University of California, Berkeley, researchers said they reached the conclusion using SWITCH, a detailed computer model of the electric power grid, to study generation, transmission and storage options for the states west of the Kansas/Colorado border.
"Decarbonization of the electric power sector is critical to achieving greenhouse gas reductions that are needed for a sustainable future," Daniel Kammen, a researcher in UC Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group, said. "To meet these carbon goals, coal has to go away from the region."
To achieve that, policy changes are needed to cap or tax carbon emissions to provide an incentive to move toward low-carbon electricity sources, Kammen and his colleagues said.
California has few coal-fired power plants but gets about 20 percent of its electricity from coal-burning plants in neighboring states.
"We use the SWITCH model to identify low-carbon supply options for the West," study author James Nelson, a UC Berkeley graduate student, said.
"We show that it is possible to reach our goals of reducing carbon emissions using many possible mixes of power, whether natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind, biomass or geothermal."