NREL: U.S. Grid Could Be 80% Renewables By 2050

NREL’s Renewable Energy Futures Study

A new report published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Renewable Electricity Futures Study (RE Futures), finds that the United States could achieve a very high level of renewable energy generation by 2050, using today’s commercially viable technologies.

At 80 percent penetration, though, renewable electricity sources will require a more flexible grid in order to meet demand on an hourly bases in all regions.

The report, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, suggests that the needed grid flexibility can 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.

The abundance and diversity of U.S. renewable energy resources can support multiple combinations of renewable technologies that result in deep reductions in electric sector green house gas emissions and water use.

As the most comprehensive analysis of high-penetration renewable electricity of the continental United States to date, the study can inform broader discussion of the evolution of the electric system and electricity markets towards clean systems. RE Futures results indicate that renewable generation could play a more significant role in the U.S. electricity system than previously thought and that further work is warranted to investigate this clean generation pathway.

Download the Renewable Electricity Futures Study

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