Electric Vehicles Critical to the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas

- December 1st, 2011

A new detailed report issues a compelling message for policy makers that it is essential for a widespread shift of direct fuel transportation application to electricity in order to achieve green house gas reduction targets.

By Dave Brown – Exclusive to Lithium Investing News

Lithium Ion Battery electric vehicle GHG

A research report, conducted by the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Energy and Environmental Economics, concluded that the widespread substitution of direct fuel is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. 

The research indicates that the transformation poses significant concurrent opportunities and challenges for economic growth and climate policy, unrealized technology development, infrastructure transformation and capital investment.

Methodology

A complex energy and economic model segmented California’s economy into two source energy supply sectors and six energy demand sectors incorporating economic activities that produce emissions. Creating a baseline scenario from government forecasts of population, the research combines regression-based infrastructure characteristics and emissions intensities to calculate a 2050 projection. The research also included mitigation scenarios, altering emissions intensity of new infrastructure requirements, employing seventy-two types of physical mitigation measures.

Key lithium implications

An interview with one of the authors of the report, Snuller Price, indicated three major energy system transformations are critical to comply with objectives: energy efficiency has to improve by at least 1.3 percent each year, electricity supply has to be nearly decarbonized, and most existing direct fuel uses has to be electrified. Within 40 years electricity would represent 55 percent of energy total, compared with 15 percent current totals.

The result of these findings indicate that minimizing the cost of decarbonized generation should be a key policy objective. Price highlights the only pathway that was found to meet the goal is through a massive amount of electrification, “the new technologies that we need are in the end uses, so we really need [lithium] batteries that are incrementally improved from those that we have now that are more energy dense and less expensive so that we can have electric vehicles. We also need to-very critically important-figure out how to do ‘smart charging’ of those vehicles so that they can be a resource on our electricity grid.”

The electrification of direct fuel uses will increase industrial, commercial and residential sector expenses, accentuating the importance of efficient energy use and design of new infrastructure to mitigate lifecycle costs. As the required innovative technology and infrastructure required for the transformation is unrealized and yet to be developed, marginal lifestyle cost is a forecasting uncertainty. With advanced lithium battery technology and important adoption of electrified transportation, inherently higher efficiencies of electric drive trains could permit a net reduction in fuel costs even with electricity prices doubled and oil prices at $100 per barrel. Importantly for policy makers and energy security stakeholders it would imply the direct capital outflow away from importing foreign oil via the substitution of domestic electricity sources.

Other resource implications

While the research report is interesting as a direct and practical example of how the United States Department of Energy carbon emission goals can be applied, the resulting policies to follow and the dynamic consumer and corporate constituents’ behaviour will ultimately be the catalyst in moderating change. In addition to lithium investors and industry stakeholders, this provides a relevant context for other resource investors including the uranium, coal, oil and gas industries.

An important aspect of this report is that to achieve significant impact on the world, commitment to sustainability over the 40 year time horizon and a massive scale of transformation are both required, “California can not achieve an 80 percent reduction on its own.  California is not an island and even if it could, [eliminating] California emissions can not solve the global problems. “

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