WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) – Wisconsin has a path to transitioning to net-zero emissions by 2050, and a way to do it cost-effectively, according to a new report released Tuesday. This means that the state would not emit more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than it removes.
Two studies make up the report, titled “Wisconsin’s Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050.” A study was commissioned by Evolved Energy Research, GridLab, RENEW Wisconsin and Clean Wisconsin. The other was conducted by Cambridge Econometrics.
The studies evaluated seven different pathways to decarbonization in Wisconsin:
- Baseline: No electricity or emissions policy
- 100% clean electricity: 100% clean electricity with no economy-wide emissions targets
- Net Zero Economy-Wide: 100% clean electricity and net zero emissions economy-wide by 2050
- No expansion of transmission: net zero by 2050 with no expansion of interstate transmission
- Accelerating clean electricity: Net zero by 2050, 100% clean energy by 2040
- Delayed action: net zero by 2050 with the transition to highly efficient electrical end uses delayed by 10 to 15 years
- Limited coal and gas: net zero by 2050 without new gas-fired power plants and accelerated coal phase-out
They found that Path 3, Net Zero Economy-Wide, would have the most economic, health, and emissions benefits.
In this approach, Wisconsin would transition to 100% clean energy while eliminating carbon emissions from several industries, including the building, transportation, and industrial sectors.
Benefits of achieving net zero emissions
Studies have found that the Net Zero Economy-Wide approach will have costs comparable to no policy change or just transitioning to clean energy, but it will have greater economic and health benefits for Wisconsin residents. .
Economically, achieving net zero emissions will create 68,000 new jobs in the state. Researchers said about half of those jobs would be in industries like power supply, construction and manufacturing. The other half would be in the supply chain and service sectors and would be created by increased economic activity.
The report says the most populated areas of Wisconsin would see the most new jobs. That means areas like Milwaukee and south-central Wisconsin could see big benefits.
The researchers also found that the investment in wind, solar, and battery storage needed to reach the net zero goal would increase the gross state product of Wisconsin, adding an estimated $16 billion to the state. state economy.
The health benefits come from the elimination of combustion engine vehicles, as well as coal and gas-fired power plants.
“By 2050, Net Zero Economy-Wide averts 28 to 63 deaths per million people each year, significantly reduces hospital admissions and lost work days, and significantly improves all modeled health measures,” the report says. report.
The researchers also found that Wisconsin residents won’t have to wait 30 years to see the benefits of change. The study found that Badger State residents could save up to $275 per person per year in healthcare costs as early as 2030. In total, Wisconsin residents could save up to $4.4 billion. dollars in healthcare costs avoided by 2050.
The path to net zero
Achieving net zero emissions will not happen easily or without change. The report says it “will require aggressive action at virtually every level”.
This action will require more construction of wind and solar energy infrastructure and a sharp reduction in the use of fossil fuels.
The studies found that pursuing clean energy generation while accelerating the electrification of other parts of the economy is the most cost-effective path.
The model researchers used in the Net Zero Economy-Wide scenario assume rapid and widespread adoption of electric vehicle use, with all light- and medium-duty vehicles sold in 2035 being electric. The researchers also modeled all sales of appliances like air conditioners and stoves as all-electric or hybrid in the same year.
“These measures have the effect of reducing or nearly eliminating fuel consumption, ensuring that electricity is the main source of energy in 2050, as opposed to gas or other fossil fuels,” the report said.
As more people depend on renewable energy for their daily lives, Wisconsin’s electricity consumption would skyrocket, and the researchers said an expansion of transmission connections between Wisconsin and neighboring states would be needed. .
“In Net Zero Economy-Wide, one-third of all energy used in Wisconsin in 2050 is imported from neighboring states,” the report said.
In their model, the researchers predict transmission expansion from 2035 with additional capacity built between Wisconsin and Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois.
Despite the increase in energy consumption, studies have found that the changes will help families’ wallets.
In the baseline model with no policy change, the report says direct household energy costs would be 6% higher in 2050 than they are in 2022. Most of the costs would be variable expenses, such as the cost of gas for transporting and using gas at home for heating. and the kitchen.
With the Net Zero Economy-Wide approach, direct household energy costs would be 15% lower than in the baseline scenario. Instead of spending money on products whose prices change often, families would spend more money up front on investments like appliances, but spend less money on heating and powering their homes.
Overall, the researchers found that total energy consumption in Wisconsin will be lower in 2050 than in 2022, as people switch to more efficient appliances and vehicles.
Proposed Policy Changes
The researchers said achieving net zero emissions will require “coordinated policy intervention across multiple industries, regulators and policymakers.”
The keystone of the plan is the electricity sector.
Right now, Wisconsin’s coal fleet is mostly set to retire by 2035. The researchers propose pushing that to 2030. They said that more than a third of all Wisconsin emissions in 2018 came from coal production.
“[This suggests] that a clean electricity policy can have an outsized impact on Wisconsin’s emissions goals,” the report said.
The report also calls for new clean energy resources, including state legislators passing legislation establishing the legality of third-party charging for electric vehicles.
The researchers also propose changes to transportation and building policies to make electric vehicles and efficient electric technology more accessible and affordable.
They also suggest the development of a clean fuels industry to foster innovation.
The researchers said that if Wisconsin does not pursue a path to net-zero emissions, “the costs are higher and the outcomes for Wisconsin residents are worse.”