Net-Zero CO2 by 2050 Scenarios for the United States in the Energy Modeling Forum 37 Study

Morgan Browning, James McFarland, John Bistline, Gale Boyd, Matteo Muratori, Matthew Binstead, Chioke Harris, Trieu Mai, Geoff Blanford, Jae Edmonds, Allen Fawcett, Ozge Kaplan, John Weyant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus Citations


The Energy Modeling Forum (EMF) 37 study on deep decarbonization and high electrification analyzed a set of scenarios that achieve economy-wide net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in North America by mid-century, exploring the implications of different technology evolutions, policies, and behavioral assumptions affecting energy supply and demand. For this paper, 16 modeling teams reported resulting emissions projections, energy system evolution, and economic activity. This paper provides an overview of the study, documents the scenario design, provides a roadmap for complementary forthcoming papers from this study, and offers an initial summary and comparison of results for net-zero CO2 by 2050 scenarios in the United States. We compare various outcomes across models and scenarios, such as emissions, energy use, fuel mix evolution, and technology adoption. Despite disparate model structure and sources for input assumptions, there is broad agreement in energy system trends across models towards deep decarbonization of the electricity sector coupled with increased end-use electrification of buildings, transportation, and to a lesser extent industry. All models deploy negative emissions technologies (e.g., direct air capture and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) in addition to land sinks to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions. Important differences emerged in the results, showing divergent pathways among end-use sectors with deep electrification and grid decarbonization as necessary but not sufficient conditions to achieve net zero. These differences will be explored in the papers complementing this study to inform efforts to reach net-zero emissions and future research needs.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number100104
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy and Climate Change
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A40-84613


  • Climate change
  • Deep decarbonization
  • Electrification
  • Energy systems
  • Model comparison


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