NREL Releases Eighth Edition of Annual Standard Scenarios

Electricity Sector

by | Dec 11, 2022

Electricity Sector(Credit: Canva)

The 2022 Standard Scenarios, a collection of forward-looking scenarios for the electricity sector in the United States, have been made available by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Based in part on up-to-date and transparent projections of technology cost and performance, the suite provides a scenario framework for examining the rapidly evolving electricity sector.

The scenarios highlight the impact of market and policy issues on the evolution of the electricity sector as well as potential individual technology roles in the larger energy system. Each year, NREL revises the Standard Scenarios to take into account a wide variety of possible futures. An NREL technical report with key results and scenario outcomes is included in the annual release. The NREL Scenario Viewer allows users to view and download the report.

The Standard Scenarios now include 70 potential futures for the United States power system through 2050, up from 50 last year. Notably, the 2022 report takes into account the potential effects of power sector provisions in the landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), includes scenarios for achieving 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, and more explicitly takes into account the role of new consideration of generation technologies that are still in their infancy.

Lead author and NREL grid analyst Pieter Gagnon stated, “The U.S. electricity sector continues to undergo rapid change.” Given that they examine the impact of the IRA across a wide range of possible futures, we believe the results of this year’s scenario will be particularly intriguing.”

The NREL’s Standard Scenarios are supported by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the United States Department of Energy. They are part of a larger effort to ensure that energy analyses incorporate transparent, realistic, and current assumptions and take into account a variety of possible futures. The Standard Situations are demonstrated utilizing the most recent innovation cost and execution information from NREL’s Yearly Innovation Pattern.

Inflation Reduction Act & Decarbonization Scenarios

The main provisions of the IRA that affect the electricity sector are represented by the 2022 Standard Scenarios. These provisions include changes and extensions to the electricity sector’s Production Tax Credits (PTCs), Investment Tax Credits (ITCs), incentives for carbon dioxide (CO2) capture, and a new credit for nuclear generators that are already in operation. The Standard Scenarios also take into account the possibility of increased electrification brought about by the IRA’s demand-side provisions.

This year, a new set of scenarios that achieve full decarbonization by 2035 is included in the Standard Scenarios, which previously examined the decarbonization of the electricity sector in the United States. A broader set of scenarios for the decarbonization of the electricity sector is included in the most recent 100% Clean Electricity by 2035 Study from NREL. These scenarios look at additional possible definitions of what 100% means and the technologies that might be used.

In addition, the scenarios for this year investigate the significance of emerging technologies in achieving 100% decarbonization of the power sector. Improved geothermal systems, floating offshore wind, natural gas and biopower CCS, small modular nuclear reactors, and renewable fuel combustion turbines are among the emerging technologies.

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