Could the U.S. meet 80% of its electricity needs with renewables by 2050? If so, at what cost? What are the flexibility resources needed to balance supply and demand in a high renewables future? What are the options and trade-offs between utility-scale and distributed renewable supplies?
RMI’s recent book Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for a New Energy Era explored these questions and put forth a vision of a renewed U.S. electricity system—one that meets 80% of demand with renewable energy, increases resiliency with distributed resources, and focuses on customer needs.
Source: RMI Reinventing Fire analysis
Our Reinventing Fire analysis, together with extensive interviews with industry leaders, has helped us frame insights about the specific drivers of disruptive change in the electricity sector:
- System flexibility will be increasingly important and demand-side resources can be an important source. However, the current system is not designed to recognize and appropriately value sources of cost and value from distributed resources.
- The grid becomes more important in the future, no matter the ultimate mix of technologies. Therefore, it is imperative to identify business models that promote innovation yet also support the grid backbone.
- More actors will engage with the electricity system, requiring more coordination and appropriate incentives, opening the door for new thinking and innovation.
Demand-side and distributed resources can be truly transformative given their implications for reliability and resilience, customer-centricity, on-going innovation, and their role in a largely renewable system. However, RMI has identified a critical gap in the analytical knowledge around the long-term role of distributed and demand-side resources.
RMI is bringing its analysis tools, knowledge, and questions to the table to address this issue within the eLab.