Building a Healthier and More Robust Future: 2050 Low Carbon Energy Scenarios for California

Envisioning the future electricity system and pathways for deep decarbonization

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


Berkeley, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

LBNL and UC Berkeley have developed several long-term energy scenarios for California. The team attempted to harmonize assumptions with E3 and UC Irvine. These two entities performed similar analyses (long-term energy scenarios) than LBNL/UCB, but using different tools. The LBNL/UCB team is modeling the entire Western Electric Coordinating Council (WECC) to investigate if a changing of geographical coverage can affect the long-term energy scenarios. They also used a more granular model of the electricity system both in space and time with, for example, several load centers in the WECC instead of representing California as one block.

The Issue

California has set an aggressive long-term climate goal of 80% GHG reduction by 2050 relative to the 1990 level. Several studies have been conducted on how to achieve this goal but they have not considered some important factors such as climate change impacts, aggressive demand response options, plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) adoption, and more realistic energy efficiency scenarios.

Project Innovation

The researchers developed long-term energy scenarios for California that comply with GHG emission targets and goals. The scenarios provide new insights about technology options and by when some of this options should be implemented.

Project Benefits

The researchers developed a stochastic version of their electricity model to explore issues such as path dependences. The preliminary final results indicates, among other things, that achieving the 2030 GHG target will be extremely difficult with a high percentage of natural gas appliances still in operation. However, this target can be met if California starts electrifying energy services and decarbonize power generation at a fast rate. The electrification of the industrial sector will be difficult even though the electrification technical potential is high. This is mostly due to the costs associated with electrification of the industrial sector. The use of PVs in disadvantages communities may not substantially improve local air quality or public health.

Lower Costs


The proposed analysis is providing guidance for future electricity investment that can meet carbon limits at the lowest cost. The CPUC using the results of the long-term energy scenario projects to inform their long-term procurement program.

Greater Reliability


Energy system resilience analysis will help to ensure the electricity system is more robust to future external shocks.

Energy Security

Energy Security

Studying the optimal paths for developing California's energy system to meet its GHG goals may prevent inefficiency in the energy system investments and potentially avert stranded investments.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Max Wei



University of California, Berkeley


Match Partners


University of California, Berkeley


Contact the Team