CO2 reduction targets can be met with affordability. An EPRI report released this week concludes affordability requires a "full portfolio" of electricity sector technologies. Diverse generation "could simultaneously address the challenge of growing load demand while meeting carbon constraints and limiting increases in the cost of electricity." 

The new study estimates the extra electricity cost to the average household is $398 a year to achieve 80 percent greenhouse-gas reductions by 2050. This reduction target is consistent with a bill approved recently at the U.S. House of Representatives. The full portfolio covers coal-fired generation with carbon capture & storage (CCS), renewable resources,  nuclear generation, significant efficiency improvements throughout the electricity production & delivery system, and reduced consumption through end-use efficiency. 

The EPRI analysis confirms that no one technology can do the job and deployment of renewable energy and efficiency programs alone is insufficient. A "limited portfolio," excluding advanced coal with CCS and advanced light water nuclear reactors, increases the additional cost to the average household to $692 a year.

Our electricity future of 2050 will be determined by the policy and actions of the coming decade. This study estimates the technical potential for the U.S. electricity sector to reduce annual CO2 emissions in 2030 by: (1) 41% relative to 2005 emissions, based on improvements to electric sector technologies; (2) 58% relative to 2005 emissions, if reductions due to electrotechnologies and electric transportation are included; (3) 62% relative to the 2030 reference case projection in the Energy Information Administration’s 2009 Annual Energy Outlook.

Additional opportunities exist to reduce CO2 emissions by the use of decarbonized electricity in applications such as heat pumps, water heaters, ovens, induction melting, and arc furnaces.

The full portfolio requires by 2030 these accomplishments; (1) an 8 percent reduction in electricity consumption through improved end-use efficiency; (2) 45 new nuclear units; (3) new renewables generation equivalent to four-fold increase in current wind and solar generation capacity; (4) 90% carbon capture in all new coal-fired power plants built after 2020 and CCS retrofit for 60 gigawatts of existing coal generation at 90% capture efficiency; (5) 100 million plug-in electric vehicles; and (6) 4.5% of primary energy supplied by fossil fuels is replaced by electricity in certain commercial and industrial applications.

This approach could reduce the cost to the U.S. economy of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by more than $1 trillion by 2050. The result is 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. 


(1) The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI, conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery, and use of electricity for the benefit of the public.

(2) U.S. DOE Energy Information Administration (EIA), Annual Energy Outlook 2008, June 2008, DOE/EIA-0383(2008),

(3) Steven Specker, EPRI President and CEO, summarized these results for the electricity sector executives, regulators, and stakeholders at the EPRI Summer Seminar on August 3-4, 2009.