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All the New England States have committed to achieving an ambitious 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Is the goal feasible and what will need to be done to achieve it?

A recent study prepared by the Brattle Group on behalf of the Coalition for Community Solar Access assessed the goal and reviewed the current clean energy pipeline and planned renewable procurements across New England. While the goals are feasible, the Brattle group found that it will require a significant additional scaling of annual clean energy deployments across the region from 800 MW to 4-7 GW on average.

…it will require annual clean energy deployments across the region from 800 MW to 4-7 GW on average.

Why does the rate of deployment need to increase so drastically?

In order to decarbonize the economy to below 80% of 1990 levels, the largest remaining carbon-intensive sectors of the economy – transportation, residential heating, commercial heating and the power sector must electrify with renewable sources which translates to 50% of existing fossil fuel sources and 100% of all new electricity demand.

How Can New England Meet Their Goals?

While this type of increase sounds aggressive, it is still in line with global growth in deployments of wind and solar. To meet their GHG emissions goals, New England will have to shift away from fossil fuels and embrace more solar, solar + plus storage, onshore wind and offshore wind. Local solar, including onsite solar in the form of parking lot carports or rooftop solar, and community solar is expected to comprise the bulk of the supply

Companies and industry associations across renewable energy can use the Brattle Group’s Decarbonized Energy Economy (DEEP) Model and report to drive internal change in implementing energy efficiency and procuring new renewable power, as well as hold government officials accountable to meet targets and drive policies and incentives:

  • Have they identified the GHG emissions targets to address climate change and how much each sector would need to reduce to meet those targets (Step 1 in graph)?
  • Do their policies and incentives account for the increasing demand for electricity (Step 2 in graph)?
  • Will their policies result in increased supply resources and the right supply mix needed to meet the higher electricity demand (Step 3 in graph)?
Brattle Group Deep Model: Three Steps
Brattle Group DEEP Model

Large-scale solar resources will form an important part of the new energy mix and will need to increase 10 to 25x to meet electrification demands in 2050. That’s significantly more than the 4 to 8x increase required by clean energy resources overall, and not currently supported by most states in the region by policies or incentives.

Large-scale solar resources … will need to increase 10 to 25x to meet electrification demands in 2050

If New England is serious about meeting these goals, policies and incentives are needed to create the framework and infrastructure to facilitate electrification and this rapid shift towards renewable energy sources.

In the next few weeks, we will be highlighting the key takeaways from the Brattle Group’s report and translating those into clear, actionable items to support meeting New England’s 2050 goal of 80% greenhouse gas reductions.