A recent report published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Renewable Electricity Futures Study (RE Futures), is an initial investigation of the extent to which renewable energy supply can meet the electricity demands of the continental United States over the next several decades.
The study explores the implications and challenges of very high renewable electricity generation levels-from 30% up to 90%, focusing on 80%, of all U.S. electricity generation from renewable technologies-in 2050.
At such high levels of renewable electricity generation, the unique characteristics of some renewable resources, specifically geographical distribution and variability and uncertainty in output, pose challenges to the operability of the nation's electric system.
RE Futures provides initial answers to important questions about the integration of high penetrations of renewable electricity technologies from a national perspective, focusing on key technical implications.
The study explores electricity grid integration using models with unprecedented geographic and time resolution for the contiguous United States to assess whether the U.S. power system can supply electricity to meet customer demand on an hourly basis with high levels of renewable electricity, including variable wind and solar generation.
RE Futures, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, is a collaboration with more than 110 contributors from 35 organizations including national laboratories, industry, universities, and non-governmental organizations.
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.