, Volume 123, Issue 3-4, pp 651-664
Date: 31 Oct 2013

Transport electrification: A key element for energy system transformation and climate stabilization

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This paper analyzes the role of transport electrification in the broader context of energy system transformation and climate stabilization. As part of the EMF27 model inter-comparison exercise, we employ the MESSAGE integrated assessment modeling framework to conduct a systematic variation of availability, cost, and performance of particular energy supply technologies, thereby deriving implications for feasibility of climate stabilization goals and the associated costs of mitigation. In addition, we explore a wide range of assumptions regarding the potential degree of electrification of the transportation sector. These analyses allow us to (i) test the extent to which the feasible attainment of stringent climate policy targets depends on transport electrification, and (ii) assess the far-reaching impacts that transport electrification could have throughout the rest of the energy system. A detailed analysis of the transition to electricity within the transport sector is not conducted. Our results indicate that while a low-carbon transport system built upon conventional liquid-based fuel delivery infrastructures is destined to become increasingly reliant on biofuels and synthetic liquids, electrification opens up a door through which nuclear energy and non-biomass renewables can flow. The latter has important implications for mitigation costs.

David McCollum and Volker Krey contributed equally to this work.
This article is part of the Special Issue on “The EMF27 Study on Global Technology and Climate Policy Strategies” edited by John Weyant, Elmar Kriegler, Geoffrey Blanford, Volker Krey, Jae Edmonds, Keywan Riahi, Richard Richels, and Massimo Tavoni.