The potential capacity of renewable energy that can be harnessed by commercially available technologies is enormous. Even without widespread adoption of energy efficiency, the projected 2050 U.S. electricity demand can be met many times over by renewables. Actual demand could be 10–45% lower after efficiency improvements.
Additionally, each U.S. region has the resource potential to meet well over 100% of its demand from renewable energy, thereby significantly reducing risks and costs associated with transmission development. As an example, the High Plains is one of the most wind-rich areas of the United States. But adding in the costs of losses of new lines hauling their power to distant regions would make them less competitive, perhaps uncompetitive, with resources nearby. Rather than building enormous long-distance transmission infrastructure to connect wind farms in this region to load centers spread around the country, local loads can be met by local resources in the Great Lakes, the Appalachians, and offshore on both coasts.
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