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Federal Policy Analysis

NREL's federal policy analysis team analyzes existing and proposed legislation and policy related to clean energy. The team focuses much of its effort on pro-active analysis that is under consideration by Congress or the administration. The team provides objective information that may be helpful for policymakers and inform decision making. For more on NREL's analysis of policies such as renewable electricity standards, production tax credits, national energy plans, and more, access the documents below.

The cover 2015 Standard Scenarios Annual Report: U.S. Electric Sector Scenario Explorations report.

Select Analysis for 2016

Measuring the Impacts of Federal Tax Credit Extensions on Renewables and Emissions

SEAC analysts Trieu Mai, Wesley Cole, Eric Lantz, Cara Marcy, and Benjamin Sigrin published the report "Impacts of Federal Tax Credit Extensions on Renewable Deployment and Power Sector Emissions." Federal tax credits for renewable energy (RE) have served as one of the primary financial incentives for RE deployment over the last two decades in the United States. In December 2015, the wind power production tax credit and solar investment tax credits were extended for five years as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. This report explores the impact that these tax credit extensions might have on future RE capacity deployment and power sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The analysis examines the impacts of the tax credit extensions under two distinct natural gas price futures as natural gas prices have been key factors in influencing the economic competitiveness of new RE development.

Select Analysis for 2015

Applying Annual Technology Baseline and Standard Scenarios

SEAC analysts Patrick Sullivan, Wesley Cole, Nate Blair, Eric Lantz, Venkat Krishnan, Trieu Mai, David Mulcahy, and Gian Porro published the report "2015 Standard Scenarios Annual Report: U.S. Electric Sector Scenario Explorations." This report is a description of 19 standard scenarios along with the base structure and assumptions for the Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) model v.2015.1, which is the tool currently used for running the scenarios that simulates the least-cost expansion of electricity generation capacity and transmission in the United States. The primary purpose of the report is to describe the Standard Scenarios and the solution space of those scenarios using a consistent set of data and assumptions. Together, they establish a baseline understanding of the electric sector today and a range of projected pathways to form the basis for new studies and analysis that map out likely trajectories within which the actual pathway may occur.

Select Analysis for 2014

Exploring U.S. Wind Deployment and the PTC Extension

SEAC analysts Eric Lantz, Daniel Steinberg, Michael Mendelsohn, Owen Zinaman, Ted James, Gian Porro, Maureen Hand, Trieu Mai, Jeff Logan, Jenny Heeter, and Lori Bird published the report "Implications of a PTC Extension on U.S. Wind Deployment." This analysis explores the potential effects of wind production tax credit (PTC) expiration and various extension scenarios on future wind deployment with the ReEDS model.

Select Analysis for 2013

Understanding Regulatory Considerations for Distributed Solar Expansion

SEAC analysts Lori Bird, Joyce McLaren, and Jenny Heeter, with Carl Linvill, John Shenot, Richard Sedano, and Janine Migden-Ostrander (Regulatory Assistance Project) published the report "Regulatory Considerations Associated with the Expanded Adoption of Distributed Solar." Increased adoption of distributed PV has the potential to affect utility-customer interactions, system costs recovery, and utility revenue streams. As such, regulators will need to determine the value and cost of additional distributed PV and determine the appropriate allocation of the costs and benefits among consumers. This report examines regulatory tools and rate designs for addressing emerging issues with the expanded adoption and evaluates the potential effectiveness and viability of these options going forward.

Select Analysis for 2012

Joint Study of Natural Gas and Electricity

SEAC analysts Jeff Logan, Garvin Heath, and Jordan Macknick,, with Elizabeth Paranhos and William Boyd (CU Law School), and Ken Carlson (CSU) published the report "Natural Gas and the Transformation of the U.S. Energy Sector: Electricity." The Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) designed this study to address key questions that are a subset of the wider dialogue on natural gas, e.g "What are the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with shale gas compared to conventional natural gas and other fuels used to generate electricity?" and "What are the existing legal and regulatory frameworks governing unconventional gas development at federal, state, and local levels, and how are they changing in response to the rapid industry growth and public concerns?"

Select Analysis for 2011

Reviewing Federal Policies for Renewable Electricity

SEAC analyst Daniel C. Steinberg, with Karen Palmera, Anthony Paula, and Matt Woerman (Resources for the Future) published the journal article "Federal Policies for Renewable Electricity: Impacts and Interactions" in the Energy Policy (Vol. 39 [7] July 2011). Three types of policies that are prominent in the federal debate over addressing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are a cap-and-trade program (CTP) on emissions, a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for electricity production, and tax credits for renewable electricity producers. This paper utilizes the Haiku electricity market model to evaluate the economic and technology outcomes, climate benefits, and cost-effectiveness of three such policies and all possible combinations of the policies.

Select Analysis for 2010

Evaluating an RPS and Carbon Cap Scenarios

SEAC analysts Lori Bird, Caroline Chapman, Jeff Logan, Jenny Sumner, and Walter Short published the report "Evaluating Renewable Portfolio Standards and Carbon Cap Scenarios in the U.S. Electric Sector." This report examines the impact of various renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and cap-and-trade policy options on the U.S. electricity sector, focusing mainly on renewable energy generation. The analysis uses the ReEDS model to examine the impact of an emissions cap—similar to that proposed in the Waxman-Markey bill (H.R. 2454)—as well as lower and higher cap scenarios.

Select Analyses for 2009

Analyzing Proposed Renewable Electricity Standards

SEAC analysts Patrick Sullivan, Jeffrey Logan, Lori Bird, and Walter Short published the report "A Comparative Analysis of Three Proposed Federal Renewable Electricity Standards." This paper compares three proposed national renewable electricity standards (also known as renewable portfolio standards) considered by committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Energy analysts used the ReEDS model to assess the potential impacts of the three proposed standards on the U.S. electricity sector. The three proposals were compared against a baseline in which only enacted laws were considered.

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