Erica Brand, MS | The Nature Conservancy
TITLELand conservation and clean energy pathways to deep decarbonization of electricity
ABSTRACTMany jurisdictions in the United States—Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Washington, Nevada, Puerto Rico, and New York—have recently passed legislation setting ambitious midcentury targets of significant economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions reductions and 100% carbon-free electricity. However, few studies have considered the natural and agricultural land constraints and impacts of the infrastructure needed for a grid dominated by wind and solar generation and none have examined it at the level of ambition for deep decarbonization. We use the state of California as a case study for developing an analytical framework that integrates land use considerations in the energy planning process to examine the land use constraints and trade-offs of achieving ambitious renewable energy targets. By combining an electricity sector capacity expansion model with the detailed spatial representation of areas with high conservation and agricultural value, our study is the first to demonstrate how the integration of natural and cultivated lands in an energy planning process can help to design a course to achieve both land conservation and energy objectives. We assess how constraints on both power plant and transmission siting that protect high-conservation-value and prime agricultural land affect California’s technology choices and costs to meet climate targets, and how these, in turn, shape electricity’s land impacts. We also examine a key policy option actively being considered by regulators—low-impact solar or wind energy imports from other western states—and how this can alter the balance between system costs and conservation.
BIOErica Brand serves as Director of the California Energy Strategy at The Nature Conservancy, where she works on state and regional policies related to clean electricity and land conservation. In her role she leads a team that focuses on decarbonizing the electricity grid, providing science and policy analysis to state and federal regulatory agencies that develop and implement clean electricity policies. Erica serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT).
Before joining The Nature Conservancy, she served as a Senior Environmental Policy Specialist at Pacific Gas & Electric Company. She has over 15 years of experience in the energy and environmental sector.
Erica holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental Management from the University of San Francisco, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.