Renewable Energy

The Electricity Markets & Policy Group’s (EMP Group’s) renewable energy work focuses on renewable power generation, with an emphasis on wind and solar power, though much of our work is crosscutting and applicable to a range of renewable energy technologies. The majority of our work falls into the following four core areas:

Renewable Energy Policy Analysis and Assistance

At present, the development and deployment of renewable power technologies remains largely dependent on public policy. The EMP Group works to inform renewable 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 EMP Group informs this process by conducting the following:

  • Analyzing the current markets and economics of wind and solar energy, including their costs, benefits, and performance
  • Regularly reporting research 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 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 such as wind and solar increase variability and uncertainty. The impacts and needs of location-constrained and distributed resources, such as geothermal and photovoltaics, respectively, differ from those of conventional generation. The EMP Group works to increase understanding of the power system changes needed to integrate renewable energy. Activities include the following:

  • 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

Although increased deployment of renewable energy is tied to technological advances, many social barriers also affect renewable energy deployment outcomes. The EMP Group produces high-quality research on individual and community responses to renewable energy development, to inform future projects. Projects include the following:

  • 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 the EMP Group's Renewable Energy work, see this presentation that introduces our main research products for decision makers.

Wind

As the falling cost of wind power has spurred significant and rapid deployment in recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to track new and important developments in the market. The EMP Group supports stakeholder efforts to do so by conducting in-depth analyses of the wind power market in the United States, focusing on the potential benefits, costs, and barriers to wind power deployment. Among those efforts, the EMP Group’s flagship annual wind power publication, the Wind Technologies Market Report, prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy, analyzes technology, cost, price, and performance trends among wind project installations in the United States, along with broader industry developments and policy and market drivers.

Solar

Solar energy’s recent technological advances and cost reductions have expanded deployment, while also raising a host of policy and technical issues. To support efforts by states and others to address these issues, the EMP Group conducts in-depth analyses of the U.S. solar energy market, focusing on the potential costs, benefits, and barriers to solar power deployment. Among these efforts are two flagship annual reports prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy: Tracking the Sun, which describes trends in the installed price of distributed photovoltaic systems in the United States, and Utility-Scale Solar, which describes cost, pricing, performance, and technology trends for utility-scale solar projects.

Renewables Portfolio Standards Resources

Berkeley Lab tracks and analyzes state renewables portfolio standards (RPS), in order to inform policy-makers, program administrators, and others about the design and impacts of these policies. A central element to this work is Berkeley Lab’s U.S.

2018

2017

Wiser, Ryan H, and Mark Bolinger. 2016 Wind Technologies Market Report. 2017. LBNL-2001042.

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