To achieve net zero carbon emissions economy-wide requires elimination of fossil fuels and the transition to electric end-uses (such as electric vehicles and heat pumps), which will likely lead to a tripling in electricity demand by 2050. The nation will have to significantly increase annual deployments of clean energy resources and expand the available suite of clean energy technologies in order to meet future clean energy generation needs. An expanded commitment to offshore wind could bolster the technology such that offshore wind could support 10-25% of the nation’s electricity demand by 2050.
A Massive Scale Up of Offshore Wind Can Make a Net Zero Economy Achievable for the U.S.
Achieving net zero emissions requires the installation of over 3,500 GW of new renewable resources through 2050. The annual deployment targets across all scenarios are ambitious, requiring 100 GW of new land-based solar and wind deployed each year through 2050 on average, and nearly 40 GW of new offshore wind each year between 2035-2050. While the U.S. installed a record 28 GW of renewable capacity in 2021, achieving net zero goals without offshore wind will require the nation to install resources at five times that rate. Increasing offshore wind deployments would reduce the land-based installation rate to three or four times 2021 levels. We find that offshore wind can strengthen and de-risk the U.S. pathway to power sector decarbonization in a high electrification scenario. The Mid Ambition scenario would require annual deployments of approximately 100 GW of land-based wind and solar, and 27 GW of offshore wind. The additional offshore wind capacity reduces the total amount of land-based renewable capacity installed on the U.S. power system by nearly 700 GW relative to Baseline.