NREL Renewable Electricity Futures Study
Recently the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examined the potential for renewable energy sources to meet the United States’ electricity demands in the coming years. The focus of the study was on examining the effects of utilizing high volumes of renewable energy resources simultaneously, and the challenges of an electrical grid composed of primarily alternative energy sources.
The study found that renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country. An alternative energy “grid” would require increased electric system flexibility, to enable electricity supply-demand balance with high levels of renewable generation, which could come from a portfolio of supply- and demand-side options, including flexible conventional generation, grid storage, new transmission, more responsive loads, and changes in power system operations. This is feasible due to the abundance and diversity of the United States potential sources of alternative energy. The direct incremental cost associated with high renewable generation is comparable to published cost estimates of other clean energy scenarios. Improvement in the cost and performance of renewable technologies is the most impactful lever for reducing this incremental cost.
US Department of Energy, NREL