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September 25, 2019
Brattle Study: Achieving New England's Ambitious 2050 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals Will Require Keeping the Foot on the Clean Energy Deployment Accelerator

Reaching 2050 Targets Requires Ramping Up the Addition of New

Clean Energy Resources to 4–7 GW per Year

Like many regions in North America and around the globe, New England has committed to achieving at least an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. A new study prepared by economists at The Brattle Group has found that achieving these goals, while feasible, will require New England to significantly accelerate clean energy resource deployment.

The Brattle study reviewed the GHG reduction targets across New England and found that achieving these ambitious GHG goals requires adding clean energy generation resources, expanding energy efficiency, and substantially increasing the electrification of the building and transportation sectors. According to the study, these developments would result in an approximate doubling of electricity demand by 2050, even accounting for substantial energy efficiency gains.  

To meet this higher electricity demand with clean energy resources, the authors found that the rate of deployment for these resources in the region will need to increase to 4–7 GW annually on average through 2050. Building on prior experience in numerous regions and sectors, Brattle economists created a simulation of the New England region, incorporating findings from prior analyses of demand-side energy savings potential, electrification of various sectors of the economy, and the economics of clean and renewable energy resources.

Prepared on behalf of the Coalition for Community Solar Access, the Brattle study includes several key findings:

  • Electricity will play a critical role in decarbonizing the New England economy. As a result, electricity demand will grow substantially and could well be twice the current level by 2050.
  • In supplying this growing demand for power, both solar photovoltaic (PV) and offshore wind will likely play a critical role.
  • Merely maintaining the current rate of clean energy resource deployment will cause the region to fall short of its targets. Currently planned clean energy resource generation for 2019–2030 in New England amounts to approximately 830 MW per year. This represents a significant increase from the historical generation of 280 MW per year from 2010–2018.
  • However, to achieve the 2050 targets, New England will need to accelerate clean energy resource additions to between 4 and 7 GW per year on average between 2021 and 2050.
  • To reach these levels, annual clean energy resource additions will need to continue to grow by approximately 9% per year through 2050.

“Achieving the GHG reduction goals set by New England states will require significantly accelerating clean energy resource deployment. This is feasible, but it is important to realize that the ambitious goals will require large-scale investment,” noted Jürgen Weiss, a Brattle principal and study coauthor. “Given that more and more states and communities are adopting GHG reduction goals, the findings about New England are broadly applicable to regions that are currently examining the mechanisms by which they can reduce their carbon footprints, even if the details differ.”

The report “Achieving 80% GHG Reduction in New England by 2050: Why the Region Needs to Keep its Foot on the Clean Energy Accelerator,” is coauthored by Brattle Principal Jürgen Weiss, Senior Associate J. Michael Hagerty, Senior Research Analyst Maria Castañer, and Research Analyst John Higham.