- Published: 18 April 2013 18 April 2013
If the US ceases to burn coal, shuts down a quarter of existing nuclear reactors, and trims its use of natural gas by 2050, the resulting increased reliance on wind, solar and other renewables will not result in a less reliable electricity grid, according to a new report prepared by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., for the non-profit Civil Society Institute (CSI).
The new study finds that, in the envisioned 2050 with a heavy reliance on renewables, regional electricity generation supply could meet or exceed demand in 99.4 per cent of hours, with load being met without imports from other regions and without turning to reserve storage. In addition, surplus power would be available to export in 8.6 per cent of all hours, providing an ample safety net where needed from one region of the US to the next. In 2011, Synapse prepared a study for the Civil Society Institute that introduced a "Transition Scenario" in which the USA retires all of its coal plants and a quarter of its nuclear plants by 2050, moving instead toward a power system based on energy efficiency and renewable energy. The 2011 study showed that this Transition Scenario ultimately costs society less than a "business as usual" status quo strategy. The 2011 study also projected that, over 40 years, the Transition Scenario would result in savings of US$ 83 billion (present value) compared to the status quo strategy. The new 2013 study for the Civil Society Institute takes the analysis one big step farther, in order to explore the extent to which the Transition Scenario's resource mixes for 2030 and 2050 are capable of meeting projected load for each of the 10 studied regions — not just during peak demand conditions, but in every hour of every season of the year as consumers require.