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Standard Scenarios

NREL’s Standard Scenarios are a suite of forward-looking scenarios of the U.S. power sector that are updated annually to support and inform energy analysis.

Screenshot of the web-based Standard Scenarios Results Viewer tool, which shows a map of the United States with various options to adjust inputs to generate different power system scenarios.

Access the Standard Scenarios Results Viewer.

Detailed scenario results at the state level are available using the Standard Scenarios Results Viewer.

The Standard Scenarios are simulated using the Regional Energy Deployment System and Distributed Generation Market Demand Model capacity expansion models and are updated each year to provide timely information regarding power sector evolution. The scenarios have been designed to capture a range of possible power system futures and consider a variety of factors from high vehicle electrification to major cost declines for electricity generation technologies (e.g., using cost inputs from the Annual Technology Baseline).

Access prior versions of the Standard Scenarios.

Publications

The annual Standard Scenarios report explores themes based on the modeled scenario results, describing the evolving U.S. power sector in the context of recent trends and projected changes. For example, themes from the 2019 report include:

  • How different technology revenues change with the evolving generation mix: Energy generators receive revenue from four primary categories of grid services: planning reserves, operating reserves, providing energy, and state policy compliance. Revenues for these grid services vary over time and by scenario, but overall trends show increased energy and planning reserve revenues and decreased operating reserve revenues. Such changes could in turn influence real markets and regulations, but this analysis does not explore these market effects.
  • How resource adequacy is maintained as variable generation increases: At high or growing penetration of variable renewable energy—including existing thermal or hydropower plants as well as emerging storage technologies—nonvariable technologies continue to largely supply system resource adequacy requirements, despite variable renewable energy contributions.
  • How these changes occur regionally across the United States: Changes in regional generation mixes are driven by technology costs, state policies, and resource quality. While states may align with broader national trends—such as moving from coal toward natural gas, wind, or solar technologies—there is still meaningful regional variation within the national grid.

Contact

Wesley Cole

Wesley.Cole@nrel.gov | 720-391-4897