Stanford Energy Student Lectures: Dhruv Suri and Josh Neutel
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Title: Identifying the best opportunities for decarbonization of the US electricity sector under uncertainty
Title: Pathways to carbon neutrality in California
Abstract: California has ambitious plans for net-zero emissions by 2045, however, the road to carbon neutrality is not quite clear. The goal of this work is to evaluate various decarbonization technologies/policies, illuminating the most effective, economical, and feasible pathways to net-zero. To do so, an economy-wide model DECAL (DECarbonize CALifornia) was built using the Low Emissions Analysis Platform (LEAP). DECAL is a “bottom up” model with great depth and breadth, covering both the supply and demand side of the energy economy. The model is equipped with exogenously defined “levers” that control deployment rates, technology choice, and more. Hundreds of economy-wide decarbonization experiments were run, which helped clarify salient features of an otherwise uncertain transition. We find that no single technology can be used alone to reach California’s target; rather, a portfolio of solutions will be required. The electricity sector will require unprecedented infrastructure buildout to support added load, with solar, wind, batteries, natural gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS), and existing hydro and nuclear playing critical roles. Due to retirement lag-time, the transport sector will require aggressive sales rate targets to minimize 2045 vehicle emissions. CCS is an effective and affordable option in the industrial sector, whereas both heat pumps and resistance heating can play a role in the buildings sector. We identify refrigerants as a significant emissions source with sparse technical solutions. Bioenergy can help reduce near-term emissions across all sectors, but are ultimately limited by resource/feedstock constraints. Finally, true net-zero will be difficult to impossible without significant carbon dioxide removal. Key areas where innovation is needed include low global warming potential refrigerants, hydrogen delivery and storage, carbon capture and storage, and direct air capture.
Bio: Josh Neutel received his Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering from the University of Southern California, as well as his Master’s in Environmental Engineering here at Stanford. He is currently a 2nd year PhD student at Stanford, advised by Sally Benson and Adam Brandt in Energy Resources Engineering, as well as Ram Rajagopal in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is generally interested in data/computer science solutions for sustainability, as well as innovation and entrepreneurship. His focus the last two years has been on modeling California’s transition to net-zero emissions. His next project will be focused on creating data solutions to make Stanford’s commercial buildings more efficient.