Declaring electricity “the lifeblood of our modern world,” five electricity trade associations issued a report yesterday examining the power sectors in Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United States with the goal of crafting a blueprint for reducing electric utility carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The study, “Roadmap for a Low-Carbon Power Sector by 2050,” concluded that major reductions in CO2 emissions are possible over the next few decades, and that the bulk of these reductions will occur in the 2025-2040 timeframe. The report was prepared by the International Electricity Partnership, comprising the Edison Electric Institute, the Energy Supply Association of Australia, the Canadian Electricity Association, Eurelectric and the Federation of Electric Companies of Japan.

“We’ve developed a roadmap that we believe is both plausible and necessary to achieving greenhouse gas reductions sought through international negotiations and here at home by the U.S. Congress,” EEI President Tom Kuhn said. “This is the kind of commitment and consensus needed to make meaningful progress on the climate issue.”

“It is hard to find a single aspect of life that has not been transformed by electric power,” the group said. “Many advances in medicine, transportation, manufacturing, communications and information technology were attainable because of electricity. In societies around the globe, electrification is a fundamental catalyst for economic growth and the means to improve living conditions.”

IEP, formed in October 2008, said that advanced, efficient electric technologies can make a major contribution toward addressing climate change. “New technology, with an adequate transition period, can accommodate the objective of stabilizing carbon emissions from all sources. With aggressive technology development, CO2 emissions can be reduced 60-80 percent by 2050,” the partnership concluded.

The report noted that the rate at which the sector’s carbon is reduced will be critically dependent on the technical and economic feasibility of deploying low-carbon electricity generation and efficient end-use technologies. The International Energy Agency has projected that an investment totaling $1.7 trillion will be needed in the global power sector from 2010-2030 in order to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at 450 parts per million.

The report urges that any political framework for achieving significant emissions cuts ensures that the roadmaps to a sustainable climate future and deployment of low-carbon technologies are coherently integrated. “At present there is little evidence of such coherence,” IEP said.

To address these concerns, the report makes a series of policy and technology recommendations critical to delivering low-carbon electric power. Specifically, the groups believe it is possible to significantly cut carbon emissions by 2050, provided several elements are in place, including:

  • Intelligent and efficient electricity generation, transmission, distribution and use;
  • Increased use of low-carbon end-use electric applications; and
  • Policies to incentivize substantial investment in renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, and nuclear power; “smart” grid networks and applications; electric vehicles, heat pumps and other efficient electric technologies; and major energy efficiency gains.

Meeting reduction targets by 2050 will be possible only with increased deployment of low-emitting electric generation technologies, accompanied by aggressive efficiency improvements in the transportation and domestic sectors, IEP said. “Low-carbon electricity can make a substantial contribution to carbon reductions in these sectors.”