New Study Outlines Pathways to Achieve Illinois’ Goal of Full, Economy-Wide Decarbonization by 2050

Independent study by E3 says accelerated electrification, expanded renewables, and grid investment will be required to support decarbonization

National sustainability consulting firm Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc. (E3) today released a study that outlines pathways for Illinois to achieve full, economy-wide decarbonization in Illinois by 2050, consistent with the state’s pledge as part of the U.S. Climate Alliance to pursue the Paris Agreement. The study accounts for the significant progress expected as a result of the state’s Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), which aims to decarbonize the power sector and accelerate transportation electrification, as well as the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

The study found that, while CEJA and the IRA will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Illinois, more action – particularly in the transportation and buildings sectors – will be needed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Decarbonization refers to the process of lowering GHGs produced by fossil fuel combustion, often through the electrification of transportation, buildings and industry. The study was commissioned by ComEd so the company could better understand the impacts of full decarbonization for the 9 million people it serves and the power grid they depend on for clean, reliable and affordable power.

“As the operator of the largest electric grid in Illinois, we have a critical role in enabling the state’s decarbonization goals, and we’re committed to making sure the transition to a clean energy economy is affordable and equitable for all of our customers,” said Gil C. Quiniones, CEO of ComEd. “All paths to decarbonization will require the electric grid to do more. This report helps us and our partners in Illinois understand the options for getting to a net-zero future, and the considerations we must make in order to ensure all customers maintain access to safe, reliable and resilient power as we continue to address the impacts of climate change.”

The independent report was created with input by a technical advisory committee, including: Argonne National Laboratory’s Center for Climate Resilience and Decision Science, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), the City of Chicago, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Illinois, and the Accelerate Group.

With the input of the technical advisory committee, E3 conducted an eight-month independent review that builds upon the policies and initiatives set forth in CEJA and the IRA to determine how the state could achieve full decarbonization of the Illinois economy (net-zero emissions) by 2050. The study took into account local considerations, including projected climate and weather changes, as well as Illinois’ colder climate conditions, which will require energy storage and back up to maintain system reliability.

Researchers tested three scenarios for transitioning to a net-zero economy:

  • A business-as-usual scenario, which accounts for existing state and federal laws that address energy and transportation sector decarbonization. This scenario will not achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.
  • A moderate electrification scenario, which achieves total decarbonization by 2050 with high levels of electrification but a significant role for fuel backup for heating.
  • A high electrification scenario, which achieves total decarbonization by 2050 with very high levels of electrification and less reliance on hydrogen and gas backup for heating.

“This study shows in concrete terms where the opportunities lie for Illinois to reach its long-term climate goals in ways that support customers," noted Amber Mahone, a Partner at E3. “We have evaluated deep decarbonization scenarios in many jurisdictions across North America to help inform the climate and clean energy policies that government, regulators, and utilities are making, and we’re seeing the electric sector make huge amounts of progress. In Illinois, CEJA and the IRA will only accelerate that. There’s a lot of work still to be done to decarbonize vehicles and buildings, to reduce emissions from the agricultural and industrial sectors, and to commercialize critical emerging technologies like low-carbon fuels and the negative emissions technologies that will be needed to get to a carbon neutral future.”

Key findings by E3 include:

  • Additional renewables generation above and beyond what is likely to be funded by CEJA and the IRA, will be necessary to ensure enough clean energy is available for meeting the state’s goal of a net-zero economy by 2050. The study also identifies a need for energy storage, building up in the 2040s.
  • The existing grid will need to double in size by 2050 to meet growing electricity demands driven by decarbonization.
  • The costs of decarbonization are expected to be net beneficial, as the additional grid investments would be offset by the avoided costs of fossil fuels, carbon output and climate change; as well as the public health benefits of resulting cleaner air.
  • Due to the disproportionate impact that air pollution and fuel emissions have on disadvantaged and low-income communities, these customers stand to benefit most from decarbonization, and should be prioritized for financial assistance (i.e., incentives/rebates/credits) to help lower the cost of adoption.

The study follows recent actions taken by ComEd and partners to better understand what infrastructure improvements will be needed to manage the impacts of climate change and the clean energy transition on customers and the grid. ComEd recently issued a climate adaptation study in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, which provides insight into climate change and associated weather changes and how they may impact the grid.

The full study is available on E3’s website.

ComEd is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NASDAQ: EXC), a Fortune 200 energy company with approximately 10 million electricity and natural gas customers – the largest number of customers in the U.S. ComEd powers the lives of more than 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit, and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.



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