Released in July, 2012, NREL’s Renewable Electricity Futures Study is the most comprehensive analysis of potential high-penetration of renewable electricity in the U.S. that CEA has heard of to date. The RE Futures Study showed that by 2050 the U.S. electric grid could be powered with 80% renewable energy using resources and technologies that are available today, if combined with increased flexibility of our electricity system. The RE Futures analysis found no insurmountable long-term “constraints to renewable electricity technology manufacturing capacity, materials supply, or labor availability.”
U.S. renewable energy resources were sufficiently abundant and diverse to yield significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and water use when combined for electricity production. Further, all regions of the country could contribute local renewable resources to the country’s renewable electricity supply. Interactive windows, “RE Futures Visualizations,” give readers graphic U. S. map views of analysis results. For further reading on potential development of regional renewable resources see “U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis.”
As part of the RE Futures analysis process, more than two dozen renewable energy scenarios were modeled in order to explore the challenges and opportunities of U.S. integration of high levels of renewable electric.
While the report steered clear of making recommendations and predictions for future transformation of the US electric system, a diverse suite of possible supply- and demand-side strategies for every part of the grid, “from system planning through operation,” was identified.
The RE Futures Study was the product of collaboration of more than 110 contributors, experts in renewable technologies, grid integration, and “end-use demand.” The team included a leadership core with members from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and others.