Flexibility mechanisms and pathways to a highly renewable US electricity future

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Abstract

This study explores various scenarios and flexibility mechanisms to integrate high penetrations of renewable energy into the US (United States) power grid. A linear programming model - POWER (Power system Optimization With diverse Energy Resources) - is constructed and used to (1) quantify flexibility cost-benefits of geographic aggregation, renewable overgeneration, storage, and flexible electric vehicle charging, and (2) compare pathways to a fully renewable electricity system. Geographic aggregation provides the largest flexibility benefit with ~5-50% cost savings, but each region's contribution to the aggregate RPS (renewable portfolio standard) target is disproportionate, suggesting the need for regional-and-resource-specific RPS targets. Electric vehicle charging yields a lower levelized system cost, revealing the benefits of demand-side flexibility. However, existing demand response price structures may need adjustment to encourage optimal flexible load in highly renewable systems. Two scenarios with RPS targets from 20% to 100% for the US (peak load ~729 GW) and California (peak load ~62 GW) find each RPS target feasible from a planning perspective, but with 2× the cost and 3× the overgeneration at a 100% versus 80% RPS target. Emission reduction cost savings for the aggregated US system with an 80% versus 20% RPS target are roughly $200 billion/year, outweighing the $80 billion/year cost for the same RPS range.

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Frew, B. A., Becker, S., Dvorak, M. J., Andresen, G. B., & Jacobson, M. Z. (2016). Flexibility mechanisms and pathways to a highly renewable US electricity future. Energy, 101, 65–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2016.01.079

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