In this Sustainable Energy Seminar, Morgan Edwards, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs, will discuss the relationship between global climate targets and addressing coal and natural gas infrastructure at the local and regional level.
A rapid transition away from unabated fossil fuel use in the energy system is essential to limiting the rise in global average temperature to 1.5 or 2C above pre-industrial levels. Equitably managing this transition presents many challenges. Here I discuss results from two recent projects on coal and natural gas infrastructure. First, I combine unit-level coal data with a global integrated assessment model to quantify the impacts of plant proposals, cancellations, and retirements over the past five years. Building all proposed coal plants in the pipeline leads to a large increase in stranded assets under 1.5C, with risks falling disproportionately on emerging Asian economies with newer and growing coal fleets. Second, I use publicly reported gas utility data, empirical measurements, and stakeholder interviews to evaluate the effectiveness of local policies to repair natural gas leaks. Unsuccessful repairs are relatively common, yet they are repeatedly neglected in policy. As a result, policies may overestimate the effectiveness of leak repairs in meeting near-term climate targets. I conclude by discussing approaches to monitoring and managing legacy infrastructure during energy transitions.
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