Investigating the value of fusion energy using the Global Change Assessment Model

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The availability of fusion energy could prove valuable in meeting carbon mitigation targets over the course of the century. We use recent cost estimates for future fusion power plants in order to incorporate fusion into the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM), a long-term energy and environment model used to study the interaction between technology, climate, and public policy. Results show that fusion's growth will depend on: the chosen carbon mitigation target (if any); the availability of competing carbon-neutral options for the provision of baseload electrical power, in particular nuclear fission as well as carbon capture and storage the chosen discount rate; the initial year of availability; and the assumed costs of fusion electricity. We quantify the present value of the fusion option while varying the assumptions about these other parameters, and we find that it is, in general for our range of assumptions, significantly larger than the estimated cost of a comprehensive R&D plan to develop fusion energy. The results emphasize the wisdom in hedging against uncertainty in future technology availability by pursuing the development of multiple options that could feasibly play a major role in the latter half of the century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-353
Number of pages8
JournalEnergy Economics
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • General Energy


  • Carbon mitigation
  • Climate change
  • Fusion energy
  • Integrated assessment modeling
  • Technological change


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