Electrification Futures Study Modeling Approach

To quantitatively answer the research questions of the Electrification Futures Study, researchers used multiple state-of-the-art models and analytic tools. To the fullest extent possible, they relied on engineering assessments using bottom-up approaches to develop future scenarios and analyze their implications. 

Economywide Model

We used an open-source energy planning tool called EnergyPATHWAYS representing all demand sectors—buildings, industry, and transportation—to generate future electricity consumption scenarios. Key features include a high spatial resolution, a rich set of technology options, and accounting for infrastructure inertia through stock turnover.

Load Modeling: Demand-Side Grid Model

We developed the demand-side grid (dsgrid) model, a highly resolved model to simulate electricity consumption patterns using bottom-up representations of multiple end-use technologies across all major economic sectors—transportation, residential and commercial buildings, and industry—for every county in the contiguous United States. The consumption profiles are available by subsector and end use as well as in aggregate.

EFS research used dsgrid to analyze the hourly electricity consumption under scenarios with various levels of electrification. In addition to providing electricity consumption data for the EFS analysis, dsgrid is being used for other analysis at NREL.

Electric Sector Capacity Expansion Models

We simulated the evolution of the U.S. electricity system, from today through 2050, using NREL's high spatial resolution capacity expansion models: Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) and Distributed Generation Market Demand (dGen). These tools have been used in many groundbreaking studies of the changing U.S. power system, including the Renewable Electricity Futures Study, the SunShot Vision Study, On the Path to SunShot series, Wind Vision, and the Hydropower Vision study.

Unit Commitment and Economic Dispatch Model

To simulate the subhourly system operations for a 2050 grid, we used Energy Exemplar's PLEXOS production cost model. NREL has applied PLEXOS in numerous large-scale renewable grid integration studies, such as the Los Angeles 100% Renewable Energy Study, the Eastern Renewable Grid Integration Study, and the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study Phase 2.