New analysis sees strong future for renewables in Texas
Released December 10, “Exploring Natural Gas and Renewables in ERCOT, Part II: Future Generation Scenarios for Texas” provides a 20-year outlook for the ERCOT [Electric Reliability Council of Texas] system, which serves most of the state.
The study’s findings about the future of natural gas and renewable energy in Texas include:
- Across the more likely scenarios, wind and solar grow to provide between 25 and 43 percent of electricity in ERCOT. Natural gas-fired generation provides all of the remaining incremental generation, adding 12 GW (gigawatts) to 25 GW of new combined-cycle capacity–a 38 percent to 80 percent increase from the current installed base.
- The study “found no technical difficulties accommodating much higher levels of variable wind and solar energy, while fully preserving reliability.” At very high levels of renewable energy, an additional ancillary service known as the intraday commitment option became attractive in some cases, but the report notes that existing market mechanisms could also provide the same service. Energy storage was not found to be a necessary or economic source of flexibility for ERCOT through the year 2030.
- The mix of new gas and renewables generation is sensitive to the price of natural gas and cost declines in wind and solar power. Changes in these three factors can cause significant shifts in the mix of future installations, leading to a wide range of plausible generation shares for wind, solar, and natural gas. It’s worth noting that wind’s costs have declined sharply in recent years, bringing wind’s current costs well below what the study assumed in the reference case and even the low wind cost case. Thus, the study’s results should be viewed as a conservative prognosis for the prospects of wind energy in ERCOT.
- The scenarios with large amounts of renewables see drastic reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfur dioxide (SO2).
- Existing coal units in ERCOT remain profitable and are not retired unless a relatively stringent federal carbon policy is adopted. This finding addresses the worries expressed by some that low cost energy provided by wind and gas could potentially cause resource adequacy concerns by forcing existing generators to retire. Interestingly, the reserve margin has a very small overall effect on the generation mix or emissions in ERCOT through 2032.
- A federal carbon policy requiring 90 percent capture and storage of carbon, however, would prompt the retirement of most ERCOT coal units. In this scenario, gas and renewable generation would together replace the energy formerly supplied by coal plants, with renewable energy providing up to 43 percent of ERCOT generation by 2032.
- Among gas-fired power plants, nearly all future additions are combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants rather than traditional gas turbines, due to the fact that CCGTs are more efficient.
- The analysis shows that the federal renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) and construction of new transmission lines remain important drivers of wind development. Interestingly, the study found that new wind plants built in the Texas Panhandle region that is being opened up by the completion of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission lines would have average capacity factors exceeding 42%, well above the average capacity factor for existing wind plants in Texas.
The complete report is available at http://www.texascleanenergy.org/2013-research.php.
Photo credit: Edward Jackson – Wikimedia Commons
Related articles on utility integration – reliability
Postcard from the future: 122% wind power in Denmark, December 12, 2013
Fact check: Nuclear proponent stumbles with attacks on wind power's efficiency, December 5, 2013
Fact check: LA Times off target on renewables, reliability, December 4, 2013
Fact check: Sorgo's Holly wildly exaggerates cost of wind power, October 29, 2013
Independent grid operator study confirms wind power's economic, environmental value, October 29, 2013
Fact check: Fossil-funded think tank unreliable on reliability, October 9, 2013
Fact check: Wind power benefits consumers and environment, in Germany and U.S., September 20, 2013
Correcting fossil fuel industry misinformation about Germany's success with renewable energy, September 10, 2013
Fact check: Correcting math errors leads back to original finding: Wind power is affordable, reliable, August 20, 2013
Fact check: NYT story misses larger story of wind's reliability, August 15, 2013
Doubling down on wind: Ireland greens its grid, looks to export, July 3, 2013
New report further confirms renewable energy is reliable, April 18, 2013
Utility system in NE Vermont to be strengthened, resolving concerns about new wind power, April 10, 2013
Fact check: Debunking Howard Rich's errors on wind, March 28, 2013
Fact check: Sen. Alexander's claims about wind energy unfounded, March 27, 2013
Xcel Energy achieves wind energy milestone, March 26, 2013
Fact check: WSJ goes astray on California's integration of wind, February 28, 2013
Lesser misstates facts at Heritage-Exelon anti-wind briefing, November 30, 2012
Fact check: 'Green Illusions' ill-informed about wind power, July 5, 2012
Fact check: Bell missteps on utility integration of wind power, May 24, 2012
Fact check: Bryce whiffs on wind power and Texas heat wave, August 12, 2011