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Electricity: Impact, Current Work and Recent Projects

Our current work:

eLab

RMI is developing the Electricity Innovation Lab to stimulate new ideas, energy and commitment for new approaches to tough challenges in the electricity system. The Lab will include a diverse group of participants—from within the electricity sector and from adjacent industries to:

  • Develop technical, economic, social, and institutional innovations
  • Test out those innovations through experimentation and example

The results of collaborative efforts within the lab—including pilot projects, business models, and policy approaches—will be codified and disseminated through members and project success.

What value does the Lab offer?

  • A place to learn and take risks generally not allowed or given space for in the day to day
  • Access to in-depth research, analysis and insight from around the world, and the ability to shape the direction of that work
  • Innovate smarter, faster, more creatively and more effectively, and with less resistance from other stakeholders
  • Understand the emerging landscape to make better judgments about opportunities
  • An opportunity to think big and be audacious

Solar

In order to help PV solar reach true scale and make RMI’s long-term goals a reality, the solar program has one major goal: to accelerate PV deployment across the U.S. This work focuses on three major avenues of change: working with industry to reduce balance of system cost, streamlining investor access to PV systems, and assisting utilities with the integration of distributed PV.

Recent Projects

Report: The Economics of Grid Defection

This report from Rocky Mountain Institute, HOMER Energy and CohnReznick Think Energy details the potential for appreciable customer defection from the electric grid in major markets by 2025, without incurring higher costs or lower reliability. The report shows that, as the hybrid combination of solar photovoltaic and battery storage become cost competitive with retail grid electricity rates, migration of customers away from the grid could happen well within the 30-year planned economic life of typical utility investments such as central thermal generation plants and transmission infrastructure.

The report outlines possible scenarios in five different U.S. regions—Hawaii, California, Kentucky, Texas and New York—and identify when solar PV and storage combinations could disrupt existing utility business models. Read More and Download the Report

Report: Reinventing Fire in Southern California

The prolonged shut-down of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in Southern California could mark an important turning point for the region’s electricity system. Distributed and demand-side resources offer a portfolio of solutions to help fill the near-term supply gap, while also advancing California’s long-term goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting local economic development and job creation. Read More and Download the Report

Report: Pacific Gas and Electric

On behalf of PG&E, RMI organized and facilitated a roundtable of experts to evaluate the potential implications for the utility and its customers of a future business environment characterized by high levels of customer energy efficiency, growing numbers of zero net energy buildings, and increased adoption of distributed generation (DG) by utility customers. Read More and Download the Report

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

San Francisco's first Energy Resource Plan (ERP) was developed in 2002 with Rocky Mountain Institute. The ERP is a set of energy resource portfolios that combine existing and future energy resources to meet San Francisco's need for adequate and reliable supply of electricity services while minimizing costs and environmental impacts. RMI evaluated several combinations of resource options and based on the results of this analysis, we presented a set of recommendations for the city's consideration.

Under this project, RMI's role was to update the 2002 ERP by:

  • Understanding the current CO2 reduction trajectory of the city's electrical system
  • Assessing the gap between the current trajectory and the city's 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) goal
  • Identifying and prioritizing available levers (energy resource options and policy) to affect the current GHG emissions trajectory for the electrical system
  • Integrating the energy resource levers into a small number of portfolios and assessing their robustness against a set of likely future scenarios
  • Making recommendations for a practical implementation plan to utilize the resource and policy levers identified and overcome barriers needed to achieve the city's GHG goal for its electrical system.

Duke Energy

Duke Energy is the third-largest carbon emitter in the U.S., largely driven by its heavy reliance on coal. To address this issue, CEO Jim Rogers challenged his team to reduce the company’s carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030. In 2010, RMI worked with Duke Energy to evaluate the potential and costs of a number of low-carbon resources, including energy efficiency, wind, solar, biomass, nuclear, and carbon capture and sequestration. By taking a scenario planning approach, RMI helped Duke Energy explore the risks and opportunities associated with several future scenarios.

Reinventing Fire

To assess the implications of possible future paths of the U.S. electricity sector in Reinventing Fire, RMI analyzed four scenarios or “cases” based on differing assumptions about how electricity might be generated, delivered, and used from 2010 to 2050. To do so, RMI conducted extensive analysis using a variety of tools including two primary models—the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) and RMI’s electricity dispatch model.

Solar BoS workshop

While module costs have come down significantly in the last decade, the “balance of system” costs—all the upfront costs associated with a PV system except the module—remain a barrier to large PV adoption. In June 2010, Rocky Mountain Institute convened more than 50 industry stakeholders and outside experts to a design charrette. Held in San Jose, California, the event offered a fragmented and multifaceted industry a chance to collaborate on strategies to reduce installed BoS costs for commercial and small utility systems.

Publications and Case Studies

UC-San Diego Microgrid Watch
Turbocharging Energy Efficiency Read

 
 
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