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Electric Power Systems Are Profoundly Changing

Analysis Insights: April 2015

Illustration of ways to add flexibility to grid operations on timescales from seconds to decades

Flexibility can help accommodate higher levels of variable renewable generation on the grid. Sources of additional system flexibility can be organized around the three main domains of power markets—capacity, energy, and ancillary services—that support balancing the electricity grid at multiple timescales—through regulation, load-following, daily/hourly scheduling, and planning.

Environmental regulations, state-level portfolio standards, new methods for accessing natural gas reserves and aging power plants are opening opportunities for new electricity generation from renewable resources and natural gas. Advances in efficiency and smart grid technologies also have the potential to change historical demand curves. New renewable generation technology costs, including solar and wind, continue to fall, and installations are increasing.

NREL works within these currents of change, and helps shape them to enhance our energy and environmental security. We help utilities, policymakers, investors, regulators, and industrial leaders around the world understand and navigate these currents. Our analysis, data sets, and tools illuminate choices and future impacts of choices on power system reliability, greenhouse gas emissions, economics, and energy security. Our work is redefining what's possible for renewable energy on the grid and supporting the transition to power systems that are cleaner and more reliable than ever before.