research shows that the sector could potentially reduce annual CO2emissions in 2030 by 41 percent relative to 2005 levels, but that it will require sustained research, development and demonstration, and aggressive deployment of the full technology portfolio.

The full portfolio includes coal-fired generation with carbon capture and storage, renewable resources and nuclear generation, as well as efficiency improvements throughout the electricity production and delivery system and reduced consumption through end-use efficiency. The full portfolio requires the following:
  • Deployment of advanced technologies by 2030 comparable to those assumed in the Prism analysis.
  • 8 percent reduction in electricity consumption through improved end-use efficiency.
  • 45 new nuclear units.
  • New renewables generation that is equivalent to a four-fold increase in current wind and solar generation capacity.
  • 100 million plug-in electric vehicles.
An increase in the use of de-carbonized electricity through electrotechnologies presents opportunities to reduce CO2emissions in applications such as ovens, induction melting systems and furnaces, heat pumps and water heaters.

“Our analyses clearly show the imperative for the electricity sector to move aggressively to deploy a full portfolio of technologies that will lead to a low-carbon energy future while limiting costs to the nation’s economy,” says Steve Specker, EPRI president and chief executive officer.

The results indicate that by 2050, the full portfolio could drop the U.S. economic cost of reducing emissions by more than $1 trillion. Deployment of the full portfolio could result in an 80 percent increase in the real wholesale cost of electricity by 2050 relative to current costs, compared with a projected increase of more than 210 percent with a limited portfolio.

In 2007, EPRI published its first Prism analysis, which laid out the U.S. electricity sector’s potential for reducing CO2emissions and an economically optimum technology portfolio that could meet demand growth and carbon emissions constraints. The 2009 research is based on lowering carbon emissions targets by 80 percent by 2050, consideration of new technology options, and inclusion of recent advances in technology and cost projections that take into account the impact of the current global economy.