Phase I of CA 2030 Low Carbon Grid Study Completed: 50% GHG Reduction Feasible; Energy Storage to Play a Key Role

Last week, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) began releasing the results of Phase I of the California 2030 Low-Carbon Grid Study, which is designed to show how the electric sector can most cost-effectively support California’s ambitious GHG emissions goals.  The study is generally referred to as the “Low Carbon Grid Study” or “LCGS” by NREL and the approximately 30 companies, foundations and trade associations that participated in the study.

The results of Phase I of the LCGS indicate that by 2030 the California grid can reduce GHG emissions by more than 50% below 2012 levels with minimal rate impact and minimal curtailment to renewables, without compromising reliability.

Utilizing assumptions from the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”), the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”), the California Energy Commission (“CEC”) and the Western Electric Coordinating Council (“WECC”), Phase I of the LCGS identified a Target Case and an Accelerated Case for GHG reductions, developed resource portfolios and ran production cost models for each using NREL’s PLEXOS model.  Both the Target Case and the Accelerated Case substantially increase transmission investment to allow replacement of coal imports with zero-carbon energy and increase dispatch efficiency; make substantial demand-side improvements through increased customer-sited solar PV, energy efficiency and demand response measures; and substantially increase biomass, geothermal, wholesale solar PV, wind and storage capacity.  In each case, energy storage (including pumped hydro, compressed air, small storage under the current CPUC mandate and thermal storage with concentrating solar power) provides the majority of load following reserves, contingency reserves and ancillary services, thereby freeing up natural gas to serve primarily as block-loaded intermediate generation.

Although the entire results of Phase I are not yet publicly available, the background on the LCGS, its participants and what can be expected in Phase II, are available at LowCarbonGrid2030.org.    The potential role of energy storage in providing reserves and ancillary services is dramatically shown by the graphics on Slide 20 of the Phase I Results Summary presentation:

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Source: The California 2030 Low-Carbon Grid Study (LCGS): Phase 1 Results Summary

The Phase I Results Summary can be found (along with links to other pertinent documents) on the “Materials” tab on LowCarbonGrid2030’s web site.

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