Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy
The Electricity Markets and Policy Group conducts public interest research on renewable energy markets, policies, costs, benefits, and performance in collaboration with the US Department of Energy, state and federal policymakers, various international organizations, electricity suppliers, the renewable energy industry, academics, and others. Our work in these core areas focuses on renewable power generation, with an emphasis on wind and solar power. Much of our work is cross-cutting in nature, however, and is applicable to a range of renewable energy technologies.

The majority of our work falls into the following four general areas:

Renewable Energy Policy Analysis and Assistance

At present, the development and deployment of renewable power technologies remains largely dependent on favorable public policy. The Electricity Markets and Policy Group works to enhance the effectiveness of energy policy, by:

  • Evaluating federal and state renewable energy policies and programs, including clean and renewable energy standards, and tax and financial incentives
  • Analyzing the impact of public policies and retail rate design on the deployment and economics of customer-sited photovoltaics
  • Reviewing the treatment of renewable energy in utility resource planning and public policy analyses
  • Providing expert technical assistance to state and federal energy regulators and policymakers, on request

Cost, Benefit, and Market Analysis

Renewable power technologies often exhibit notably different cost and performance profiles than do conventional generators, and also provide different benefits. Properly accounting for these differences within existing or new markets can be a challenge. The Electricity Markets and Policy Group informs this process, by:

  • Analyzing the current markets for and economics of wind and solar energy, including their costs, benefits, and performance
  • Regularly reporting our findings via annual “state of the market” reports
  • Evaluating the benefits, costs, and challenges of increased renewable electricity use
  • Assessing the ability of renewable energy technologies to mitigate market risks related to uncertain fossil fuel prices and carbon policies
  • Analyzing the impact of financing structures on the economics of renewable energy projects
  • Evaluating the possible role of renewable energy in reducing carbon emissions and alleviating the environmental impacts of energy production

Grid Operations and Infrastructure Impacts

Renewable energy technologies present new challenges to power system operations and planning. Variable energy resources (e.g., wind and solar) increase variability and uncertainty. Location-constrained (e.g., geothermal) and distributed (e.g., photovoltaics) resources also have impacts and needs that differ from conventional generation. The Electricity Markets and Policy Group works to understand the power system changes that are needed to integrate more renewable energy by:

  • Evaluating the impact of renewable energy on transmission infrastructure needs and costs
  • Assessing the long-run value of sources of flexibility – including demand response, flexible conventional generation, and storage – as the penetration of renewables increases
  • Analyzing the variability and uncertainty of solar plant output and the impact on power system operations
  • Providing technical assistance on studies of grid operations with high levels of variable renewable energy

Public Acceptance and Deployment Barriers

Although increased deployment of renewable energy is tied to advances in technology, there are many social barriers that can affect renewable energy deployment outcomes. The Electricity Markets and Policy Group produces high-quality research on individual and community responses to renewable energy development, such as:

  • Investigating impacts to communities, specifically property values, surrounding utility-scale wind power developments
  • Determining if and how much solar energy systems increase residential home sales prices
  • Providing technical assistance on the assessment and management of public acceptance issues related to renewable energy

For more information about us, see this presentation that introduces our main research products for decision makers.

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