Science Inventory

Net-zero CO2 by 2050 scenarios for the United States in the Energy Modeling Forum 37 study


Browning, M., J. McFarland, J. Bistline, G. Boyd, M. Muratori, M. Binstead, C. Harris, T. Mai, G. Blanford, J. Edmonds, A. Fawcett, Pervin Kaplanakman, AND J. Weyant. Net-zero CO2 by 2050 scenarios for the United States in the Energy Modeling Forum 37 study. Energy and Climate Change. Elsevier B.V., Amsterdam, Netherlands, 4:100104, (2023).


ORD's energy team have participated in Stanford University's Energy Modeling Forum Study (EMF 37) from 2019 through 2023. This study co-led by Office of Atmospheric Programs and Stanford University-- brought together 16+ energy/economy/environment modeling groups who ran harmonized net-zero CO2 scenarios for US to identify robust insights and compare technology pathways across models. The EMF 37 study was initiated to help model builders and model users better understand the potential role of electrification in economy-wide decarbonization pathways in important economic sectors—transportation, buildings, and industry. Much of the deep decarbonization literature points to the decarbonization of the power sector followed by the electrification of all major end uses in the economy, but there is a lack of consensus on the ultimate potential for electrification, and rate at which it can be implemented given technical, behavioral, regulatory and economic limits – and competition from other promising emission mitigation options. This study is designed to explore the opportunities, limitations, trade-offs, and robustness of results associated with high electrification of the energy systems in North America.   Importantly, the study is designed to engage nearly all existing North American focused energy and economy-wide energy-economy models, as well as sectoral and technology experts forming study groups focused on transportation, industry, buildings and carbon management. These study groups were formed in early 2020 to help inform the study design for the very beginning of the study.   The first paper from this study summarizes key insights from models and describes the details of the study. In summary, models reach NetZero CO2 with some residual CO2 emissions, which leads to reliance on carbon dioxide removal technologies. There is variance in what type of removal utilized. The pathways agree with common trends, low to zero carbon electricity followed by building electrification, transportation and industry is head to head when it comes to full decarbonization. Follow-up studies will unpack what trends are in each of the end-use sectors. All will be compiled in the Special issue of Energy and Climate Change Journal.


The Energy Modeling Forum (EMF) 37 study on deep decarbonization and high electrification analyzed a set of scenarios that achieve economy-wide net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in North America by mid-century, exploring the implications of different technology evolutions, policies, and behavioral assumptions affecting energy supply and demand. For this paper, 16 modeling teams reported resulting emissions projections, energy system evolution, and economic activity. This paper provides an overview of the study, documents the scenario design, provides a roadmap for complementary forthcoming papers from this study, and offers an initial summary and comparison of results for net-zero CO2 by 2050 scenarios in the United States. We compare various outcomes across models and scenarios, such as emissions, energy use, fuel mix evolution, and technology adoption. Despite disparate model structure and sources for input assumptions, there is broad agreement in energy system trends across models towards deep decarbonization of the electricity sector coupled with increased end-use electrification of buildings, transportation, and to a lesser extent industry. All models deploy negative emissions technologies (e.g., direct air capture and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) in addition to land sinks to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions. Important differences emerged in the results, showing divergent pathways among end-use sectors with deep electrification and grid decarbonization as necessary but not sufficient conditions to achieve net zero. These differences will be explored in the papers complementing this study to inform efforts to reach net-zero emissions and future research needs.

Record Details:

Product Published Date:04/14/2023
Record Last Revised:05/04/2023
OMB Category:Other
Record ID: 357747