Study: It Is Feasible for the U.S. to Achieve Over 80% Carbon-Free Electricity by 2050

Takeaway: reliability concerns about the transition to renewable electricity are valid, but not insurmountable.

Potential U.S. Electricity Generation Mix in 2050 (%)

The U.S. can feasibly generate over 80% of its electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2050.
  • A 2012 analysis shows that the U.S. can achieve over 80% carbon-free electricity generation by 2050, while maintaining grid reliability in every U.S. region and at relatively low cost.

  • This would reduce power plant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than three-quarters from current levels (equivalent to reducing overall emissions by about one-quarter).

  • This would increase the average American's monthly power bill by about $20, but this excludes power bill savings from energy efficiency and healthcare cost savings from reduced pollution.

For Most Americans, Electric Vehicles Pollute Less Than the Most-Efficient Gasoline-Powered Car

Takeaway: while it may be the case that hybrids are better for the climate than electric cars in some places today, electric cars have more potential than hybrids to reduce emissions from oil in the long run.
  • A 2015 report measured that two-thirds of Americans live in regions (including California, Texas, Florida, New York, New England, and the entire Northwest) where driving an electric vehicle (EV) produces fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs) than the most efficient gas-powered vehicle.

  • Even in regions where electricity used to charge EVs is the dirtiest, an EV pollutes 21% less than the average new gasoline-powered vehicle.

  • If the U.S. moved to a grid supplied by 80% renewable energy, an EV would emit roughly 90% less GHG pollution than the current average new gasoline-powered vehicle.