CATF’s advanced energy systems project brings analysis to bear on the question of what kind of technologies will be required to achieve an affordable, zero carbon energy system by mid-century, and catalyzes private sector activity and public policy to make those technologies into real options.
This focus area also explores and advocates for innovation needed in the private sector to advance zero carbon energy options such as advanced geothermal energy and zero carbon direct fuels.
The global decarbonization challenge is enormous. Carbon levels are higher than they have ever been in human habitation on the planet – with most of the increases coming since 1950 – and we are adding carbon into the atmosphere at 100 times faster than any previous rate in geologic history. The last time carbon levels were as high as they are now predicted to be in 2050, there were crocodiles in Wyoming and palm trees in the Arctic. To slow warming to the point where human society and ecosystems can adapt, we need a radical reduction in carbon emissions by mid-century, and a zero carbon energy system soon thereafter.
But the path forward is not clear or agreed on. Advocates of various solutions available today – whether nuclear, renewables, carbon capture, energy demand reduction or demand modification, energy storage, and carbon removal – sometimes insist that their solution is the sole or dominant answer. This cacophony of competing claims makes it difficult for policymakers, much less the voting public, and investors to intelligently evaluate and support a sensible set of policies and private sector investments.
CATF’s Advanced Energy Systems work aims to bring clarity to the decarbonization process by, first, illuminating through analysis the kinds of solution sets (as opposed to individual technology widgets) that, in combination, are likely to maximize our chance of success in taming carbon. Second, CATF’s work aims to evaluate and expand the number of technology options we can have available to decarbonize the planet’s energy systems by assessing their feasibility and economics, and then devising plans to bring promising options to commercial status. In this way, CATF tries to move the world beyond a zero-sum climate deadlock into an abundance of solutions allowing progress.
Advanced Energy Systems
Scope of Work
Analysis: Collaborates with some of the world’s leading energy system experts to analyze and understand underlying world energy demand as projected through mid-century and identify potential zero carbon technologies and systems in order to in order to describe and evaluate potential pathways to deep decarbonization.
Commercial Assessment and Support: CATF scouts new zero carbon technology in development, and works with private sector technology developers and investors to speed demonstration and commercialization of these technologies through collaboration on business and technology strategy, as well as supporting public policy change, where appropriate.
Education & Advocacy: CATF seeks to educate key decision makers, stakeholders, philanthropists, media, etc. on the risks of relying on too few pathways to decarbonization. CATF is using its analysis to develop a framework for decision makers to create highly resilient zero carbon energy system pathways. This framework will move the decarbonization debate beyond disputes over specific technological endpoints:
- so much of one resource or another, which are all highly uncertain and unpredictable
- to illuminate broader principles of how technology portfolios might endure greater chance of success.
CATF’s energy systems analysis has played an important role in changing the global conversation on decarbonized energy systems.
Our central insight – that decarbonizing global power grids at an affordable cost is more likely if we have a variety of tools and especially zero carbon firm power – has been now accepted across a broad swath of government, civil society and the media. Over the years, CATF’s assessments of specific technologies such as battery storage, biochar, zero carbon liquid fuels, and wind energy has generated substantial interest and have changed the way these technologies are considered, pursue and modeled.
What We're Working On
Decarbonized Power Grids
Requirements for Energy Efficiency Improvements
Zero Carbon Liquid Fuels
Advanced Geothermal Energy
Meet our staff members working in advanced energy systems.
Research and Technical Director
Senior Advisor, Advanced Technology
Energy Policy Associate
Technology and Markets Director