Climate Change and the Stabilization Triangle
Updated: Jan 9
The notion that climate change mitigation requires multiple strategies has been around for a number of years. In 2004, Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala of Princeton University’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative coined the term “stabilization wedges,” or a set of individual strategies needed to reduce 1 billion tons of carbon emissions per year to achieve a flat path of carbon emissions. Regrettably, the pace of growth of carbon emissions means that what required 7 wedges to achieve in 2004 became 9 wedges as of 2017.
Our newsletter and blog this month provide updates on three pillars of climate change mitigation strategies - two of which were not available as "stabilization wedges" when the report was published - encouraging evidence that despite the rapid growth of carbon emissions, mitigating responses have and will also continue to evolve and emerge from surprising directions.
Energy efficiency reduces overall resource requirements and carbon emissions to achieve the same service. ACEEE has released its 2019 scorecard, the 13th in the series. While many of the same states remained at the top, “some of the most exciting stories emerged from states where efficiency has historically been overlooked as a resource. Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, New York, and Maine all adopted 100% clean energy goals coupled with plans to ramp up efficiency investment. In Virginia and New Jersey, utilities unveiled significant expansions of efficiency program portfolios in response to game-changing clean energy bills passed in 2018.”
This legislative approach has driven increased investment in energy efficiency over the past two decades.
Community Choice Aggregation isn’t specifically a climate change mitigation strategy – CCAs are intended to “leverage the buying power of large groups of electricity users to get lower electricity prices and meet other customer demands.” But as Utility Dive reports, CCAs are increasingly targeting customer demand for renewable (i.e., lower carbon) and local energy sources. In that sense, CCAs are becoming an effective decarbonization strategy in a way that wasn’t strictly anticipated.
The third component is the electrification of the transportation sector. When coupled with growing renewable energy saturation, vehicle electrification replaces fossil fuels with power from a lower-carbon grid. The Smart Electric Power Alliance sees Electric Vehicles as providing multiple benefits to electric utilities, and has prepared its report Preparing for an Electric Vehicle Future: How Utilities Can Succeed.
Stabilization wedges are a useful framework with which to approach climate change yet the ability or capacity to implement them relies upon existing and emerging technologies. Because of this, Robert Socolow started to believe as of 2011 that his wedges concept while descriptive wasn’t prescriptive – it didn’t translate into action. However, two of the strategies listed above, CCA driven renewable energy and vehicle electrification, were not part of the original strategies envisioned and another, energy efficiency, has evolved and remains an effective tool.
AIQUEOUS will continue to keep our eyes out for more examples of newer stabilization trends from unforeseen places. If you see examples yourselves, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.