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renewables

Today’s electric system is almost unrecognizable from the electric system a decade ago. Generation from natural gas and renewables has accelerated to replace the rapid and unprecedented retirement of coal-fired generators. Wind, solar, and geothermal electric generating capacity in the United States has now eclipsed capacities from hydroelectric and nuclear resources combined.

On February 6, 2018, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released the 2018 Annual Energy Outlook (AEO). The final AEO 2018 contains projections of energy use from the electric power, residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors through 2050. It is important to note that the AEO Reference case is not a forecast, but is instead a projection based on estimates of fuel availability, changes in technology costs, and currently enacted legislation.

On January 17, 2018, ISO New England (“ISO”) released a draft of its Operational Fuel Security Analysis. This study lays out many different possibilities for a 2024/25 winter, assessing the electric grid’s reliability under a varying array of assumptions. ISO’s main finding is clear: adding more renewables and more imports, and increasing the availability of LNG deliveries and backup oil during supply emergencies, will all contribute to improved system reliability.

Massachusetts has long been a national leader in efforts to capture clean energy economic development opportunities, enhance energy security, and reduce emissions. The state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) legislation is an important part of this leadership in combatting climate change. RPS policies are the foundation for clean energy markets and a proven policy tool to support successful, cost-effective renewable energy development at the state level. An RPS is a market-based mechanism that creates demand for clean energy, which can be met by a variety of cost-effective resources.

Today’s electric system looks remarkably different than it looked 10—or even five—years ago. Coal generation is retiring at an unprecedented rate and being replaced by natural gas and renewables. The United States’ wind, solar, and geothermal electric generating capacity now exceeds capacities from hydroelectric and nuclear resources. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are at their lowest levels since the early 1990s, and both total generation and electric sales have remained essentially unchanged for 10 years.

One of the key benefits associated with energy efficiency and renewable energy programs (clean energy) is that they reduce consumption of fossil fuel resources, and in doing so reduce fossil fuel-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. A report released by Synapse today provides evidence that clean energy resources have indeed displaced emissions—at a rate of up to 0.80 metric tons of CO2 per megawatt-hour, depending on the region and the type of alternative resource deployed—and are projected to continue to do so in the future.