Roy, M.,Edwards, M. R.,Trancik, J. E.
Energy technologies emitting differing proportions of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) vary significantly in their relative climate impacts over time, due to the distinct atmospheric lifetimes and radiative efficiencies of the two gases. Standard technology comparisons using the global warming potential (GWP) with a fixed time horizon do not account for the timing of emissions in relation to climate policy goals. Here we develop a portfolio optimization model that incorporates changes in technology impacts based on the temporal proximity of emissions to a radiative forcing (RF) stabilization target. An optimal portfolio, maximizing allowed energy consumption while meeting the RF target, is obtained by year-wise minimization of the marginal RF impact in an intended stabilization year. The optimal portfolio calls for using certain higher-CH4-emitting technologies prior to an optimal switching year, followed by CH4-light technologies as the stabilization year approaches. We apply the model to evaluate transportation technology pairs and find that accounting for dynamic emissions impacts, in place of using the static GWP, can result in CH4 mitigation timelines and technology transitions that allow for significantly greater energy consumption while meeting a climate policy target. The results can inform the forward-looking evaluation of energy technologies by engineers, private investors, and policy makers.