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Focus Area

Advanced Energy Systems

Power Lines

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.


Introduction of Smith-Luján Clean Energy Standard Legislation Builds on Momentum by States and Forward-leaning Utilities

Today, Sen. Tina Smith (MN) and Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM) introduced the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2019 in Congress.  Consistent with climate science indicating that to avoid the worst impacts of climate change we must decarbonize by mid-century, this bill would put the U.S. electric sector on the path to net zero carbon

May 8, 2019
Advanced Energy Systems

Moving Forward with Zero-Carbon Hydrogen and Ammonia Fuels

In April 2018, member countries of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced an “initial strategy” for cutting the shipping sector’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. If the worst consequences of climate change are to be avoided, major industries like international shipping will need to do more than cut their emissions by 50%—but the […]

December 18, 2018
News & Media

CATF Statement: Xcel Energy Aims for Zero-Carbon Electricity by 2050

Clean Air Task Force applauds Xcel Energy’s commitment announced today to provide carbon free energy by 2050, and an 80% reduction in carbon emissions within the next twelve years.

December 5, 2018
Advanced Energy Systems

De-Risking Decarbonization

Guest Author: Bruce Phillips, CATF Board Member How do we get to the airport when we have an important flight to catch? What we don’t do is leave at the last minute without thinking about whether there is a traffic jam on the way, whether the airport parking garage is full or the length of the airport […]

November 30, 2018
Advanced Energy Systems

Electricity Decarbonization – How’s That Working Out?

Most analyses of the requirements to stabilize the planet at warming of no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels envision a zero-carbon-emitting electric grid at or before 2050.

September 22, 2017

Climate Change and Energy: We Need a Big Boat

You may remember a scene in the movie Jaws where the local police chief, having glimpsed the gigantic shark up close from back of the deck, reels back into the cockpit to observe: “You’re going to need a bigger boat.” Wringing all the carbon out of the system would be hard enough if world energy […]

January 20, 2017

Our Efforts

The global decarbonization challenge is enormous.

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.

Our Goal

Provide the world with a vision of practical, resilient pathways to a zero carbon energy system.
Our Impact In

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, pursued, and modeled.

Current Projects

What We're Working On

  • Project

    Energy Innovation

  • Project

    Decarbonized Power Grids

  • Project

    Requirements for Energy Efficiency Improvements

  • Project

    Zero Carbon Liquid Fuels

  • Project

    Advanced Geothermal Energy