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 cross-cutting and applicable to a range of renewable energy technologies. The majority of our work falls into the following four core areas:

Cost, Benefit, and Market Analysis

Renewable power technologies often exhibit notably different cost, performance, and value 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:

  • Analyzing the current markets for and economics of wind and solar energy, including their costs, performance, and system value
  • Regularly reporting research findings via annual “state-of-the-market” reports and data
  • Evaluating the benefits, costs, and challenges of increased renewable electricity use
  • Assessing how renewable energy technologies can mitigate some market risks (e.g., fuel price risk) while potentially exacerbating others (e.g., short-term price volatility)
  • 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 unique challenges to power system operations and planning. For example, variable energy resources such as wind and solar increase variability and uncertainty, impacting both grid operations and wholesale market prices. 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 reliably integrate renewable energy. Activities include the following:

  • Evaluating the impact of renewable energy on transmission infrastructure needs and costs, as well as on the bulk power system more generally
  • Assessing the value of and market signals to invest in sources of flexibility—including demand response, flexible conventional generation, and storage—as the penetration of renewables increases
  • Analyzing the variability and uncertainty of wind and solar generation and the impact on power system operations
  • Providing technical assistance on studies of grid operations and valuation 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 deployment outcomes. The EMP Group produces high-quality research on individual and community responses to renewable energy development, to inform future projects. Research areas include the following:

  • Investigating impacts to communities surrounding utility-scale wind and solar power developments, including analyses of impacts to residential property values and surveying community members about levels of and drivers to attitudes
  • Determining if and how much residential solar systems increase home sales prices and exploring ways to have solar system characteristics display in home sales listings
  • Providing technical assistance on the assessment and management of public acceptance issues related to renewable energy

Program Analysis and Assistance

The development and deployment of renewable power technologies are affected by programs and policies, at the local, state and federal levels. The EMP Group works to inform these efforts by:

  • Evaluating federal and state renewable energy programs and policies in terms of their implications for energy affordability, reliability, and other key metrics
  • Analyzing the impact of retail rate design and other programs on the deployment and economics of customer-sited photovoltaics, and on other electric sector stakeholders
  • Assessing the treatment of renewable energy in utility resource planning and other electric-sector planning  analyses
  • Providing expert technical assistance to state and federal energy regulators and decision-makers, on request



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 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.


Wiser, Ryan H, and Edward P Kahn. Alternative Windpower Ownership Structures: Financing Terms and Project Costs. Berkeley: LBNL, 1996. LBNL-38921.


Vine, Edward L. Utility Residential New Construction Programs: Going Beyond the Code. Berkeley: LBNL, 1995. LBL-36603.
Kahn, Edward P. Comparison of Financing Costs for Wind Turbine and Fossil Powerplants. Berkeley: LBNL, 1995. LBNL-36122.