About the study

California 2030 Low Carbon Grid Study (LCGS)

Phase I results rely on a diverse portfolio of energy generation and resource flexibility, and a systemic grid focus on carbon reduction through operations, management, planning, and procurement.

The California 2030 Low Carbon Grid Study (LCGS) explores how the California electric sector can cost-effectively support deep reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to Phase I modeling results, the California electric grid can reduce emissions by more than 50% below 2012 levels by the year 2030 with minimal rate impact, minimal curtailment to renewables, and without compromising reliability. These findings are significant because they illustrate an affordable, reliable, and practical trajectory toward meeting California’s ambitious 2050 GHG emissions goals.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is conducting the modeling work in two phases, with Phase I results available in August 2014, and the final report anticipated in 2015. Additional technical support in Phase II will come from General Electric Consulting (GE) and JBS Energy Inc.

The modeling work is funded by more than thirty otherwise unaffiliated companies, organizations and foundations (see Participants page for a complete list), and peer review for the final report will be provided by a third-party technical committee comprised of key energy regulators and stakeholders.

The LCGS is unique in its focus on electric sector emissions reduction, and in its use of a diverse set of resources and portfolio-balancing measures aimed at achieving a cost-sensitive, efficient, low carbon grid without major disruption to transmission flows or trading patterns. The final report will remain neutral on specific policy recommendations, as the LCGS is primarily an informational tool.

For Phase I results, factsheets, and workpapers, see Materials page.

PHASE I – August 2014

Phase I models two low-carbon portfolios that were developed to meet the anticipated need for GHG reductions in 2030, as well as a “progress-as-usual” baseline case for comparison. These scenarios were developed based on load and resource forecasts and other assumptions from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and the California Energy Commission (CEC), and the Western Electric Coordinating Council (WECC) and they incorporate a wide range of renewable generation and energy efficiency, as well as the flexibility provided by strategic use of natural gas, energy storage, responsive demand, and the regional diversity. Although this study is not designed to produce an optimized portfolio, Phase I presents two credible example cases in which the grid can effectively integrate the resources needed for deep GHG reductions in 2030, without compromising system reliability and with minimal rate impacts, ultimately setting California on a clear path toward its 2050 GHG goals.

Phase I Components:

  • Two emissions-reductions cases for 2030, with one baseline case for comparison
  • Two “low-mitigation” sensitivities, to demonstrate the effectiveness of flexibility measures
  • Estimate of revenue requirement

PHASE II – mid 2015

Phase II will explore further 2030 scenarios and sensitivities, to identify additional ways of reducing costs and increasing efficiency, and to understand the effect of a range of futures. The final report will be a robust, technical perspective on the feasibility of a near-term low carbon grid, and will be relevant to many critical energy issues now facing California and the interconnected western region. JBS Energy Inc. will provide an independent utility revenue requirement impact analysis and GE Consulting will conduct an analysis of the reliability compliance aspects of the Phase II portfolio dispatches.

Phase II Components:

  • Additional scenarios and sensitivities, vetted by independent Technical Review Committee
  • Revenue requirement analysis by JBS Energy Inc.
  • Analysis of compliance with regional reliability obligations by GE Consulting
  • Final report

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