Know Your Planet: How do we get our energy system to zero emissions?

Our Zero Emissions Energy Solution effort, also known as ZEES, is about increasing the massive deployment of renewable energy technology today to achieve deep reductions in the electricity system. So we’re at a really great place right now. Solar photovoltaics have gotten inexpensive. Wind turbines are inexpensive. Lithium-ion batteries for grid-scale storage are also getting relatively inexpensive for short-term storage and electric vehicles. Four massive ingredients: between those we’re dealing with like 50% of all global emissions if we could deploy those at a massive scale. We know how to do it, but we have to integrate those into the existing energy system, and our existing energy system wasn’t designed to do that. We have a goal to create carbon-neutral fuels. We take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we take water, a clean source of electricity, and we synthesize hydrocarbons. These then become drop-in fuels that would work in our current energy system. So another sector of the economy that’s really difficult to decarbonize is industry. That’s where we need carbon capture and storage. So today we’re doing this at 32 million tons a year. Well we need a scale-up of a factor of 30 to 50 to get to the Gigaton per year scale that is going to start really making a difference. With that whole portfolio of core technologies, with this overlay of data and analytics and optimization and control, that’s when we get to scale massively. So that’s what ZEES is. We will find partners who have committed to those deep reductions in CO2 and we will work with them to figure out what is the optimal portfolio of these technologies. In the process of doing that we will share our learnings with others who are interested and committed to zero emissions energy solutions like we are at Stanford and we will develop computational tools that others can deploy. So the scaling doesn’t stop with us and our immediate partners it can go worldwide.

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