461524 U.S. Power System Outlook: A Range of Perspectives from a Suite of Standard Scenarios

Monday, November 14, 2016: 3:15 PM
Union Square 19 & 20 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Wesley Cole, Strategic Energy Analysis Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO and James Richards, Chemical Engineering, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

U.S. Power System Outlook: A Range of Perspectives from a Suite of Standard Scenarios

Wesley J. Cole and James Richards

­Strategic Energy Analysis Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO, USA

The U.S. electricity system has undergone significant change over the last decade with declines in coal powered generation and increases in natural gas and renewable energy generation [1]. Many of these changes were largely unexpected. For example, before the shale gas revolution, natural gas prices were expected to be much higher than they are today [2], and solar photovoltaic capital costs have declined much more rapidly that most anticipated (see e.g., [3] vs. [4]). While continued regulation, such as the Clean Power Plan, and expected cost declines in renewable energy costs, may support a continuation of these trends, there is still tremendous uncertainty in terms of what a future power sector will look like. This work aims to identify a range of possible future electric system generation mixes via scenario analyses of some key sensitivities in the power sector. We present scenario results from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s suite of Standard Scenarios, coupled with future technology cost analysis, to better understand how the power sector might evolve under various futures. Specifically, we consider electricity sector evolution with various natural gas price trajectories, technology costs, and policy drivers. We show how the capacity mix and resulting CO2 emissions change as different assumptions are applied. The range of outcomes of these possible futures can provide insight into which drivers can have substantial impact on how the system develops.


[1] J. Logan, K. B. Medlock III, and W. C. Boyd, “A Review of Sector and Regional Trends in US Electricity Markets: Focus on Natural Gas,” National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO, NREL/TP-6A50-64652, 2015.

[2] EIA, “Annual Energy Outlook 2010,” U.S. DOE Energy Information Administration, Washington, DC, DOE/EIA-0383(2010), 2010.

[3] Black & Veatch, “Cost and Performance Data for Power Generation Technologies,” Black & Veatch Corporation, Overland Park, KS, 2012.

[4] NREL, “NREL Annual Technology Baseline (ATB),” 2015. [Online]. Available: http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/data_tech_baseline.html. [Accessed: 21-Apr-2015].

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