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High Renewable Generation

Feasibility of Higher Levels of Renewable Electricity Deployment

As requirements for renewable electricity generation increase, with some states now requiring as much as 30% renewables in their renewable portfolio standards (RPS), the question arises: how much can renewables contribute to future electricity demand? NREL's grid integration studies use state-of-the-art modeling and analysis techniques to evaluate the operational and infrastructure impacts of higher wind and solar penetrations at regional and national scales.

NREL's grid integration studies show that:

  • The U.S. electric system is operable with 20%–50% variable generation from wind and solar power in the regional and national scenarios examined to date.
  • Increased electric system flexibility, needed to enable electricity supply-demand balance with high levels of renewable generation, can come from a portfolio of supply- and demand-side options, including flexible conventional generation, grid storage, new transmission, more responsive loads, and changes in power system operations.
  • The abundance and diversity of U.S. renewable energy resources can support multiple combinations of renewable technologies that result in deep reductions in electric sector greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

Highlights of Recent Studies

Renewable Electricity Futures Study (RE Futures)

This study explores the implications and challenges of very high renewable electricity generation levels—from 30% up to 90%, focusing on 80%, of all U.S. electricity generation from renewable technologies—in 2050. A central conclusion of RE Futures is that:

Screen capture of a dynamic map that is animated to display the transformation of the electric sector in 2010 through 2050
Transformation of the Electric Sector
(Compare to Baseline Projections)
  • Renewable electricity generation could play a more significant role in the U.S. electricity system than previously thought and that further work is warranted to investigate this clean generation pathway.

To find out more about this groundbreaking study, please visit:

Find out more about NREL's Grid Integration Analysis Approach (Tools, Models and Data):

  • Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) is a long-term capacity-expansion model for the deployment of electric power generation technologies and transmission infrastructure throughout the contiguous United States.
  • Commercial production simulation models are used to help validate ReEDS results and to better verify the basic operational feasibility of future potential scenarios.
  • Technology cost and performance data of electricity generation technologies are documented in Transparent Cost Database/Open Energy Information.

Find out more about other published grid integration analyses:

For questions about this project, contact Trieu Mai via our Webmaster page.