By embracing a science-based and community-supported roadmap to a carbon-neutral future, New Mexico and the intermountain West can protect vital energy-sector jobs and create rewarding new employment opportunities, stimulate new clean-energy industries in local communities, and keep tax revenues flowing while transitioning to a sustainable economy.
We have a unique opportunity to make this happen through the Intermountain West Energy Sustainability & Transitions (I-WEST) coalition. Sponsored by the Department of Energy and led by Los Alamos National Laboratory, this broadly inclusive coalition brings together states, regional universities and colleges, research institutions, local communities and tribal entities to create a sustainable-energy economy.
Through workshops and outreach activities, I-WEST will partner with local communities throughout the Rocky Mountains, including sovereign Native American nations, to learn about their unique concerns and needs regarding jobs, energy use and environmental stewardship.
We call this a “place-based” approach — putting people first.
Guided by that grassroots input, Los Alamos and our partners will apply our scientific and technical expertise to take advantage of a diverse portfolio of renewable energy resources to achieve 100% carbon neutrality in 15 years. We can do that while repurposing existing energy production infrastructure, protecting the jobs of energy workers and supporting them in developing new skills to build high-quality careers in the emerging CO2- and hydrogen-based economy.
The vision for a clean-energy future includes a broad suite of technologies, including solar power, wind power and bioenergy. It also relies on capturing, storing and using carbon dioxide from electricity generation, other industrial operations and, eventually, from the air itself. It also means using hydrogen to store energy, as an input to tackle hard-to-decarbonize sectors and as a clean fuel for heavy- and medium-duty transportation.
Achieving this vision involves transforming CO2 from a liability to an asset by permanently removing it from the atmosphere and using it to make useful products. In New Mexico, we can begin by converting our abundant natural gas resources to zero-carbon-footprint hydrogen fuel that can store energy for long periods of time and be converted into electricity using a fuel cell to power heavy-duty vehicles. To ensure hydrogen production from natural gas is carbon-neutral, we can capture and store or reuse the resulting CO2. We can also produce hydrogen from water with power from the region’s abundant solar and wind energy.
For Los Alamos, with our decades of experience in clean-energy technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cells, wind-turbine modeling, grid resilience, biofuels and solar energy, the work is a natural fit.
Above all, our transition to carbon neutrality — which is key to reining in climate change — must happen in partnership with communities, taking into account distinct community needs, strengths and challenges. Our efforts must also focus on disadvantaged communities, low-income communities and communities of color.
Through I-WEST, Los Alamos remains committed to its role as a trusted advisor to decision-makers about science-based, sustainable energy solutions, targeting the best technologies to meet the region’s needs. This work is part of our mission, but, more importantly, applying our skills to drive these crucial changes is the best way we can partner with our community locally and regionally as we move together into a sustainable future.