Working Paper Series


This is a Working Paper Series, therefore intended to facilitate discussion on research in progress. Working papers represent the opinions of the authors, and are not meant to represent the position or opinions of the authors’ institutions. Any errors are the fault of the authors. Working papers published under this Series may subsequently be published elsewhere.


Working Paper 009: Cost-effective decarbonization of California’s power sector by 2030 with the aid of battery storage (download working paper)


The costs of solar photovoltaics (PV), wind, and battery storage have fallen by approximately 65% to 85% since 2010 and are projected to decline further in the near future—creating opportunities for aggressive power-sector decarbonization that were seldom envisioned even a few years ago. We assess the ability of large-scale PV and wind deployment in conjunction with modest amounts of battery storage to enable near-complete decarbonization of California’s power sector by 2030. Our study improves on previous analyses by accounting for the dramatic recent cost reductions and therefore assessing the possibility of more rapid decarbonization. We find that, even if renewable energy and storage costs do not decline further, a carbon-free generation share of 80% can be achieved by 2030 in California at a total system cost lower than the cost in a baseline no-additional-cleanenergy scenario. If costs decline at half the rate observed since 2010, 95% carbon-free generation is feasible at a total system cost similar to the cost in a baseline scenario. This is the first study to suggest California could cost-effectively achieve near-complete power-sector decarbonization by 2030 using existing technologies. The results also indicate potential for similar opportunities in other regions of the world. This is especially important because power-sector decarbonization could catalyze electrification-based decarbonization across other economic sectors such as transportation, buildings, and industry.



Working Paper 007: Sunsetting Coal Power in China (download working paper)


Reducing CO2 emissions from coal-fired electricity generation in China will be critical to global efforts to limit global warming. Long-term projections of China’s electricity supply tend to assume that coal generation will be a mainstay of China’s electricity system through 2050, but it is unclear if and when carbon capture and storage will be viable at scale. This paper uses an analytical model to examine the resource, economic, and institutional implications of reducing and replacing coal generation in China with mostly renewable energy by 2040. We find that the scale of solar, wind, and storage resources needed to do so is extremely large — on the order of 100-150 GW yr-1 of solar and wind capacity and 15 GW yr-1 of battery storage from 2020 to 2025, growing to 250 GW yr-1 and 90 GW yr-1, respectively, from 2025 to 2040. However, the scale of new generation resources needed to meet 3-5 PWh (10-17 EJ) yr-1 of expected electricity demand growth in China by 2040 (relative to 2018) will be extremely large regardless of technology choices. Although the idea of terawatt-scale development of solar, wind, and batteries will naturally raise questions around feasibility, more important questions are around future technology costs (actual, not modeled), changes in institutions needed to support a mostly renewable electricity system in China, and transition issues.