The United States has pledged to develop a 100% carbon-free electric power system by 2035 and a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050. While important advancements have been made in the scale, performance, and economics of clean energy technologies, meeting the nation's ambitious goals will not only require their deployment at scale, but also additional innovation and effective integration of different solutions. Technological developments across the broad suite of low-carbon energy solutions are advancing rapidly, with ongoing innovations in renewable electricity generation, industrial processes, and energy-saving technologies and services, including LED lighting, induction heating, electric vehicles, energy storage solutions, and mobility as a service, plus smart devices, controls, and more efficient and smart buildings. Combining renewable electricity with biotic and abiotic pathways to produce chemicals, fuels, and materials promises to deliver new solutions. Grid-interactive buildings and communities, integrating transportation infrastructure and vehicles, are likely to be significant components of any zero-carbon energy strategy. Low-carbon industrial manufacturing will also make strong contributions to a net-zero economy. While the technical prospects appear promising, variations in the state of infrastructure, jurisdictional and social equity, pollution, economic and socio-cultural constraints, energy resource availability, and supply chain dynamics found in different locations present a range of challenges and demand customized solutions. This paper provides a critical review and offers new insights into the technical, infrastructure, analytic, political, and economic challenges faced in translating the nation's ambitious net-zero-emissions goals into feasible and reliable implementation action plans.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number112939
Number of pages14
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-1000-81094


  • Circular economy
  • Clean energy
  • Decarbonization
  • Electric vehicles
  • Energy justice
  • Integrated systems
  • Net-zero
  • Power generation
  • Solar
  • Wind


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