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Getting Near Zero - Decarbonizing the Last 20%

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Session Description: 

Several studies have been published recently suggesting that substantial decarbonization of the electric sector can be achieved with existing technologies. A substantial fraction of carbon emissions from other sectors could be avoided through electrification or production of carbon-neutral gaseous or liquid fuels. Removal of carbon dioxide from the air could potentially be deployed to achieve zero net emissions overall.

The purpose of this meeting is to assess the feasibility of decarbonizing the last, and most difficult-to-eliminate, portion of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. For the purposes of this meeting, we will assume that deep decarbonization of the electric sector is technically and economically feasible with existing or foreseeable near-zero emission technologies, and that all sectors amenable to electrification can be so converted.

The meeting will focus on the technical feasibility of economically achieving near-zero emissions from the energy sector. Barriers associated with politics, policy, and public acceptance will be noted but not addressed in detail at this meeting. Challenges to eliminating these last emissions include (1) exploiting and integrating intermittent electricity resources to achieve high reliability via supply- and demand-based strategies, (2) decarbonizing transportation sectors not amenable to electrification (long-distance trucking, aviation, shipping, etc.), (3) decarbonizing heavy industries such as steel or cement manufacture, (4) possible scale up of nuclear and CCS, and/or (5) carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere.

Workshop Topic (s): 
  • Carbon Cycle
  • Human Contributions & Responses
  • Land-Use/Land-Cover Change