Many different pathways can potentially be pursued to these ends. But identifying pathways that are consistent with the nation’s priorities and then taking the actions needed to achieve the desired transformations are among the most difficult challenges of our time.

The national-scale deployment of new technologies will have learning curves and will entail a variety of risks, and such deployments can have unforeseen economic and environmental impacts. Thus, in addition to evaluating the potential contributions of existing and emerging technologies, we also need to understand the nontechnological constraints on their rates of deployment and to decide on the roles of the public and private sectors and current and future generations for shouldering deployment costs and risks. In short, transformation of our nation’s energy system will require a sustained national effort involving carefully focused technology research, development, and demonstration; realignments of public policies and regulations; substantial capital investments; and allied resources (materials, infrastructure, and people) in both the public and the private sectors.

Many energy-supply and end-use technologies are ready for significant deployment now, but others will not be available until they have been demonstrated at scale13 or until important technological barriers have been overcome. Of course, once a technology is ready for deployment, a number of important economic, regulatory and policy, and resource factors will govern the actual pace, scale, and cost of deployment. Especially important in this regard are the prices for fossil fuels and other materials, the availability and costs of specialized resources and capital, and key public policies and regulations that address, for example, renewable-energy portfolio standards, building regulations, corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, and carbon prices.14 Because of the uncertainties about how these factors will play out in the decades ahead, the technology-deployment options that are identified in this chapter and in Part 2 of this report should be considered as important first-step technology assessments rather than as forecasts as to which technologies will be implemented and how important each technology will be.

The committee also recognizes that currently unpredictable developments in


The scale of a demonstration should be large enough to give an investor or company the confidence in the technology’s economics, performance, and regulatory acceptability to build a commercial plant. The actual scale of demonstration required will vary across technologies.


The term “carbon prices” denotes the costs that would be imposed through statute or regulation for emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

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