Energy Analysis Newsletter — February 2010
Energy analysis at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) encompasses a broad range of energy analysis 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. Here is the latest news on energy analysis activities at NREL:
February Seminar: Renewable Energy Optimization Tool
On February 11, NREL's Strategic Energy Analysis Center (SEAC) and DOE/EERE's Office of Planning, Budget, and Analysis (PBA) will present a seminar (in Golden, Colorado) highlighting a renewable energy optimization tool. Many organizations operate enough real property that it's affordable for them to take a "portfolio" approach and designate at least one of their facilities to demonstrate net-zero utility use. Since 2006, several dozen organizations — including military bases, border stations, national parks, breweries, convenience foods manufacturers, and zoos — have asked the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to help them with their goals. NREL's unique capabilities put it in a good position to provide this service. This seminar, presented by Andy Walker (NREL), will present a review of case studies and the impacts of governmental and public-sector organizations investing in a combination of renewable energy technologies that achieve "net zero" utility energy use for a facility, while minimizing life-cycle cost. The methods described in this seminar use the lab's expertise in technology characterization, geographic information systems (GIS), and resource assessment.
For more information on the seminar series — including log-in and call-in information for remote access — visit the Web site.
Upcoming Energy Analysis Seminars
- March 11, 2010 (Golden, Colorado)
"Butanol: Views from the Field" — Sam Nejame (Promotum)
Publications and Web Sites
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Carbon Tax Policies
NREL analysts Jenny Sumner, Lori Bird, and Hillary Smith recently published the report "Carbon Taxes: A Review of Experience and Policy Design Considerations" (PDF 584 KB).
State and local governments in the United States are evaluating a wide range of policies to reduce carbon emissions, including, in some instances, carbon taxes, which have existed internationally for nearly 20 years. This report reviews existing carbon tax policies both internationally and in the United States. It also analyzes carbon policy design and effectiveness. Design considerations include which sectors to tax, where to set the tax rate, how to use tax revenues, what the impact will be on consumers, and how to ensure emissions reduction goals are achieved. Emission reductions that are due to carbon taxes can be difficult to measure, although some jurisdictions have quantified reductions in overall emissions, and other jurisdictions have examined impacts that are due to programs funded by carbon tax revenues.
Feed-in Tariffs and Federal Law
Scott Hempling of the National Regulatory Research Institute, Carolyn Elefant of the Law Offices of Carolyn Elefant, and Kevin Porter of Exeter Associates worked with SEAC analyst Karlynn Cory to publish the report "Renewable Energy Prices in State-Level Feed-in Tariffs: Federal Law Constraints and Possible Solutions" (PDF 1.2 MB).
State legislatures and state utility commissions trying to attract renewable energy projects are considering feed-in tariffs, which obligate retail utilities to purchase electricity from renewable producers under standard arrangements specifying prices, terms, and conditions. However, some argue that federal law—including the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) and the Federal Power Act of 1935 (FPA)—constrain state-level feed-in tariffs. This report seeks to reduce the legal uncertainties for states contemplating feed-in tariffs by explaining the constraints imposed by federal statutes. It describes the federal constraints, identifies transaction pathways that are free of those constraints (under existing law), and offers ways for state and federal policymakers to interpret or modify existing law to remove or reduce these constraints. If policymakers want to facilitate and simplify state-level feed-in tariffs, this report also proposes options for revising these federal statutes.
Policies on Net Metering
SEAC analysts Elizabeth Doris, Sarah Busche, and Stephen Hockett recently published the report "Net Metering Policy Development and Distributed Solar Generation in Minnesota: Overview of Trends in Nationwide Policy Development and Implications of Increasing the Eligible System Size Cap" (PDF 1.1 MB).
The goal of the Minnesota net metering policy is to give the maximum possible encouragement to distributed generation assets, especially solar electric systems. However, according to a published set of best practices that prioritize the maximum development of solar markets within states, the Minnesota policy does not incorporate many of the important best practices that may help other states transform their solar energy markets and increase the amount of grid-connected distributed solar generation assets. Reasons cited include the low system size limit of 40kW (the best practices document recommends a 2 MW limit) and a lack of language protecting generators from additional utility fees. This study was conducted to compare Minnesota's policies to national best practices. It provides an overview of the current Minnesota policy in the context of these best practices and other jurisdictions' net metering policies, as well as a qualitative assessment of the impacts of raising the system size cap within the policy based on the experiences of other states.
U.S. Energy Efficiency Policy
SEAC analysts Elizabeth Doris, Jaquelin Cochran, and Martin Vorum published the report "Energy Efficiency Policy in the United States: Overview of Trends at Different Levels of Government" (PDF 1.5 MB).
This report catalogs by sector—buildings, transportation, industrial, and power—energy efficiency policies at the federal, state, and local levels, and identifies some prominent policy trends. Four key findings emerged from this report: 1) leadership on energy efficiency is necessary—and is found—at each level of government; 2) there is no widely accepted methodology for evaluating energy efficiency policies; 3) coordination among the three levels of government—and across sectors—is increasingly important, and there are opportunities to significantly improve policy performance through a unified strategy; and 4) there are efficiencies to be gained by informing policies in one sector with experience from others.
State RE Market Potential
SEAC analysts Claire Kreycik, Laura Vimmerstedt, and Elizabeth Doris recently published the report "A Framework for State-Level Renewable Energy Market Potential Studies" (PDF 565 KB).
State-level policymakers are relying on estimates of the market potential for renewable energy resources as they set goals and develop policies to accelerate the development of these resources. Therefore, accuracy of such estimates should be understood and possibly improved to appropriately support these decisions. This document provides a framework and next steps for state officials who require estimates of renewable energy market potential. The report gives insight into how to conduct a market potential study, including what supporting data are needed and what types of assumptions need to be made. The report distinguishes between goal-oriented studies and other types of studies, and explains the benefits of each.
20% Wind by 2024
NREL recently released the results of its Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study (EWITS). The technical study of future high-penetration wind scenarios was designed to analyze the economic, operational, and technical implications of shifting 20% or more of the Eastern Interconnection's electrical load to wind energy by 2024. The study identified operational best practices and analyzed wind resources, future wind deployment scenarios, and transmission options. The study found, among other things, that the integration of 20% wind energy is technically feasible, but will require significant expansion of the transmission infrastructure and system operational changes in order for it to be realized. Without transmission enhancements, substantial curtailment of wind generation would be required for all 20% wind scenarios studied. For more about the study, access the EWITS page on the NREL Web site.
Analysts Meet With Stakeholders
On January 5, representatives from NREL, the Department of Energy (DOE), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) held their first PACE Working Group meeting in an effort to coordinate property-assessed clean energy (PACE) finance-related activities. The working group, which will meet regularly, is led by Jason Coughlin (NREL), Merrian Fuller (LBNL), and Brandon Belford (DOE).
Analyst Claire Kreycik, of NREL's Strategic Energy Analysis Center, spoke during an informational briefing about feed-in tariff policy on January 21 in Washington, D.C. She was invited by Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington state. Kreycik addressed policy options and experiences other countries have had with feed-in tariffs, and answered questions from the audience of congressional staffers and representatives of energy interest groups.
Doug Arent attended the Global Energy Assessment (GEA) Council meeting in Vienna, Austria, on January 27-28. The council is the advisory body to the GEA Council Co-Presidents Jose Goldemberg and Ged Davis, Co-Chair Thomas Johannson, and Director Nebojsa Nakicenovic. The goal of the GEA is to provide policy-relevant analysis and capacity-enhancing guidance to national governments and intergovernmental organizations, decision-support material to the commercial sector (energy service companies, investors and others), and analysis relevant to academic institutions. The GEA is entering second order draft completion of its report and will complete technical reviews and consultation outreach during FY10.
For the latest updates on information regarding energy analysis, visit the Energy Analysis Web site.