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The Energy Analysis at NREL newsletter highlights the lab's analysts and analysis activities in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are having an impact on U.S. energy goals. The newsletter features recent publications and websites, updates to our models and tools, and staff activities. You can subscribe to receive the newsletter monthly by email.

January 2015


2013 Renewable Energy Data Book Highlights Increases in Installed RE Capacity


The 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book, the latest edition of NREL's annual publication for DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, illustrates U.S. and global energy statistics including renewable electricity generation, renewable energy development, clean energy investments, and technology-specific data and trends.

The cover of the 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book.

"The Data Book is an important resource for policymakers, analysts, and investors worldwide," said NREL's Sean Esterly, manager of the Data Book project. "They appreciate the accessible format and engaging displays of renewable energy trends and data."

The collected data indicated that in the United States in the year 2013, renewable electricity, including hydropower and biopower, grew to nearly 15% of installed capacity and 13% of total electricity generation; renewable electricity accounted for more than 61% of all new electricity capacity installations; and solar photovoltaics was the fastest growing electricity generation technology (increasing by nearly 66% from 2012).


SAM Reveals Major Update in its 2014.11.24 Release


A new version of the System Advisor Model (SAM), a performance and financial model used to inform renewable energy industry decision making, is now available. SAM 2014.11.24 reflects an overhaul of the popular model—including an updated user interface, new processing capabilities, new PV 3D shading tool, and a new scripting language and engine. This effort also involved updates to the PVWatts model to correspond with the recent update of the Web-based version. For more information about this new version of SAM, see https://sam.nrel.gov/newsam.

A screenshoot of the new SAM appllication interface.

NREL Analysis and Analysts in the News


An Argusmedia article from December 5th referenced Jenny Heeter's recently published NREL report, Status and Trends in the U.S. Voluntary Green Power Market (2013 Data).

Bloomberg Businessweek also discussed the report in its article "No More Faking It: Companies Ditch Green Credits, Clean Up Instead."

Renewable Energy World and The Ecologist made mention of the RE Futures study in their respective articles, "While Germany Explores Energy Storage Technologies at Breakneck Speeds, The US Isn't Far Behind" and "All over the world, renewables are beating nuclear."

Kate Young was featured in Renewable Energy World's article announcing her joining the new Geothermal Resources Council Board of Directors.

David Feldman was mentioned in a Money article titled "5 Trends That Changed the Face of Real Estate in 2014."

Doug Arent participated in a panel discussion titled "Next-Generation Utilities" at the Energy for Tomorrow Conference in Kuala Lumpur on November 19 and 20. Video of the discussion is available online.

The Effect of State Policy Suites on the Development of Solar Markets by Darlene Steward and Elizabeth Doris was mentioned in Electrical Marketing's LiveWire and on SolarEnergy.net.


Recent Publications


Journal Article: Integrated life-cycle assessment of electricity-supply scenarios confirms global environmental benefit of low-carbon technologies
Authors: Edgar Hertwich, Thomas Gibon, Evert Bouman, and Anders Arvesen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Sangwon Suh, University of California – Santa Barbara; Garvin Heath, NREL; Joseph Bergesen, University of California – Santa Barbara; Andrea Ramirez, Utrecht University; Mabel Vega, University of Concepción; Lei Shi, Tsinghua University

To assess the tradeoffs of increased upfront emissions and reduced operational emissions, the authors present the first global, integrated life cycle assessment (LCA) of long-term, wide-scale implementation of electricity generation from renewable sources (i.e., photovoltaic and solar thermal, wind, and hydropower) and of carbon dioxide capture and storage for fossil power generation. The authors compare scenarios of the International Energy Agency up to 2050.


Journal Article: Relative performance of tracking versus fixed tilt photovoltaic systems in the USA
Authors: Easan Drury, Anthony Lopez, Paul Denholm, and Robert Margolis

Using a specific framework, the authors explore the relative competitiveness of tracking systems for a range of fixed and tracking PV prices and evaluate how tracking competitiveness varies by region.


Journal Article: The power of efficiency: Optimizing environmental and social benefits through demand-side-management
Authors: Ariel Miara, Craig Tarr, Rachel Spellman, and Charles J. Vörösmarty, City College (NY); Jordan Macknick, NREL

The authors considered three DSM scenarios that varied in capital investment costs of technology retrofits in the northeastern United States and contend that substantial social and environmental benefits can be achieved through regional DSM (demand-side management) strategies.


Presentation: Wind and Solar Energy Curtailment Practices
Authors: Lori Bird, Jaquelin Cochran, and Xi Wang

This presentation, given at the fall 2014 technical meeting of the Utility Variable-Generation Integration Group, summarizes experience with curtailment of wind and solar in the United States.


NREL Report: Banking on Solar: An Analysis of Banking Opportunities in the U.S. Distributed Photovoltaic Market
Authors: David Feldman and Travis Lowder

This report provides an overview of the developing U.S. solar loan product landscape, from both market and economic perspectives. It addresses current and potential U.S. solar lending institutions; currently available loan products; loan program structures and post-loan origination options; risks and uncertainties of the solar asset class as it pertains to lenders; and an economic analysis comparing loan products to third party-financed systems in California.


NREL Report: Geography of Existing and Potential Alternative Fuel Markets in the United States
Authors: Caley Johnson and Dylan Hettinger

In this report, the authors evaluated the existing and potential regional market health for each of the five most commonly deployed alternative fuels: electricity (used by plug-in electric vehicles), biodiesel (blends of B20 and higher), E85 ethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), and propane. They determined that, of all the fuels, CNG is the most promising—largely because freight traffic provides potential demand for many far-reaching corridor markets and because the sources of CNG are so widespread geographically.


JISEA Report: Multi-Metric Sustainability Analysis
Authors: Shannon Cowlin, Donna Heimiller, Jordan Macknick, Margaret Mann, and Jacquelyn Pless, NREL; David Munoz, Colorado School of Mines

The Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) funded an exploration of multi-metric sustainability analysis (MMSA) to provide energy decision makers with a means to make more comprehensive comparisons of energy technologies. The resulting MMSA tool allows for evaluating impacts and comparing tradeoffs among factors in energy policy, expansion planning, and investment decision making, and lets decision makers simultaneously compare technologies and potential deployment locations.


NREL Report: To Own or Lease Solar: Understanding Commercial Retailers' Decisions to Use Alternative Financing Models
Authors: David Feldman and Robert Margolis

This report examines the tradeoffs among financing methods for businesses installing onsite photovoltaics (PV), presenting case studies of strategies used by two large commercial retailers that have deployed substantial U.S. PV capacity: IKEA and Staples. The authors analyze the financial considerations that influence a company's choice of PV financing strategy.


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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) aims to provide credible, objective data and insights that inform policy and investment decisions as energy efficient and renewable energy technologies advance from concept to commercial application. NREL analysis encompasses a broad range of scientific research and reporting activity in support of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), NREL programs and initiatives, and the analysis community.