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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.

August 2015


NREL Releases Technology Baseline of Cost and Performance Data with Standard Scenarios Report


Until now, consistent cost and performance data for electricity generation technologies were difficult to find and they could change over time for certain technologies. With the recently launched Annual Technology Baseline, NREL now provides a single data set of current and projected technology cost and performance information for renewable generation technologies. NREL provided the data for renewable generation technologies, and the Energy Information Administration provided data for conventional technologies. All the data have been thoroughly reviewed by both internal and external experts. Our goal is to revise and refine the data set annually using the best publically available information. At the same time, NREL released a suite of scenario projections for the U.S. electric sector to 2050. The 2015 Standard Scenarios Annual Report covers a range of future trajectories for generation technology costs and other key drivers such as load growth and natural gas prices. And, the scenarios are intended to be used to identify possible futures of the U.S. electricity sector in which specific energy system issues can be considered.

Additional Information - NREL Releases First Annual Technology Baseline (ATB) of Cost and Performance Data and NREL Releases First Annual Standard Scenarios Report

Two charts showing the declining cost of an installed kilowatt of solar from 2007 through 2013, and the current price of an installed kilowatt of solar projected out to 2050.

Utility scale PV capital costs graph from the Annual Technology
Baseline summary presentation


RAPID Toolkit Expanding to Hydropower


A cover image of the Hydro Review magazine.

An article by Aaron Levine and Kate Young on the Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop (RAPID) Toolkit's hydropower expansion effort was featured in the July 2015 issue of Hydro Review. "RAPID Toolkit Creates Smooth Flow Toward New Hydropower Projects" discusses the history of the RAPID Toolkit project, the ongoing stakeholder engagement with the hydropower industry, and what to expect from the initial hydropower rollout.

As part of the ongoing stakeholder engagement, Aaron Levine and Elise DeGeorge held a workshop with a group of industry consultants and developers as well as federal agency personnel in Portland, Oregon prior to the Hydrovision International conference. During the workshop, participants observed a demonstration of the draft hydropower expansion, provided feedback, and discussed the hydropower industry can play a role in RAPID's development and adoption.


NREL Analysis and Analysts in the News


Jenny Heeter was mentioned in Data Center Knowledge's article "Cleaning Up Data Center Power is Dirty Work."

Owen Zinaman and Karlynn Cory spoke at "Utility 2.0: Adapting to the New Business Reality," an EUCI event, on August 10th and 11th in Denver. Cory was on a panel called "Pathways for Converting the Promise of the Intelligent Grid into Value for Utilities and Consumers" and Zinaman was on a panel called "Regulatory Reform: The Key to Utility Transformation."

A Bloomberg Business article discussing the Clean Power Plan cited an NREL report co-written by Aaron Bloom, Trieu Mai, Kara Clark, Michael Milligan, and others.

Karin Haas contributed to an article for IEEE Smart Grid titled "Why the TSO-DSO Relationship Needs to Evolve."

NREL's PVWatts tool in a discussion mentioned in a SeattlePi.com article as well as a GreenTechMedia article discussing solar estimating tools.

The Annual Technology Baseline report was mentioned in a Washington Post article, "How the dramatic growth of wind and solar led to EPA's tougher carbon rules."


Recent Publications


Presentation: Dynamic Modeling of Learning in Emerging Energy Industries: The Example of Advanced Biofuels in the United States
Authors: Steve Peterson, Lexidyne, LLC; Brian Bush and Laura Vimmerstedt, NREL

This presentation, given at the 33rd International System Dynamics Conference, discusses the findings in the subject paper and its supplemental model, which offer novel approaches to modeling interactions and related policies among investment, production, and learning in an emerging competitive industry. The authors explore the impact of learning rates and techno-economics in a learning model excerpted from the Biomass Scenario Model (BSM), to explore the impact of biofuel policy on the evolution of the biofuels industry. The authors explain the innovative methods used to simulate the impact of differing assumptions about mature industry techno-economics and about learning rates while accounting for the different maturity levels of various conversion pathways.


Presentation: The Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study: Flexibility and High Penetrations of Wind and Solar
Author: Aaron Bloom

This presentation was given at the IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting, and it highlighted the results of the Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study.


Conference Paper: Development of a Geothermal Well Database for Estimating In-Field EGS Potential in the State of Nevada
Authors: Hillary Hanson, Rachel Wood, INL; Chad Augustine, NREL; Greg Mines, INL; Anthony Lopez and Dylan Hettinger, NREL

This paper recounts the work of developing a database containing and consolidating the publically available information on full-sized geothermal wells at hydrothermal power plants to estimate opportunities for using Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) techniques at existing fields to increase their output.


Conference Paper: Effects of Home Energy Management Systems on Distribution Utilities and Feeders under Various Market Structures
Authors: Mark Ruth, Annabelle Pratt, Monte Lunacek, Saurabh Mittal, Hongyu Wu, and Wesley Jones

This paper discusses the development of an Integrated Energy System Model (IESM) to simulate the physical and economic aspects of distributed energy resources (DER) technologies, the buildings where they reside, and feeders servicing them. The IESM simulated 20 houses with home energy management systems (HEMS) on a single feeder under a time of use tariff to estimate economic and physical impacts on both the households and the distribution utilities.


Conference Paper: Renewable Generation Effect on Net Regional Energy Interchange (Preprint)
Authors: Victor Diakov, Gregory Brinkman, Paul Denholm, Thomas Jenkin, and Robert Margolis

Presented at the IEEE PES General Meeting

The authors simulated the Western Interchange (WECC) at several levels of the yearly RE generation, between 13% and 40% of the total load for the year. They found that net load variability (in relatively large portions of WECC) is the leading factor affecting the variable component of inter-regional energy exchange and that the effect is quantifiable: higher regional net load correlation with the rest of the WECC lowers net interchange variability. Additionally, as the power mix significantly varies between WECC regions, the authors observed 'flexibility import' (regions "borrow" ramping capability).


NREL Report: Estimating Renewable Energy Economic Potential in the United States: Methodology and Initial Results
Authors: Austin Brown, Philipp Beiter, Donna Heimiller, Carolyn Davidson, Paul Denholm, Jennifer Melius, Anthony Lopez, Dylan Hettinger, David Mulcahy, and Gian Porro

This report describes a geospatial analysis method to estimate the economic potential of several renewable resources available for U.S. electricity generation. The assessment is conducted at a high geospatial resolution (more than 150,000 technology-specific sites in the continental United States) to capture the significant variation in local resource, costs, and revenue potential of land-based wind, utility photovoltaics, distributed photovoltaics, hydropower, geothermal (hydrothermal resource only), and biopower (dedicated combustion plants only). This metric can be a useful screening factor for understanding the economic viability of renewable generation technologies at a specific location, under a variety of assumptions. In contrast to many common estimates of renewable energy potential, economic potential does not consider market dynamics, customer demand, or most policy drivers that may incent renewable energy generation.


NREL Report: Methods for Analyzing the Economic Value of Concentrating Solar Power with Thermal Energy Storage
Authors: Paul Denholm, Jennie Jorgenson, Mackay Miller, and Ella Zhou, NREL; Caixia Wang, State Grid Energy Research Institute

This report describes modeling approaches that have emerged to quantify the benefits of concentrating solar power with thermal energy storage (CSP-TES), specifically in the context of state-level policymaking in the United States. It also discusses these modeling methods and potential applicability related to China.


NREL Report: On the Inclusion of Energy Shifting Demand Response in Production Cost Models: Methodology and a Case Study
Authors: Niamh O'Connell, Technical University of Denmark; Elaine Hale, Ian Doebber, and Jennie Jorgenson, NREL

The work described in this report conducts analysis from the production cost modeling perspective, and it offers a bottom-up methodology for modeling load-shifting demand response (DR) in production cost models. The methodology is demonstrated through a case study of aggregated supermarket refrigeration systems that provide balancing energy reserves in real-time markets at different levels of variable generation (VG).


NREL Report: Predicting the Response of Electricity Load to Climate Change
Authors: Patrick Sullivan, Jesse Colman, and Eric Kalendra

The objective of this report was to develop a methodology to quantify the impact of climate change on electric loads in the United States. While the immediate product of this analysis was designed to mesh with the spatial and temporal resolution of a specific electricity model to enable climate change scenarios and analysis with that model, the authors propose that the process could be applied for other models and purposes.


NREL Report: Renewable Electricity Use by the U.S. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Industry
Authors: John Miller, Lori Bird, Jenny Heeter, and Bethany Gorham

As information and communication technology (ICT) companies increasingly report their environmental and energy performance metrics and goals publicly, and given the scale of electricity use by ICT companies, renewable electricity procurement across all levels of the industry could be a significant market driver for renewable development in the United States. This paper is intended to (1) aggregate existing ICT industry data and research to provide an initial look at electricity use and current and future renewable electricity acquisition and (2) serve as a benchmark for future growth and trends in ICT industry renewable electricity consumption.


NREL Report: Water Constraints in an Electric Sector Capacity Expansion Model
Authors: Jordan Macknick, Stuart Cohen, Robin Newmark, Andrew Martinez, and Patrick Sullivan, NREL; Vince Tidwell, Sandia National Laboratories

This report describes how the Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) model was modified to incorporate water resource availability constraints and costs in each of its 134 Balancing Area (BA) regions along with differences in costs and efficiencies of cooling systems. The authors provide insight into where water resource constraints could affect the choice, configuration, or location of new electricity technologies.


Fact Sheet: Modeling Photovoltaic Module-Level Power Electronics in the System Advisor Model
Author: Janine Freeman

This paper discusses the NREL work that provided recommendations to model the performance of distributed power electronics in NREL's PVWatts calculator in order to provide similar guidelines for modeling these technologies in NREL's more complex System Advisor Model (SAM), versions 2015.6.30 and later.


Fact Sheet: The RAPID Toolkit: Facilitating Utility-Scale Renewable Energy Development
Author: Scott Gossett

This fact sheet discusses the RAPID Toolkit, which provides information about permits and regulations that affect renewable energy and bulk transmission projects.


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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.