A critical component of recent DOE research efforts included development and application of credible methods to appropriately quantify – and in many cases monetizing – the effects of renewable energy deployment in the United States. For example, a high solar penetration scenario is found to yield about $400 billion reduction in climate-change damage and health benefits, reducing premature mortalities by as many as 59,000 lives.
The DOE’s Wind Vision scenario, meanwhile, reduces electric-sector water withdrawals and consumption in 2050 by 15% and 23%, while also suppressing gas prices and potentially leading to $280 billion in consumer savings. Finally, existing state RPS policies in 2013 supported nearly 200,000 gross domestic jobs.
The study is also careful to appropriately describe and caveat its methods and scope, so the results and underlying uncertainty in the results can be properly understood and weighed by decision-makers. At minimum, critical uncertainties in estimated benefits and impacts must be understood, and those benefits and impacts ought to be weighed against the compensating costs. A few highlights from the Long-term implications of sustained wind power growth in the United States: Direct electric system impacts and costs include:
- 35% wind energy in the U.S. requires approximately 400 GW of wind power capacity.
- 35% wind energy in the U.S. supports reduced natural gas and coal generation.
- Long-term (2050) retail rate reductions (2%) from wind energy are observed.
- Cumulative electric sector savings (3%) from wind energy are observed.
- Transmission needs are estimated to be on par with historical demand since 1990.
The paper ($41.95) evaluates potential changes in the power system associated with sustained growth in wind generation in the United States to 35% of end-use demand by 2050; Wiser et al. (2016) evaluate societal benefits and other impacts for this same scenario.
Under reference or central conditions, the analysis finds cumulative wind capacity of 404 GW would be required to reach this level and drive 2050 incremental electricity rate and cumulative electric sector savings of 2% and 3% respectively, relative to a scenario with no new wind capacity additions.
Greater savings are estimated under higher fossil-fuel costs or with greater advancements in wind technologies. Conversely, incremental costs are found when fossil-fuel costs are lower than central assumptions or wind technology improvements are more limited.
Through 2030, the primary generation sources displaced by new wind capacity include natural gas and coal-fired generation. By 2050, wind could displace other renewables. The equipment report also estimates that incremental new transmission infrastructure totaling 29 million megawatt-miles will be needed by 2050. Related societal benefits of this work demonstrate that 35% wind energy by 2050 is plausible, could support enduring benefits, and could result in long-term consumer savings, if nearer-term (pre-2030) cost barriers are overcome; at the same time, these opportunities are not anticipated to be realized in their full form under “business-as-usual” conditions. The $41.95 paper is available online here..
Filed Under: News, Policy