November 7, 2022

New Duke-Based Partnership Convenes Corporate Leaders to Advance US Net-Zero Goals

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

A new Duke-based endeavor—Energy Pathways USA—brings together partners across multiple industries to accelerate progress toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in the US.

On November 11, Energy Pathways USA will host a panel discussion on “The Business Case for Net-Zero in the United States” at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), featuring insights from leaders at ADM, Bank of America, Duke Energy, GE, and Volvo. A recording will be available after the event.

Recent legislation, including the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, provides strong policy momentum for a net-zero economy, and the US net-zero goal is technologically feasible. That said, meeting the goal by 2050 will require unprecedented public and private sector investments, policy implementation, and operational shifts.  

“Companies that are committed to net-zero progress–both for their own operations and the economy at large–must scale up their efforts quickly,” said Brian Murray, interim director at the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability. “The private sector will also need to pressure local, state, and federal governments for more regulatory certainty and for prioritization of energy transition policy. With Energy Pathways USA, Duke is convening corporate leaders to collaborate across sectors to identify workable solutions, centering their deliberations on robust policy, technology, and modeling analyses.”

A new report sets the stage for the project. ”Pathways to Net-Zero for the US Energy Transition” examines the current trendlines, challenges, and opportunities for meeting the US net-zero objective—and outlines the work ahead for Energy Pathways USA.

Pathways to Net-Zero for the US Energy Transition


Abstract and additional details

The report was penned by Duke experts Jackson Ewing (Nicholas Institute, Nicholas School of the Environment), Martin Ross (Nicholas Institute), Amy Pickle (Nicholas Institute, Duke Law), Robert Stout (Nicholas Institute, and Brian Murray (Nicholas Institute, Nicholas School of the Environment, Sanford School of Public Policy).

Executives from the following organizations participated and provided input: ADM, AVANGRID, Bank of America, bp, Duke Energy, FedEx, General Motors, Modern Energy, National Grid, Ørsted, RMI, Shell, Volvo Group, and World Resources Institute.

The report identifies consistent findings across studies of current emissions trends and examines common threads across recent analyses of potential net-zero trajectories, identifying sectors and shifts that could significantly boost decarbonization. The authors also provide an overview of the federal and state decarbonization policy landscape–including analysis of the components and potential of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.

The final section of the report focuses on challenges and opportunities, and outlines the work ahead for Energy Pathways USA.

The report details four focal areas for Energy Pathways USA: clean electricity deployment and electrification, subnational coordination across energy systems, strengthening supply chains for clean energy inputs, and industrial decarbonization and advanced technology.

Energy Pathways will analyze current and proposed federal, state, and regional policy incentives for decarbonization. It will also examine those policies’ potential impacts, including on the distribution of emissions reductions, costs, technology, and consumer behavior. These efforts will advance technical and economic modeling of decarbonization pathways and leverage corporate partners’ expertise to identify and develop solutions related to the four key focal areas.

“The evidence is clear that if we’re going to meet the net-zero emissions goal by 2050, we must act with purpose and urgency,” Murray explained. “The Energy Pathways USA partners will make valuable contributions by stress-testing and advancing workable pathways to success.”

Energy Pathways USA is led by the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability at Duke University and the Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

The Nicholas Institute brings its own established track record to Energy Pathways USA of working with policy makers to craft timely, effective, and practical solutions to energy and environmental challenges.

Energy Pathways USA works in collaboration with the Energy Transitions Commission as an autonomous regional initiative of that global effort.

Contact: Amy Pickle, Director of Strategic Projects, Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability