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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.

November 2015

Renewable Electricity to Account for More Than 50% of U.S. Electricity Capacity Additions according to Renewable Energy Data Book

The cover of the 2014 Renewable Energy Databook

The Renewable Energy Data Book for 2014 offers facts and figures on energy and electricity use, renewable electricity in the United States, global renewable energy development, wind power, solar power, geothermal power, biopower, hydropower, marine and hydrokinetic power, hydrogen, renewable fuels, and clean energy investment. The newly released book illustrates United States and global energy statistics, including renewable electricity generation, renewable energy development, clean energy investments, and technology-specific data and trends.

Key insights in the Data Book include:

  • In 2014, U.S. renewable electricity grew to 15.5% of total installed capacity and 13.5% of total electricity generation
  • Renewable electricity accounted for more than 50% of all new U.S. electricity capacity installations in 2014
  • Solar electricity installed capacity increased by more than 54% (5.5 GW), accounting for more than 48% of U.S. renewable electricity capacity installed in 2014
  • U.S. wind electricity generation increased by 8.3% in 2014 and wind electricity capacity grew by 7.8% (4.8 GW)
  • U.S. electricity capacities of biomass, geothermal, and hydropower have remained reasonably stable from 2000 to 2014
  • Worldwide, solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) are among the fastest-growing renewable electricity technologies; in 2014 alone, combined capacity increased by more than 28% globally.

"The Renewable Energy Data Book displays renewable energy trends for the United States and the world," says Philipp Beiter, who leads the Data Book project. "The book provides unique insights for policymakers, analysts, and investors worldwide."

NREL Analysis and Analysts in the News

Land-use requirements and the per-capita solar footprint for photovoltaic generation in the United States was cited in a GreenBiz article titled "Large-scale U.S. solar could get ugly, at least to some."

Status and Trends in the U.S. Voluntary Green Power Market (2013 Data) was cited in a GreenBiz article, "How clean energy empowers neighborhoods." For the recently updated report, please see Recent Publications below.

"People are nervous about what this does mean
for the market."

— Joyce McLaren quoted in Scientific American's article
"New Fees May Weaken Demand for Rooftop Solar"

Shared Solar: Current Landscape, Market Potential, and the Impact of Federal Securities Regulation was cited in an Energy Times article and an IEEE Spectrum article; in the latter, Dave Feldman was also quoted.

The Annual Technology Baseline was the subject of an Industry Energy Today article.

U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis was cited in a New York Times article.

The IEA's World Energy Outlook 2015 highlights India's energy challenges and acknowledges Trieu Mai's contributions.

Recent Publications

Journal Article: Alternatives No More: Wind and Solar Power Are Mainstays of a Clean, Reliable, Affordable Grid
Authors: Michael Milligan and Bethany Frew, NREL; Brendan Kirby, Consult Kirby; Matt Schuerger, Energy Systems Consulting Services; Kara Clark, NREL; Debra Lew, GE Energy Consulting; Paul Denholm, NREL; Bob Zavadil, EnerNex; Mark O'Malley, University College Dublin; Bruce Tsuchida, The Brattle Group

The authors stress that the rapid growth in wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) generation in the United States and worldwide during the last decade is due to significantly improved technology (power electronics, controls, and physical attributes such as tower heights and blades), plummeting costs, and vast advancements in understanding how to plan and operate reliable regional power systems that have high penetrations of variable renewable resources. These developments have made wind and PV mainstays of a clean, reliable, affordable electric grid.

Presentation: U.S. Renewable Energy Policy and Industry
Author: Ella Zhou

Prepared for a meeting with China National Renewable Energy Center (CNREC) and National Energy Administration (of China), this presentation is a summary of some of the key drivers for renewable energy deployment in the United States. It addresses wind and solar power generation, which has seen an almost tenfold increase in the United States during the period 2005–2014. This rapid development is the result of a variety of federal and state, top-down and bottom-up drivers, as well as the macro-environment of cost-reduction globally and early adoption in Europe.

NREL Report: Advancing System Flexibility for High Penetration Renewable Integration
Authors: Michael Milligan, Bethany Frew, and Ella Zhou, NREL; Doug Arent, JISEA

This report summarizes some of the issues surrounding comprehensive energy scenario design and modeling, RE-friendly grid development, power system flexibility, and boosting DG of RE in the United States for the purpose of informing Chinese energy planning. The authors believe the initial stage of collaboration represented in this report has successfully started a process of mutual understanding, helping Chinese researchers to begin evaluating how lessons learned in other countries might translate to China's unique geographic, economic, social, and political contexts.

NREL Report: Economic Analysis Case Studies of Battery Energy Storage with SAM
Authors: Nicholas DiOrio, Aron Dobos, and Steven Janzou

Using data from California and Tennessee, this paper assesses the economic benefit of customer-installed systems. Different dispatch strategies were explored to determine ideal ways to use the storage system to increase the system value and mitigate demand charges. Incentives, complex electric tariffs, and site-specific load and PV data were used to perform detailed analysis; the authors used the System Advisor Model (SAM) tool.

NREL Report: Electricity Capacity Expansion Modeling, Analysis, and Visualization: A Summary of Selected High-Renewable Modeling Experiences
Authors: Nate Blair, Ella Zhou, and Dan Getman, NREL; Doug Arent, JISEA

The authors discuss modeling China's electric grid and its importance in terms of power-sector assets, China's increasing deployment of renewable energy (RE), and companies needing the tools to develop a strategy for their own involvement in the future power market.

NREL Report: Historical and Current U.S. Strategies for Boosting Distributed Generation
Authors: Travis Lowder, Paul Schwabe, and Ella Zhou, NREL; Doug Arent, JISEA

This report seeks to describe a variety of top-down and bottom-up practices that, combined with the macro-environment of cost reduction globally and with early adoption in Europe, helped boost the distributed generation PV (DGPV) market in the United States. These experiences may serve as a reference in China's objective to promote distributed renewable energy.

NREL Report: Nationwide Analysis of U.S. Commercial Building Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Breakeven Conditions
Authors: Carolyn Davidson, Pieter Gagnon, Paul Denholm, and Robert Margolis

This report evaluates the breakeven price of PV for 15 different building types and various financing options by calculating electricity savings based on detailed rate structures for most U.S. utility territories (approximately two-thirds of U.S. commercial customers). The authors find that, at current capital costs, an estimated one-third of U.S. commercial customers break even in the cash scenario and approximately two-thirds break even in the loan scenario. Further, variation in retail rates is a stronger driver of breakeven prices than is variation in building load or solar generation profiles.

NREL Report: Overgeneration from Solar Energy in California: A Field Guide to the Duck Chart
Authors: Paul Denholm, Matthew O'Connell, Gregory Brinkman, and Jennie Jorgenson

This paper explores the California Independent System Operator's "duck chart," published in 2013, which shows a significant drop in midday net load as solar PV are added to the system. The authors examine how much PV might need to be curtailed if additional grid flexibility measures are not taken and how curtailment rates can be decreased by changing grid operational practices. They find that, under business-as-usual types of assumptions and corresponding levels of grid flexibility in California, solar penetrations as low as 20% of annual energy could lead to marginal curtailment rates that exceed 30%, but that by allowing (or requiring) distributed PV and storage (including new installations that are part of the California storage mandate) to provide grid services, system flexibility could be greatly enhanced.

NREL Report: 'Renewables-Friendly' Grid Development Strategies: Experience in the United States, Potential Lessons for China
Authors: David Hurlbut and Ella Zhou, NREL; Kevin Porter, Exeter Associates; Doug Arent, JISEA

This report, focusing on utility-scale renewables, aims to assist China in its energy reform effort by providing a concise summary of experience in the United States with 'renewables-friendly' grid management, focusing on experiences that might be applicable to China.

NREL Report: A Review of Sector and Regional Trends in U.S. Electricity Markets: Focus on Natural Gas Natural Gas and the Evolving U.S. Power Sector Monograph Series: Number 1 of 3
Authors: Jeff Logan, NREL; Kenneth Medlock III, Rice University; William Boyd, University of Colorado - Boulder

This study explores dynamics related to natural gas use at the national, sectoral, and regional levels, emphasizing the power sector. The research, relying on a data set from SNL Financial, aims to provide decision and policy makers with objective and credible information, data, and analysis that informs their discussions of a rapidly changing energy system landscape. This study also summarizes regional changes in natural gas demand within the power sector because of the uneven shift in the transition from coal to natural gas due to differences in fuel price costs, renewable energy targets, infrastructure constraints, historical approach to regulation, and other factors across states.

NREL Report: Selecting Solar: Insights into Residential Photovoltaic (PV) Quote Variation
Authors: Carolyn Davidson and Robert Margolis

This analysis leverages recently available data from EnergySage, an online solar marketplace, to offer the first data-driven characterization of quote variation faced by prospective PV customers (i.e., evaluating the tradeoffs associated with different system parameters, evaluating disparate costs for each system attribute by comparing multiple bids, etc.) It lends early insight into the decisions customers face once they have initial buy-in.

NREL Report: Status and Trends in the U.S. Voluntary Green Power Market (2014 Data)
Authors: Eric O'Shaughnessy, Jenny Heeter, Chang Liu, and Erin Nobler

This annual report on green power markets summarizes status and trends in the voluntary demand for renewable energy. The authors note that U.S. green power markets have become more complex over time as state-level policies have enabled more avenues for green power purchases such as community solar, community choice aggregation (CCA), and voluntary power purchase agreements (PPAs) have significantly increased the number of U.S. voluntary green power customers while traditional green power options, such as utility green pricing programs and voluntary RECs markets, also grew in 2014. They indicate that current trends suggest strong continued growth in U.S. voluntary green power markets.

Fact Sheet: Biomass Scenario Model

This fact sheet discusses the Biomass Scenario Model (BSM), a unique, carefully validated, state-of-the-art dynamic model of the domestic biofuels supply chain that explicitly focuses on policy issues, their feasibility, and potential side effects. The model integrates resource availability, physical/technological/economic constraints, behavior, and policy, and uses a system dynamics simulation (not optimization) to model dynamic interactions across the supply chain.

Fact Sheet: Renewable electricity: How do you know when you are using it?

This fact sheet reviews how to ensure that renewable energy certificates (RECs) are not double-counted and the roles of electricity regulators, renewable generators, and purchasers and concludes with a discussion of the international use of RECs.

For the latest updates on information regarding energy analysis, visit the Energy Analysis website. You can also subscribe to the Energy Analysis at NREL newsletter using our simple online form.

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.