Renewable Energy Prospects: United States of America

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January 2015
Copyright © IRENA 2015
Unless otherwise indicated, the material in this publication may be used freely, shared or reprinted, so
long as IRENA is acknowledged as the source.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organization that
supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform
for international cooperation, a center of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and
financial knowledge on renewable energy. IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable
use of all forms of renewable energy, including bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and
wind energy, in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon
economic growth and prosperity.
The report has benefited from valuable comments or guidance provided by the US Department of State
(US DoS) (Daniel Birns; Faith Corneille; Felix Dowdy; Robert Ichord; Earl Steele; Timothy Williamson)
and the US Department of Energy (US DoE) including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
(Doug Arent; Francesca Costantino; Carla Frisch; Rachel Gelman; Eric Lantz; Trieu Mai; William McElnea;
Michael Mills; Colin McMillan; Robert Sandoli; Ma Seungwook; Nicholas Sherman; Elena Thomas).
Additional external review was provided by the American Council on Renewable Energy (Risa Edelman;
Lesley Hunter; Tom Weirich), the US Green Building Council (Maggie Comstock), the Massachusetts
Department of Energy Resources (Dwayne Breger). Valuable comments were provided by IRENA
colleagues Rabia Ferroukhi, Ruud Kempener, Elizabeth Press, Jeffrey Skeer, Salvatore Vinci and Frank
Wouters. This report was also reviewed at a meeting in April, 2014 in Washington, DC. Lucille Langlois
was the technical editor of this report.
Dolf Gielen (IRENA), Deger Saygin (IRENA) and Nicholas Wagner (IRENA)
For further information or to provide feedback, please contact the REmap team.
E-mail: [email protected]
Report citation
IRENA (2015), Renewable Energy Prospects: United States of America, REmap 2030 analysis.
IRENA, Abu Dhabi.
While this publication promotes the adoption and use of renewable energy, IRENA does not endorse
any particular project, product or service provider.
The designations employed and the presentation of materials herein do not imply the expression of
any opinion whatsoever on the part of the IRENA concerning the legal status of any country, territory
city or area or of its authorities, or concerning their authorities or the delimitation of their frontiers or
Renewable Energy Prospects:
United States of America
REmap 2030 analysis
January 2015
REmap 2030 is IRENA’s assessment of how countries can work together to double
the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030. It represents an
unprecedented international effort that brings together the work of more than 90
national experts in nearly 60 countries, who continue to collaborate through global
webinars, regional meetings, and national workshops involving technology experts,
industry bodies and policy makers. The global REmap report was released in June 2014.
Following on from this global report, IRENA is releasing a series of country specific
reports built on the detailed country-level analyses that are the hallmark of REmap.
REmap 2030 is both a call to action and a remarkable piece of good news. The good news is that the technology
already exists to achieve the aspirational goal of doubling renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030, and
even to surpass it. Strikingly, taking external costs into account, the transition to renewables can be cost-neutral.
However the call to action is this: unless countries take the necessary measures now, we will miss the goal by a
considerable margin.
As the second largest energy consumer in the world the United States must play a pivotal role in meeting this goal.
The US has the potential to lead a global renewable energy transition. It has some of the best wind, solar, geothermal
and biomass resources, and a leading culture of innovation, entrepreneurism, and finance.
Compared to energy systems based on fossil fuel, renewable energy offers broader participation, is better for our
health, creates more jobs and provides an effective route to reducing carbon emissions – a goal that becomes
increasingly urgent by the day. Many renewable energy technologies already provide the most cost-effective option
for delivery of energy services, with innovation and increasing deployment continuing to drive costs down.
But amid these advances, there are still misconceptions on the positive impact that renewable energy has to offer
in a global drive for a sustainable and inclusive growth. Policy makers are insufficiently aware of the challenges and
opportunities that lie before them, and national electorates cannot easily obtain objective and transparent information.
REmap 2030 aims to contribute to remedying these shortfalls through these series of detailed, country specific reports.
REmap 2030 is an invitation to countries to forge the renewable energy future most appropriate to their circumstances,
informed by the most comprehensive and transparent data available. Of course, there is no-one-size-fits-all solution.
Every country is different, and each will need to take a different path. The US is blessed with some of the best
renewable energy potential of any country, and REmap shows how a diverse set of renewable energy technologies
can be combined to offer a secure, affordable and clean energy system.
But at its heart, REmap 2030 offers a simple choice. Take the necessary action now and build a healthy, prosperous
and environmentally sustainable future through renewable energy, or carry on as usual and see our hopes for a future
built on a sustainable energy system recede a long way into the future. To me, this is no choice at all. Renewable energy
is not an option – it is a necessity in today’s constrained climate and economically uncertain world. REmap offers a
pathway to make it happen and the US has the ability to lead this transition.
Adnan Z. Amin
International Renewable Energy Agency
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
FOREWORD�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� III
LIST OF FIGURES���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������VII
LIST OF TABLES������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������IX
LIST OF BOXES��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� X
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������1
1INTRODUCTION������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 6
2 METHODOLOGY AND DATA SOURCES����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������8
3.1Recent trends for renewable energy����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 11
3.2Base year renewable energy situation�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������14
4REFERENCE CASE DEVELOPMENTS TO 2030���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 25
5 CURRENT POLICY FRAMEWORK������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 28
5.1 Federal policies�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 28
5.2 State level policies��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������34
5.3Conventional and renewable energy subsidies�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������36
5.4Cost and benefits of existing policies������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 37
6RENEWABLE POTENTIALS AND THEIR COSTS TODAY�����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������39
6.1Renewable power generation options������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������39
6.2 Biomass supply potential��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������41
7 REMAP OPTIONS��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������43
7.1Renewable energy technologies�����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������44
7.2Roadmap table and implications for renewable energy������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 47
7.3Renewable energy technology cost projections���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 52
7.4Summary of REmap Options: cost-supply curves�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������54
7.5Discussion of REmap 2030 Options for US������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 60
8BARRIERS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY TRANSITION����������������������������������������������� 71
8.1Energy system characteristics���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 71
8.2 Fossil fuel pricing����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 75
9SUGGESTIONS FOR ACCELERATED RENEWABLE ENERGY UPTAKE������������������������������������������������������������� 76
9.1Key characteristics of the US policy framework����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 76
9.2Policy framework and recommendations����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 77
9.3Relevance of REmap findings to climate change mitigation and discussion���������������������������������������84
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
REFERENCES���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 87
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������95
Energy price assumptions��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 97
Reference case�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������98
Data for cost-supply curve, from the business perspective and the government perspective���������������99
Levelized costs of renewable and conventional technologies in end-use sectors��������������������������������������� 101
Resource maps����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 102
Detailed Roadmap Table���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 105
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
List of Figures
Figure 1: Contribution of the 26 REmap countries and rest of the world to total global renewable energy
use in REmap 2030....................................................................................................................................................................7
Figure 2: Cumulative renewable power plant capacity by initial year of operation, 1910-2013........................ 12
Figure 3: US TFEC breakdown, 2010........................................................................................................................................ 13
Figure 4: Renewable power capacity and generation, 2010.......................................................................................... 15
Figure 5: US natural gas production, historical developments and projections, 1990-2030............................16
Figure 6: US crude oil production projection to 2030......................................................................................................16
Figure 7: US Henry Hub gas prices May 2009-May 2014................................................................................................ 17
Figure 8: Breakdown of US crude oil imports by country, 2005-2013.......................................................................18
Figure 9: Breakdown of US natural gas imports by country, 2005-2013..................................................................19
Figure 10: Total primary energy supply of conventional energy carriers, 2010-2030........................................20
Figure 11: Transmission investment in the US by investor-owned utilities, 2007-2016....................................... 23
Figure 12: Growth of the total pimary energy supply of renewable energy carriers in the US,
1970-2030................................................................................................................................................................................... 25
Figure 13: US Reference Case – Renewable energy shares in TFEC by sector, 2010-2030..............................26
Figure 14: Reference Case renewable power generation growth, 2010-2030.......................................................26
Figure 15: Reference Case growth of renewable energy use in end-use sector, 2010-2030............................ 27
Figure 16: Comparison of the direct federal financial interventions and subsidies in the energy
sector of the US, 2010............................................................................................................................................................36
Figure 17: Typical LCOE ranges and weighted average for renewable power technologies........................... 40
Figure 18: Factor increase in power capacity over 2012 for solar PV and wind for 2030,
reference case and REmap...................................................................................................................................................45
Figure 19: Primary bioenergy demand by sector with REmap Options, 2030......................................................46
Figure 20: Increases in renewable energy consumption in TFEC by resource...................................................... 47
Figure 21: Breakdown of renewables by application and sector in final energy, 2010
and REmap 2030.....................................................................................................................................................................48
Figure 22: How renewables offset fossil fuels in REmap 2030 compared to Reference Case,
2030 ..........................................................................................................................................................................................49
Figure 23: Power capacity by renewable energy technology....................................................................................... 51
Figure 24: REmap Options cost supply curve, business perspective, by resource..............................................54
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Figure 25: REmap Options cost supply curve, business perspective, by sector................................................... 55
Figure 26: REmap Options cost supply curve, government perspective, by resource......................................56
Figure 27: REmap Options cost supply curve, government perspective, by sector............................................ 57
Figure 28: Deployment of wind and bioenergy deployment in Reference Case
and REmap 2030, 2000-2030............................................................................................................................................61
Figure 29: Renewable energy technology options in the cases of REmap 2030,
REmap-E and REmap-U, 2030........................................................................................................................................... 67
Figure 30: Cumulative conventional power plant capacity and their initial year of operation....................... 72
Figure 31: Reduction in fossil fuel CO2 emissions resulting from REmap Options, 2030...................................85
Figure 32: Photovoltaic solar resource................................................................................................................................. 102
Figure 33: Solar PV resource intensity................................................................................................................................. 102
Figure 34: US wind speed......................................................................................................................................................... 103
Figure 35: Geothermal resource............................................................................................................................................. 103
Figure 36: Biomass crop residue potentials.......................................................................................................................104
Figure 37: Biomass forest residues potential.....................................................................................................................104
v iii
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
List of Tables
Table 1: Select Renewable Portfolio Standards for power generation���������������������������������������������������������������������34
Table 2: Renewable energy resource potentials of US���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������39
Table 3: Breakdown of total biomass supply in 2030������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������41
Table 4: Breakdown of renewable energy share by sector�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������48
Table 5: US REmap 2030 Overview���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������50
Table 6: Comparison of LCOE for power sector technologies������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 53
Table 7: Overview of the average cost of ­substitution of REmap Options for the US��������������������������������������� 57
Table 8: Development of US CO2 emissions, 2010-2030�����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������59
Table 9: Financial indicators of REmap Options, based on government perspective�������������������������������������� 60
Table 10: Direct power sector costs of renewable energy scenarios for 2050�����������������������������������������������������66
Table 11: Total installed capacity and weighted average age based of the generation capacity�������������������� 71
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
List of Boxes
Box 1: The emergence of shale gas and its impact on the energy sector................................................................. 17
Box 2: Energy efficiency in the US............................................................................................................................................ 31
Box 3: Renewable energy in California.................................................................................................................................. 33
Box 4: Renewable energy in Hawaii........................................................................................................................................ 35
Box 5: Innovation in Massachusetts........................................................................................................................................ 74
Box 6: US National Energy Goals, according to the US Department of
Energy’s Quadrennial Energy Review.............................................................................................................................. 79
Box 7: US renewable energy R&D: Shifting emphasis from invention to deployment....................................... 82
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
REmap 2030, a global roadmap by the International Renewable Energy Agency ­(IRENA), looks at the
realistic potential for higher renewable energy uptake in all parts of the US energy system, including
power, industry, buildings, and the transport sectors. It also provides an overview of how higher shares
of renewable energy can be achieved, what the technology mix would entail, and the benefits of renewable energy deployment. With such comprehensive scope, REmap fills an important knowledge gap for
renewables in the US.
The renewable energy share in the US energy mix was 7.5% in 2010 (the base year of REmap 2030 analysis). This included 2.5% renewable power, 1.6% liquid biofuels and the remaining, 3.4%, largely solid biomass used for heating in the manufacturing industry and buildings.
Under a conservative “business as usual” case, known in this report as the Reference Case, this share will
only increase to 10% by 2030. The REmap analysis shows that it is technically feasible and cost-effective
to increase the renewable energy share in total final energy consumption to 27% by utilizing existing renewable energy technologies.
Increasing the renewable energy share to 27% would save the US economy between USD 30 and USD 140
billion per year by 2030 when accounting for benefits resulting from reduced health effects and CO2 emissions.
Increasing the renewable energy share to 27% would require an additional investment of USD 38 billion per
year in energy capacity over business as usual, resulting in total investment flows into renewable energy
capacity of USD 86 billion per year.
If the renewable energy deployment envisioned in this study was achieved the US would reduce its CO2
emissions 30% compared to the projected 2030 level, or equivalent to a 33% reduction over the 2005 level.
The share of renewable power would increase from around 14% today to almost 50% in REmap 2030. With
the share of variable renewable power reaching 30%, the grid system would need to be enhanced with
technologies and investments to strengthen transmission and interconnection.
Significant potential for renewable energy technologies exists in the end-use sectors of transport, industry and buildings: solar thermal heat, biofuels, and electrification technologies than can utilise renewable
power such as electric vehicles and heat-pumps could all see significant growth.
Market certainty needs to be created through policy support, which must be consistent, predictable and
Policies are particularly needed to attract investments in grid transmission and biomass logistics.
The US needs to adopt systems that better account for the external costs of using ­fossil fuels, including
human healthcare costs, local environmental damages, and the effect of greenhouse gas emissions and
climate change on the US macroeconomy.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Leading the global transition
The United States (US) has the potential to lead the
global transition to renewable energy. It has some of
the best wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and biomass
resources in the world. It also has a vibrant culture of innovation, plentiful financing opportunities, and a highly
skilled workforce, alongside an agile and entrepreneurial
business sector.
With the right policies and support, using technologies
available today, the share of renewables in the US energy
mix (total final energy consumption, TFEC) could more
than triple by 2030, from 7.5% in 2010 to 27%. The share
of renewable energy in the power sector alone could rise
to almost 50%. Renewable energy (RE) technologies can
also play a much bigger role in providing fuels for the
manufacturing, buildings and transport sectors.
Attaining that potential would require an investment
of USD 86 billion per year between today and 2030,
an incremental investment volume of USD 38 billion
per year more than would have been invested into the
conventional variants that are replaced. Higher shares
of renewables would result in overall cost-savings to the
US economy of USD 30-140 billion per year by 2030,
and in net job creation, better human health, as well as
reduce US carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by nearly one
third, compared to a business as usual scenario.
REmap 2030 Country Focus
This is one of the first country reports in the REmap
2030 series from the International Renewable Energy
Agency (IRENA), which explores how to double the
share of renewable energy worldwide by 2030. REmap
requires raising the worldwide renewable energy share
from 18% today to 36% in 2030.
The US must play a major role in this transition if it is to
be successful. It has the potential to become a centre of
renewable energy thought and innovation, and to become the world’s second largest user of renewables after China, accounting for 13% of the global use in 2030.
Without a widespread and systematic policy shift, the US
risks falling far short of this potential. Under a conservative business as usual scenario (the Reference Case in this
study), according to the projections of the US EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook, the renewable energy share in the
US energy mix will rise from around 7.5% today to only
slightly above 10% by 2030. Recent proposals to limit
CO2 emissions from the power sector could increase this
share, but would still be far below the potential of 27%
identified in this study.
A strategy for a diverse mix of renewables
Under REmap 2030, nearly three-quarters of total US
renewable energy use (across all sectors, including
power generation and end-use) would come from wind
and various forms of bioenergy. However a rich mix of
renewable technologies is possible.
Wind: Wind offers the greatest potential for growth in
US renewable power generation. The best resources
primarily lie in the centre of the country (the Midwest),
stretching from Texas to North Dakota. REmap 2030
would entail a fivefold increase in onshore wind capacity,
from 63 gigawatt-electric (GWe) in 2014 to 314 GWe by
2030. It also envisages an additional 40 GWe of capacity
in offshore wind. To make this happen, the US needs
to begin a large-scale investment in its transmission
Solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP): Recent years have seen rapid drops in the
price of solar PV technologies, as well as the launch
of several landmark CSP plants. Solar resources in the
US vary between regions, but across the whole lower
48 and Hawaii are higher than in Germany, the current
world leader in solar PV capacity.
REmap 2030 envisages that by 2030 total installed
capacity of solar PV could reach 135 GWe, compared to
7 GWe in 2012. This raises the prospect of a revolution
in distributed generation, with over one-third of solar
PV capacity installed on rooftops. Many users would
also become producers, requiring reform of the grid
Biomass and biogas: The US can lead in modern bioenergy technologies, using its vast arable land resources,
world-class potential in residues from agriculture sector,
forest and mills, as well as unutilised waste and methane
from landfills.
There is significant potential for biomass to be used
in heating, particularly in the manufacturing industry,
where its use could ­triple between 2010 and 2030. Bio-
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
mass offers the potential for an additional 46 GWe of
power generation capacity, taking the total to 84 GWe
by 2030. About 40% of this growth would be from industrial co-generation, which also provides benefits for
renewable heat generation.
Geothermal: The US has some of the world’s best geothermal resources, primarily in the west, but is currently
using only 10% of its potential. REmap envisages an additional 18 GWe in power generation from geothermal,
adding to 6 GWe under current plans.
Hydro: Hydropower is currently the largest source of renewable power generation in the US, but there is limited
potential for new large scale developments. Additional
potential can come from retrofitting and upgrading turbines at existing dams, the addition of power generation
facilities at non-powered dams, and some new run-ofriver hydro projects.
Power sector: the rise of wind and solar
In REmap 2030, the share of renewable power in the
US will approach 50%, led by wind, but including a
diverse mix of technologies. Wind power will surpass
hydropower by a factor of three to become the largest
renewable power source in the US. Solar PV will see an
almost 60 times growth in generation over 2010 levels.
These increases would add less than one USD cent per
kWh to wholesale power generation costs. However
investments must be made in grid and transmission
infrastructure to account for an increasing share (up to
30%) of variable renewable power.
The importance of the buildings, transport
and industry sectors in the transition
In REmap 2030, 55% of all renewable ­energy in the
US would be in the form of non-­electricity energy use,
i.e., bioenergy in solid, liquid or gaseous forms, or solar
thermal or geothermal heat. These forms of energy are
needed for heating, cooling and transport applications
in the buildings, transport and industry sectors. Total use
would constitute a three to four-fold increase over 2010
Heating and cooling in buildings and industry: Renewables for heating in buildings and the manufacturing industry is currently dominated by bioenergy, with
around one-quarter consumed in the residential and the
rest in industrial applications.
In addition to solar technologies for power generation, solar thermal technologies that harness the sun’s
energy for space, water and low-temperature process
heat have large yet overlooked potential. In REmap
2030, solar thermal capacity could increase ten-fold
over today’s levels.
Geothermal energy can also be harnessed through the
use of heat pumps. Including aerothermal heat pumps,
REmap shows the potential for an additional 7 million
heat-pump systems mainly in residential and commercial buildings by 2030.
Transport: In 2012, the US produced 13 billion gallons
of biofuels which originated mainly from corn. Under
REmap 2030, total biofuel production could nearly triple
to 39 billion gallons – 60% of the increase would come
from advanced bioethanol. Production capacity for advanced biofuels is new, and will require greater support
for research and development in production processes.
However in the transport sector a shift away from fuels is underway as the economics of electric vehicles
improve. Efforts in states such as California to promote zero-emission vehicles could result in a rapidly
expanded market. REmap 2030 envisages a total of
27 million electric vehicles in the US car stock, compared
to only 5 million under current projections. Such a shift
reduces fuel use by a factor of three at least, due to the
significantly higher efficiency of electric drivetrains, and
increases renewable electricity production as additional
power demand is assumed to be met by renewable
energy sources.
The costs and benefits of REmap 2030
Increasing the renewable energy share to 27% under
REmap 2030 would require a slight incremental cost for
the US energy system, but would also save money when
taking into account the external costs of fossil fuels.
IRENA quantifies this cost separately from the
perspective of businesses and governments. The
business perspective is based on national energy prices
which include end-user tax and subsidies. From this
perspective, REmap Options could be deployed at an
average savings of USD 3.2 per megawatt-hour (MWh)
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
(USD 0.9 per gigajoule, GJ) compared to fossil fuels
with the type of fuel being coal in the power sector,
gasoline in the transport sector, and mostly natural
gas for heating. From the perspective of governments,
which excludes energy tax and subsidies and is
therefore a better metric of understanding energy
system costs, the cost would rise to USD 7.2 per MWh
(USD 2.0 per GJ) – or the equivalent of paying 0.7 cents
more per kWh on a typical consumer’s electricity bill.
This translates to a bottom line additional cost of USD
20 billion per year for the energy system as whole.
When wider benefits are taken into account, such as
improved human health and CO2 emission reductions,
REmap 2030 would result in net savings of USD 30-140
billion per year.
The investment need to achieve the level of renewable
energy deployment in REmap 2030 would require a total investment flow of USD 86 billion per year between
now and 2030 in renewable energy technologies – an
increase of USD 38 billion in energy capacity investments over current projections.
Reducing CO2 emissions
The US is currently the world’s second largest emitter
of CO2, producing around 5.6 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2
per year, equivalent to 16% of global emissions. Given
limited growth in total final energy consumption to 2030,
emissions will remain flat according to the Reference
REmap 2030 shows that it is possible to reduce CO2
emissions of the US by 1.6 Gt per year in 2030, or around
30% compared to the projected 2030 level. This would
be a reduction of 33% compared to 2005 levels, and
consistant with the reduction goal of 26-28% by 2025
that was recently announced by the Obama Administration in the landmark climate agreement with China.
Accelerated renewable energy uptake in power generation would be the main driver, accounting for over 70%
of the total reduction with the remaining 30% coming
from the end-use sectors.
If all REmap Options were achieved worldwide, coupled
with higher energy efficiency, atmospheric CO2 concentration would stay below 450 parts per million (ppm)
of CO2, helping to prevent average global temperatures
from rising more than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
Barriers to accelerated renewable
energy growth
If renewable energy is to grow rapidly as envisioned in
this report, a number of challenges need to be overcome.
Transmission: The cost of investing in transmission
tends to be higher for renewable power because of
distances between resource-rich areas and centres of
population, the relatively smaller size of generation
facilities, and the intermittent nature of some renewable
sources. Building a grid for transmission and distribution
that is suitable for high shares of renewable energy will
take time, meaning it needs to begin now. Numerous
institutional barriers stand in the way, including a lack
of enforceable energy system planning, and lengthy
permitting processes.
The biomass challenge: REmap 2030 envisages an
increase in demand for biomass in all sectors, with
demand coming close to the total available biomass
supply of the US. Meeting this supply can be done
sustainably; however, investments are needed to improve
recovery operations and supply-chain logistics. REmap
also explores an alternative case – called REmap-E –
that assumes significantly lower biomass growth, and
instead relies on the greater use of electricity in end-use
sectors. This would include more EVs, instead of cars
running on biofuels, and heat pumps.
Inertia: Transition to higher shares of renewable
energy will depend on the capital stock turnover rate
which varies substantially from sector to sector, from
about a decade for passenger cars to more than a few
decades in the manufacturing industry. Conventional
energy plants in the US are reaching the end of their
lifes which creates the opportunity to invest in new
renewable energy capacity, but capital stock turnover
relies on the relative generation costs, reliability
constraints and the age profile which may result in
lifetime to be extended beyond the technical limit.
Stranded costs should be avoided in the transition
Policy needs
The making and implementing of energy policy in the
US takes place at several levels: federal, state and local.
This means that realising dramatic change by over-
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
coming regulatory and economic inertia will require a
concerted focus on what can be done nationwide at all
government levels. The full report goes into detail about
the US policy landscape and includes specific policy
recommendations. In this summary these recommendations are categorised into five core areas where action
can be taking to realise higher renewable energy shares.
with enabling technologies including responsive load,
energy storage, hydrogen fuel cell, waste heat and
smart grid technologies. Expanding transmission capacity is essential to deliver the renewable resources from
remote areas to densely populated demand centers, to
ensure the integration of variable energy sources and
increase the transfer capacity of interconnections.
Planning transition pathways – setting plans and developing long-term strategies to support renewable energy
growth based on credible and attainable targets.
Creating and managing knowledge – the US has extensive renewable energy knowledge. However programmes to increase awareness for renewable energy
and its benefits among user, installer and manufacturers
should be expanded.
Creating an enabling business environment – in uncertain policy environments, risks related to investments increase, and hence technology costs. Policy frameworks
should create appropriate conditions for investment
and increase investors confidence. Additionally fossil
fuel externalities should be accounted for in these policy
Integrating renewable energy into the system – enhance the effectiveness of the electricity grid system
Unleashing innovation – A global leader in innovation,
the US should continue to support innovation in new
and existing technologies as well as in finance schemes
to develop and deploy cost-effective and efficient renewable energy technologies. This will also ensure that
high levels of renewable energy deployment will also
continue after 2030 through the development and commercialization of new and breakthrough technologies.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
REmap 2030 is the global renewable energy roadmap
of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
that shows how accelerated penetration of renewable
energy in individual countries could contribute to
doubling the share of renewables in the global energy
mix by 2030.
Key factors in achieving this goal are biomass for
heating, power generation and as biofuels, wind, solar
PV and greater electrification of the energy sector.
Based on the analysis of 26 countries1, REmap 2030
suggests that existing and future renewable energy
expansion, as currently planned, will result in a 21%
share of renewables worldwide in 2030 (IRENA, 2014a).
This leaves a 15 percentage-point gap to achieve a 36%
renewable energy share in 2030 as indicated in the
SE4All Global Tracking Report (The World Bank, 2013).
REmap 2030 is the result of a collaborative process
between the IRENA, national REmap experts within
the individual countries and other stakeholders. The
current report focuses on the actual and potential
role of renewable energy in the US, a major energy
producer and consumer, and a major contributor of
carbon dioxide (CO2). In 2010, the US was the second
largest energy consumer in the world with a total final
energy consumption (TFEC) of 64 exajoules (EJ),
equivalent to 19% of the global TFEC (IEA, 2013a).
The US TFEC is projected to remain stable in the
period between 2010 and 2030 growing by only 4%
1 The 26 countries account for three-quarters of global total final
energy consumption (TFEC). TFEC includes the total combustible
and non-combustible energy use from all energy carriers as fuel
(for the transport sector) and to generate heat (for industry and
the building sectors) as well as electricity and district heat. It excludes non-energy use, which is the use of energy carriers as feedstocks to produce chemicals and polymers. This report uses this indicator to measure the renewable energy share, consistent with the
Global Tracking Framework report (The World Bank, 2013).
In this study TFEC includes the consumption of industry (including blast furnaces and coke ovens, but excluding petroleum
refineries), buildings (residential and commercial) and transport
sectors only. It excludes the energy use of agricultural, forestry,
fishing and other small sectors which accounted for about 2%
of the TFEC if it was to include these sectors as well.
The USA is a large non-energy user. Its non-energy use is about 9%
of its total final consumption (TFC) which includes both the energy
and non-energy use of energy carriers.
according to US Energy Information Agency‘s Annual
Energy Outlook (AEO) (US EIA, 2013a). In the same
time period, based on current policies or the Reference
Case according to this study, the US share of renewable
energy in the TFEC will only grow from 7.5% in 2010 to
10% in 2030, driven mostly by an increase in renewable
power generation.
The US has significant potential to go beyond its Reference Case developments. According to the IRENA
REmap analysis (2014a), the US could reach a total of
27% renewable energy share in TFEC by 2030 if the
realizable potentials of all renewable energy technologies identified in REmap are deployed. The technology
potentials to fill this gap are called the REmap Options.
Given the size of the country, the relative availability of
different renewable energy resources, technologies and
producers, their related potential vary by region. They
include geothermal, wind, solar as well as novel forms
of water power (hydropower and marine hydrokinetic
power). The country is also developing a wide range of
transport sector technologies, such as battery electric
and hybrid systems, hydrogen fuel cell, and advanced
biofuels (e.g., cellulosic bioethanol).
This national potential has a global importance. Figure 1
provides a breakdown of total renewable energy use
among the 26 countries that have developed REmap
Options as well as the contribution of the non-REmap
countries. Six of these countries account for over half
of the total additional renewable energy potential of
the worldwide REmap Options. The US alone accounts
for 19% of the identified renewable energy potential
in the REmap 26 country grouping, or 13% of total
world renewable energy use. Engagement of the US
is essential if a global doubling goal is to be reached.
The objective of this report is to provide detailed background data and results of the US REmap country
analysis, and to make suggestions how the results could
be translated into action.
This report starts with a brief description of the
REmap 2030 methodology (Section 2). It continues by
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Figure 1: Contribution of the 26 REmap countries and rest of the world to total global renewable energy use
in REmap 2030
Rest of the World
(traditional uses of biomass)
Six countries (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and the US) account for half of global
potential and just two (US and China) of one-third of all potential
explaining the present energy situation and the recent
trends for renewable energy use (Section 3). Section
4 provides the details of US Reference Case findings.
Section 5 discusses the current policy framework at
federal and state levels. Section 6 shows the renewables
potential. Section 7, the heart of the report, quantifies
the potentials of the REmap Options. This is followed
by a discussion of the opportunities and barriers for
renewable energy in the US (Section 8). Section 9
provides policy recommendations for an accelerated
renewable energy uptake for the US. Although this
study assumes that all renewable energy options are
taken up together and by 2030, this last section also
includes a discussion of energy sector and policy
recommendations related to the transition period from
now to 2030.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
This section explains the REmap 2030 method and
summarises details about the background data used
for the analysis of the US. Annexes A-F provide these
background data in greater detail.
While the Reference Case is based on the AEO 2013,
the REmap Options for the US came from a variety of
sources that include:
REmap is an analytical approach for assessing the
gap between current national renewable energy plans,
additional renewable technology options potentially
available in 2030 and the the Sustainable Energy for
All’s (SE4All) objective of doubling the share of global
renewable energy share by 2030.
REmap 2030 assesses 26 countries: Australia, Brazil,
Canada, China, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany,
India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico,
Morocco, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa,
South Korea, Tonga, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab
Emirates, the United Kingdom and (in the present
study) the US.
The analysis starts with national-level data covering
both end-use (buildings, industry and transport) and
the power / district heat sectors. Current national plans
using 2010 as the base year of this analysis are the
starting point2. The Reference Case represents policies
in place or under consideration, including energy
efficiency improvements if they are contained in these
projections. The Reference Case includes the TFEC of
each end-use sector and the total generation of power
and district heat sectors, with a breakdown by energy
carrier for the period 2010–2030. The Reference Case
for the US was based on US EIA’s AEO 2013.
Once the Reference Case was prepared, then additional
technology options were identified. These additional
technologies are defined as REmap Options. The choice
of the options approach instead of a scenarios approach
is deliberate: REmap 2030 is an exploratory study, not a
target-setting exercise.
2 To the extent data availability allows, information for more recent
years (e.g., 2012, 2013) were provided where relevant.
Renewable Electricity Futures Study (NREL,
Transportation Energy Futures Study (NREL,
IRENA’s Renewable energy in manufacturing
roadmap (IRENA, 2014b),
IRENA’s own analysis for the buildings sector
IRENA developed a REmap tool that allows staff and
external experts to input data in an energy balance for
2010, 2020 and 2030, and then assess technology options that could be deployed by 2030 consistent with an
accelerated deployment of renewable energy. In addition to what is being provided in the Annexes of this report, a detailed list of these technologies and the related
background data are provided online. The tool includes
the cost (capital, operation and maintenance) and technical performance (reference capacity of installation,
capacity factor and conversion efficiency) of renewable
and conventional (fossil fuel, nuclear and traditional
use of biomass) technologies for each sector analysed:
industry, buildings, transport, power and district heat.
Each renewable energy technology is characterised
by its costs and the cost of each REmap Option is
represented by its substitution cost. Substitution costs
are the difference between the annualised cost of the
REmap Option and of a conventional technology used
to produce the same amount of energy, divided by the
total renewable energy use in final energy terms (in
2010 real US Dollar (USD) per gigajoule (GJ) of final renewable energy). This indicator provides a comparable
metric for all renewable energy technologies identified
in each sector.
Substitution costs are the key indicators for assessing
the economic viability of REmap Options. They depend
on the type of conventional technology substituted,
energy prices and the characteristics of the REmap Option. The cost can be positive (incremental) or negative
(savings), as many renewable energy technologies are
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
already or could be cost effective compared to conventional technologies by 2030 as a result of technological
learning and economies of scale.
Based on the substitution cost and the potential of
each REmap Option, country cost supply curves were
developed from two perspectives for the year 2030:
government and business. In the government perspective, costs exclude energy taxes and subsidies, and
a standard 10% discount rate was used which allows
comparison across countries. Estimating a government
perspective allows for a comparison of the 26 REmap
countries with each other and for a country cost-benefit
analysis; the government perspective shows the cost of
doubling the global renewable energy share as governments would calculate it.
For the business perspective, the process was repeated
to include national prices including, for example, energy
taxes, subsidies and a local cost of capital of 7% for the
US in order to generate a national cost curve. This approach shows the cost of the transition as businesses
and investors would calculate it. Assessment of all additional costs related to complementary infrastructure,
such as transmission lines, reserve power needs, energy
storage or fuel stations, are excluded from this study.
However, a discussion is had on the implications of infrastructure needs on total system cost based on a review
of comparable literature.
Throughout this study, renewable energy share is estimated related to TFEC. Based on TFEC, the renewable
energy share can be estimated for the total of all enduse sectors of the US or for each of its end-use sectors
(with and without the contribution of renewable electricity and district heat). The share of renewable power
and district heat generation is also calculated.
This report also discusses the finance needs and avoided externalities related to increased renewable energy
deployment. Three finance indicators are developed:
Net incremental system costs: This is the sum of
the differences between the total capital (in USD/
year) and operating expenditures (in USD/year)
of all energy technologies based on their deployment in REmap 2030 and the Reference Case in
the period 2010-2030 for each year.
Net incremental investment needs: This is the
difference between the annual investment needs
of all REmap Options and the investment needs
of the substituted conventional technologies
which would otherwise be invested in. Investment needs for renewable energy capacity are
estimated for each technology by multiplying its
total deployment (in gigawatt (GW)) to deliver
the same energy service as conventional capacity and the investment costs (in USD per kilowatt
(kW)) for the period 2010-2030. This total is then
annualized by dividing the number of years covered in the analysis (i.e., 20 years between 2010
and 2030).
Subsidy needs: Total subsidy requirements for
renewables are estimated as the difference
in the delivered energy service costs for the
REmap Option (in USD/GJ final energy) relative
to its conventional counterpart multiplied by its
deployment in a given year (in petajoules (PJ)
per year).
In addition to the investment and subsidy needs, external effects related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission
reductions as well as improvements in outdoor and indoor air pollution from the decreased use of fossil fuels
have been estimated.
As a first step, for each sector and energy carrier, GHG
emissions from fossil fuel combustion are estimated.
For this purpose, the energy content of each type of
fossil fuel was multiplied by its default emission factors
(based on lower heating values, LHV) as provided by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Eggleston
et al., 2006). Emissions were estimated separately for
the Reference Case and REmap 2030. The difference
between the two estimates yields the total net GHG
emission reduction from fossil fuel combustion due
to increased renewable energy use. To evaluate the
related external costs related to carbon emissions, a
carbon price range of USD 20-80 per tonne CO2 is
assumed (IPCC, 2007). This range was applied only
to CO2 emissions, but not other greenhouse gases.
According to the IPCC (2007), carbon price should
reflect the social cost of mitigating one tonne of CO2
equivalent GHG emissions.
The external costs related to human health are estimated in a separate step, which excludes any effect
related to GHG emissions. Outdoor air pollution is evaluated from the following sources: 1) outdoor emission of
sulphur dioxide (SO2), mono-nitrogen oxides (NOx) and
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
particulate matter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5)
from fossil fuel-based power plant operation, and 2)
outdoor emissions of NOx, and PM2.5 from road vehicles.
To evaluate the external costs related to outdoor emission of SO2, NOx and PM2.5 from fossil power plant operation, the following parameters for respective pollutants
were used: (a) emission factor (i.e., tonne per kWh for
2010 and 2030 taken from the IIASA GAINS database
(ECRIPSE scenario (IIASA, 2014), and (b) unit external
costs (i.e., Euro-per-tonne average for the European
Union (EU), adapted for the US from the EU CAFE project (AEA, 2005). Values for the potential differences
in external effects between the EU and the US are accounted for based on the difference in gross domestic
product (GDP) values.
An extended version of the methodology of the REmap
analysis can be found online at IRENA’s REmap webpage3.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Key points
Renewable energy share in TFEC of the US stood
at 7.5% in 2010 (the base year of REmap 2030
analysis). This included 2.4% renewable power,
1.6% liquid biofuels and the remainder (3.4%)
largely solid biomass in industry and building
The share renewable energy in power generation
is rising in the US, from 11% in 2010 to 14% in 2013.
Hydro accounts for more than half of renewable
power generation in the US, but wind power
is growing significantly. In 2013, the US had
78 gigawatt-electric (GWe) hydro, 61 GWe wind,
22 GWe bioenergy, around 12 GWe solar PV
(including distributed generation) and 0.9 GW
concentrated solar power (CSP) capacity
In terms of non-hydro renewable power generation the US is a leader in wind and in biomass
power deployment. In contrast the US is lagging
in solar PV however recent trends show an acceleration of deployment.
The US is the largest biofuel producer in the
world, accounting for 57% of world ethanol production in 2013.
Use of solar water heaters and geothermal heat is
low, in total around 100 PJ or less than 1% of total
fuel demand for heating.
There are important regional differences. Wind
generation is concentrated in the Midwest. Hydro
is strong in Northwest and Northeast. Biofuel
production is in the Midwest. The distribution is
related to varying resource endowment.
This section discusses the current energy situation of
the US at the level of sector and energy carriers. It also
provides a brief overview of the latest renewable energy
development and capacity additions.
3.1Recent trends for renewable
Power sector
Figure 2 shows the cumulative renewable energy power
plant capacities as a function of the initial year the plant
started operation (as of 2013). The largest renewable
power generation capacity belongs to hydro plants with
a total installed capacity of 79 GWe (dark blue line). Most
growth in hydro capacity took place in a period between
the 1950s and the 1980s. Only few plants have been
installed since the beginning of 2000s. Planned hydro
capacity for next several years is between 12.1 GWe and
16.8 GWe (Hydropower & Dams, 2013)4.
With significant growth in the past decade wind capacity is catching up. As of 2013, installed wind capacity has
reached more than 60 GWe. By the end of 2013 this had
increased to 61 GWe across 39 states. It represents 4%
of all electricity demand (US EIA, 2013b). The weighted
average age of wind plants is 4 years, lowest among all
power plant technologies (US EIA, 2013b).
Besides wind, capacity for solar thermal, PV and biomass power generation technologies have also increased in the past decade (see Figure 2). By 2013,
bioenergy (excluding wood) reached 5.2 GWe and solar
thermal (CSP) and PV reached 12.8 GWe. In 2013 total
installed capacity of solar PV had reached 12 GWe, an
8 GWe increase in just two years (US EIA, 2013a; SEIA,
2014). Solar PV is used across the US, even in states with
limited solar resource (e.g., the Northeast). However, it
is an especially cost-effective opportunity in the Southwest (Spross, 2013). Biogas is also gaining importance.
There are about 240 anaerobic digesters in farms across
4 A definition of “planned capacity” was not available in the original
source, neither the timeline of the planned capacities.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Cumulative installed capacity (MWe)
Figure 2: Cumulative renewable power plant capacity by initial year of operation, 1910-2013
Wood and wood
derived fuels
Cumulative installed capacity (MWe)
Solar thermal
and PV
Other biomass
Initial year of operation
Source: US EIA (2013b)
Note: Data refers to total nameplate capacity.
the country powering about 70,000 homes. There is
also a potential to raise this number by another 11,000
systems which can generate sufficient power for 3 million homes. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
and the US Department of Agriculture now teamed up
to develop a “Biogas Opportunities Roadmap” to realise
this biogas potential (Cleantechnica, 2014a).
The US has a long history of experience in CSP plants.
The first plants were installed in California between 1984
and 1991. Between then and the end of 2010, CSP investments were limited. In 2010, the Solana and Ivanpah
plants were added to the power system with total installed capacity of 280 megawatt-electric (MWe) and
392 MWe, respectively (CSP Today USA, 2014). These
two plants were followed by three others (receiving
conditional loan guarantees), namely Mojave, Crescent
Dunes and Genesis plants. As of early 2014 installed CSP
capacity in US is about 392 MWe, however during the
course of the year that number should reach more than
1 GWe is expected to be commissioned by the end of
the year (SEIA, 2014). This capacity is expected to more
than double again to reach 2 GWe in the future with the
start-up of commissioned and under construction CSP
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
plants. However, some of these projects are changing
to solar PV projects as the economics of solar PV have
Transport sector
In the transport sector, two main technology options
are liquid biofuels and electric vehicles (EVs). In the rest
of this study, it is assumed that the power demand for
EVs and other modes of electric transport are powered
by renewable electricity. By analogy, power demand of
heat pumps in the heating sector is also assumed to
be from renewables sources of electricity. A range of
liquid biofuels is already deployed and, as discussed in
the biomass potentials section, additional potential is
possible – especially with regard to advanced biofuels
and biogas.
In recent years there has been an increase in the number
of EVs sold in the US. In 2011 the US DoE announced a
target aimed at facilitating a 1 million EVs manufacturing
capacity in the US by 2015 (US DoE, 2011a). However a
2014 study (Navigant, 2014) projects the global market for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will only reach
350,000 in 2014 and only 4% of all new passenger automobiles sold globally in 2022 will be fully electric. The
economics of EVs are improving, and efforts in states
such as California to promote zero-emission vehicles
could result in a rapidly expanded market for electric
mobility. However recent trends still show the majority
of EVs sold are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs)
and not pure battery electric (Cleantechnica, 2014b).
In addition, a shift in transport modes, such as the use
of high-speed trains with renewable power instead of
diesel-based trucks, or city trams for passenger cars, are
other options for the transport sector.
Other end-use sectors
In buildings and the manufacturing industry, conventional fuels used to generate space and water heating,
cooking and process heating can be replace by a range
of technologies. These are solar thermal, geothermal
Figure 3: US TFEC breakdown, 2010
Transport electricity
Industry electricity
Buildings electricity
Source: IRENA analysis of US EIA (2013a)
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
and biomass-based heat. All of these technologies are
already deployed in the US and have significant further
3.2Base year renewable energy
Sector-level breakdown
In 2010, the US consumed 93 EJ of total primary energy
(excluding non-energy use of around 7 EJ) (US EIA,
2012a). In final energy terms, US total energy demand
in 2010 was 64 EJ of which 43% was consumed in transportation, 32% in the buildings sector and 25% in the
industrial sector (see Figure 3)5 (US EIA, 2013a). Electricity accounted for 21% of the TFEC of which 75% was
consumed in the buildings sector, with the remainder
used by industry.
Renewable energy accounted for 7.5% of TFEC in 2010.
Renewable energy, when excluding electricity consumption, amounted to 10.7% in the industry sector, 6.1%
in the building sector, and 4.1% in the transport sector6.
In power generation 11.4% of electricity was renewable.
Renewable energy in TFEC share stood at
7.5% in 2010. This included 2.4% renewable
power, 1.6% liquid biofuels and the remainder
of 3.4% largely solid biomass in industry and
building heating
Energy use in the transport sector is followed by energy
use of buildings (split about evenly between residential
and commercial) (IEA, 2013a).
Industry sector accounted for a quarter of the US TFEC
in 2010. The chemical and petrochemical sector (excluding its non-energy use) was the largest industrial energy
user accounting for 25% of the US total final industrial
energy consumption. Other large industrial energy uses
are the pulp and paper (18%), food and tobacco (11%),
iron and steel (10%) and the non-metallic minerals (9%)
sectors (IEA, 2013a).
The breakdown of TFEC at a sector level has somewhat
changed in the past three decades for the industry and
transport sectors. The share of industrial energy use was
between 30% and 35% in the 1980s whereas today it is
about 25%. In comparison, the share of the transport
sector has increased from about 35-40% to about 45%
in the same period. The share of the building sector has
remained relatively unchanged. The change in breakdown of sector level energy use in the US was mainly
due to the increasing demand from the transport sector
and the slowly decreasing industrial energy use in the
period between 1980 and 2010 (IEA, 2013a).
The transportation sector is the largest energy user in
the US. Approximately 87% of the transport sector’s energy use is related to road transport. Domestic aviation
accounts for another 8%. The total share of rail transport, pipeline transport and navigation accounted for
in total 5% of the transport sector’s TFEC (IEA, 2013a).
In 2010, hydroelectricity made up 55% of renewable
electricity generation, followed by wind with 20%, biomass 16%, biogas 4%, geothermal 3% and solar PV/CSP
with just above 1% (Figure 4). However in the 3 years
since then there has been a large expansion of wind and
solar generation capacity. By 2012, a total of 86 GWe of
non-hydro renewables capacity had been installed. This
is an increase of 29 GWe since 2010 which has resulted in
an increase in the renewable share in power generation
to 12.2% in 2012 (REN21, 2013). Recent reports have also
indicated that renewable power could reach 14% of total
electricity production in 2013 (US EIA, 2013a).
5 Primary energy consumption refers to the direct use or supply
of all energy carriers (e.g., crude oil) without being converted or
transformed to another form of energy (e.g., heat). It is therefore
higher than TFEC which only looks at the consumption of energy
carriers such as fuels for transport sector or heating applications
or electricity for appliances (see footnote 1).
Hydro accounts for more than half of
renewable power generation but especially
wind power generation is growing. By the
end of 2013 the US had 79 GWe hydro, 61 GWe
wind, 13 GWe bioenergy and around 13 GWe
solar capacity installed
6 Providing the renewable energy share excluding power demand
provides the contribution of renewable technologies in the sector’s
total fuel use only. This is important to know to exclude the effect
of renewable power which is often outside the boundaries of enduse sectors.
Fossil and nuclear energy play a very important role
in the electricity supply of the US and in recent years
domestic natural gas output has increased significantly.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Figure 4: Renewable power capacity and generation, 2010
Installed capacity (GWe)
Power generation (TWh/year)
GWe Capacity (left-axis)
Solar PV
Solar CSP
TWh Generation (right-axis)
Source: US EIA (2013a)
Even though the US coal supply is one of the largest
in the world, its use in power generation has declined
in recent years (though in 2013 this trend has reversed
slightly). This is due in part to lower than projected
energy demand, but also because of increased use of
natural gas and renewables in the power sector. However despite the increases in renewables, fossil fuel and
nuclear-based generation still accounted for 89% of
production in 2010.
In the end-use sectors, biomass as a source of heating
in buildings and industry and as fuel for transport made
up the majority of renewable energy consumed in 2010.
When excluding electricity consumption, biomass made
up 10% of consumed energy in industry, and 4.1% as
biofuels in the transport sector. In buildings biomass
amounted to 5% of non-electricity energy supply with
a small solar thermal contribution of 0.3%. In industry
and buildings there is also a very small contribution of
geothermal based heat.
Fossil fuels dominate in end-use sectors as a source of
heat production or transport fuel. In industry natural
gas provides 55% of consumed energy, coal 10%, and oil
products 24%. In buildings, natural gas provides 76% of
consumed energy with fuel oil use amounting to 17%. In
transport, petroleum-based fuels are even more dominant, accounting for 96% of the sector’s total fuel use.
Three quarters of the total US electricity demand was
consumed in the building sector. Almost 30% is consumed for lighting, around 25% by appliances, around
25% for space cooling and refrigeration, and the remainder is for other uses such as water heating, ventilation,
etc. Electricity consumption in the industry sector was
largely related to the chemical and petrochemicals, paper pulp and printing, and metals industry. Half of total
consumption is for motor drives, followed by process
heating (12%), heating, ventilation and air-conditioning
(HVAC), refrigeration and cooling, electrochemical processes and lighting (each accounting for about 8% of
the total demand) (US EIA, 2013c). Transport sectors
takes a negligible fraction of US’s total electricity demand, less than 1%, used largely for rail and tram lines.
There is significant potential to increase electricity use,
particularly in transport with railway electrification and
electric passenger transport.
Conventional fuel markets
The US is a large producer of fossil fuels. In 2010, production of coal and coal products, natural gas and crude
oil reached 22.3 EJ, 20.7 EJ and 14.5 EJ, respectively.
US natural gas production accounted for 18% of global
output in 2010. Figure 5 shows the historical developments in the US natural gas production between 1990
and 2012, as well as projections to 2030. Shale gas was
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Natural gas production (trillion cubic feet per year)
Figure 5: US natural gas production, historical developments and projections, 1990-2030
22 024 026 028 030
199 199 199 199 200 200 200 200 200 20 20 20 20 20 202 20
Coalbed methane
Lower 48 offshore
Lower 48 onshore conventional
Tight gas
Shale gas
Source: US EIA (2014b)
Alaska crude production
Source: US EIA (2014b)
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Crude oil production (million barrels per year)
Figure 6: US crude oil production projection to 2030
Lower 48 states crude production
around 20% of total US natural gas production in 2010
(US EIA, 2014a); by 2013, it accounted half of total output (see Box 1).
Total crude oil supply in 2012 reached 15 million barrels
per day (mbd), 1.3% higher than the year before. Nearly
40% of the total supply was own production (6.5 mbd)
with the remainder being imports (8.4 mbd). Production in Gulf Coast, Southwest and the Gulf of Mexico
accounted for nearly half of the total (US EIA, 2014c).
Production is projected to peak by 2015 slightly above
9.6 mbd and decline onwards to approximately 8 mbd
Box 1: The emergence of shale gas and its impact on the energy sector
US natural gas production stood at 24.3 trillion cubic feet (tcf; dry gas) in 2013 (US EIA, 2014a). Shale gas
production stood at 10.3 tcf in 2012 and reached half of total gas production in 2013. Total shale gas volume
grew eightfold between 2007 and 2012. The EIA projects a continued growth of US shale gas production,
and total gas production is projected to reach 37.6 tcf in 2040 (US EIA, 2014b). The US overtook Russia as the
largest gas producer in the world in 2013.
US gas prices hit a low early 2012, around USD 2 per GJ (USD 2.1 per million British thermal units, MBtu).
They have steadily risen since, to a level of around USD 4.5 per GJ. Various studies indicate that USD 4.5-6
per GJ is a realistic estimate for shale gas production cost (Mearns, 2013). Production costs for shale gas are
considerably higher than for conventional gas. This sets a bottom for gas prices. Renewables in the US have
to compete at these prices.
Some differences exist on a state level due to variable transportation distance. Natural gas prices for power
generation stood in 2013 at USD 4.5 in California, USD 5.0 in Florida, USD 5.3 in New York, USD 3.9 in Texas
per GJ (US EIA, 2014b). Transportation can add up to USD 1 per GJ.
Figure 7: US Henry Hub gas prices May 2009-May 2014
Henry Hub Natural Gas Front Month Futures
May 09 2009
Source: FT (2014)
While shale gas today offers a cost-effective alternative to some other energy sources, there are risks around
relying heavily on shale gas. Based on today’s investment decisions, power plants and manufacturing facilities
will run on natural gas for the next 40 to 50 years. If there are changes in prices, this will affect the competitiveness of these plants, especially export-driven chemicals production. Although natural gas is priced locally
and, unlike oil, not globally, if it starts receiving a global price with massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports,
consumers will be more vulnerable to price shocks. In the transition to a less emission intensive energy system,
gas may play a key role, but since it is still a fossil fuel, it emits CO2. Hence it can only contribute to a limited
extent to realize substantial emission reductions in the long-term.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Figure 8: Breakdown of US crude oil imports by country, 2005-2013
Crude oil imports (billion barrels/year)
Rest of the world
Saudi Arabia
Source: US EIA (2014b)
by 2030. Production is projected to rise further in particular in the Gulf Coast and Southwest in the short-term
(US EIA 2014c). Projections of the US EIA (2014b) show
that total supply will remain at today’s levels. This indicates that crude oil imports will increase after 2020 as
production declines.
US coal production is about 15% of the total global
production (IEA, 2013a). The US exports about 10% of
its total coal production. The exports of natural gas
are about 5% of the total produced (US EIA, 2014b). In
comparison, more than 60% and 16% of US crude oil and
natural gas consumption is imported, respectively.
Total crude oil imports are declining. Total imports in
2013 were about 24% lower than the volume in 2005,
implying an annual decline of 3.3%. In 2013, one-third of
the total US crude oil imports came from Canada, 17%
from Saudi Arabia, 11% from Mexico and 3% from Nigeria
(see Figure 8). Together these four countries accounted
for two-thirds of the total US crude oil imports in 2013.
As with crude oil, natural gas imports are also declining,
and even at an even faster rate of 5% per year. Compared to 2005, total natural gas imports were one-third
lower in 2013. Approximately 90% of the total natural
gas imports come from Canada (via pipeline) (see
­Figure 9). This is followed by the imports from Trinidad
and Tobago and Middle Eastern and African countries.
Exports and imports of electricity accounted for less
than 1% of total production; imports amounted to
45 TWh/year and exports stood at 19 TWh/year in 2010
(US EIA, 2014b). This is mostly attributed to hydropower
imports in the Northeast from Quebec, Canada.
Figure 10 shows the total primary energy supply for
fossil fuels and nuclear between 2010 and 2030 based
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Natural gas imports (trillion cubic feet/year)
Figure 9: Breakdown of US natural gas imports by country, 2005-2013
Canada (pipeline)
Trinidad and Tobago
Mexico (pipeline)
Rest of the world
Source: US EIA (2014b)
on the projections of the US EIA (2014b). Supply of
fossil fuels is projected to remain same in the entire
period with minor changes in the fuel mix. There is
a slight shift from crude oil products to natural gas.
Natural gas is projected to account for a large share of
the total power generation fuel mix with its demand
increasing by about 13% in the 2010-2030 period. In
comparison, oil demand will decrease by 8% in the
transport sector which accounts for more than 80% of
its supply.
Looking forward, the EIA in its AEO 2012 projects relatively modest price growth for coal from USD 2.5 in 2010
to USD 3 per GJ in 2030 (delivered), and for natural
gas from USD 4.1 to USD 6.6 per GJ over the same time
period. The result is that the average electricity price is
projected to increase from USD 11 to USD 12 cents per
kWh in the same period. The price for natural gas for
households will rise from USD 11.7 to USD 14 per GJ and
for industry from USD 5.8 to USD 6.9 per GJ.
More information on the assumed energy prices to 2030
for the US REmap analysis can be found in Annex A.
Renewable energy markets in end-use sectors
When excluding electricity, the importance of bioenergy become evident in the end-use sectors. Being the
second largest bioenergy consumer worldwide (first in
the transportation sector) following Brazil, the US is also
one of the largest producers of various bioenergy commodities. In 2011, its wood pellet production reached
4.7 megatonnes (Mt) (equivalent to 80 PJ) which is a
quarter of the global production (Vakkilainen, Kuparinen and Heinimoe, 2013). Although production declined
during the 2008-2009 economic recession, investments
from European investors continue to increase, largely
due to increasing domestic demand, but also for export
(Goh et al., 2013). Three US pellet mills are among the
top-10 largest in the world, one in Waycross, Georgia
(800 kilotonnes (kt) per year), another in Cottondale,
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Figure 10: Total primary energy supply of conventional energy carriers, 2010-2030
Total primary energy supply (EJ/year)
Coal and its products
2030 Reference Case
Crude oil and its products
Natural gas
Source: IRENA analysis based on US EIA (2014b)
Florida (550 kt/year) and one other in Hertford, North
Carolina (400 kt/year) (Vakkilainen, Kuparinen and
Heinimoe, 2013). Recent trends show new investments
mainly in wood processing mills (mainly in the Southeastern US), partly due to decreasing production of pulp
and paper, but also because logistic infrastructure is well
established and feedstock is competitive.
The US is also the largest fuel ethanol producer worldwide. In 2013, it accounted for about 57% of the total
global production with a total production of 50.3 billion litres per year (13.3 billion gallons) (RFA, 2014). 14
of the top-15 largest ethanol mills7 are located in the
US with capacities ranging between 0.4 and 1.1 billion
litres (0.11-0.30 billion gallons) per year per mill (Vakkilainen, Kuparinen and Heinimoe, 2013). The US is also
the second largest producer of biodiesel, following the
total production of all EU countries. In 2013, the US accounted for 16% of the total global biodiesel production
with an output of 4.4 billion litres (1.16 billion gallons) per
year (F.O. Lichts, 2013). The US has a number of large
7 Mills are typically called as biorefineries.
biodiesel plants, though they are smaller in size than
the plants in Europe. Four of the largest plants in the
US have a total annual production capacity of 1.4 billion
litres (0.37 billion gallons) per year (Vakkilainen, Kuparinen and Heinimoe, 2013).
The US is the largest fuel ethanol producer
in the world, accounting for 57% of world
ethanol production in 2013
Through regulations, EPA ensures that a share of the
transportation fuels sold in the US consists of renewables. EPA developed and implemented the Renewable
Fuel Standard (RFS) program via collaboration with
refiners, renewable fuel producers, and other stakeholders. The first phase of the program (RFS1) aimed to
reach a blending of 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel
in gasoline by 2012.
The RFS program was expanded to RFS2 to include
diesel next to gasoline, and total blended renewable
fuel from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
by 2022. There is also a lifecycle GHG performance
threshold to ensure that renewable fuels emit less GHG
relative to the conventional fuels. RFS2 originally mandated 100 million gallons (equivalent 378 million litres)
of cellulosic biofuel in 2010; however, the EPA adjusted
this down to 5 million gallons (18.9 million litres) when
it became clear that the original volume would not be
met. Even the 5 million mandate proved much higher
than actual production. There are also a number of arguments from consumers groups about higher blending
rates for ethanol such as compatibility with older cars,
and small engine wear.
Up until a few years ago the US federal government
expected advanced ethanol technology would come
from cellulosic processing methods utilizing enzymatic
hydrolysis to be the dominant source of new biofuels,
however by 2014 a diversity of approaches for the
production of cellulosic biofuels have started to be
In 2013 the first commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel
facilities in the US began full operations, achieving
814 million liters of annual production on a gasoline
equivalent basis by 2014 (215 million gallons/year). In
2013, total cellulosic ethanol production capacity in the
US reached 46 million litres per year (12 million gallons/
year) (Janssen et al., 2013). The cellulosic biofuel mandate of the RFS2 (the unrevised mandate requires 250
million gallons per year of production by 2011) will be
therefore met more than three years behind schedule.
There are currently 9 advanced ethanol plants operating, with a total capacity of 25 million litres (6.6 million
gallons) per year (Janssen et al., 2013). However advanced biofuel plant production capacity is increasing,
and there are many other plants under construction,
including 12 commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol, butanol and isobutanol plants with production capacities
ranging between 15 and 110 million litres (4-29 million
gallons) per year. Some of these plants have already
started production in 2013, and some others will start
this year (Sheridan, 2013). Feedstocks for these plants
vary, and they include corn residues, wheat straw or
grain sorghum. These facilities will employ six different
pathways, with three pathways producing hydrocarbonbased biofuels (catalytic pyrolysis and hydrotreating;
gasification and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis; and gasification and methanol-to-gasoline) and three producing
cellulosic ethanol (dilute acid hydrolysis, fermentation to
acetic acid, and chemical synthesis; enzymatic hydroly-
sis; and consolidated bioprocessing). Fifty-two percent
of the expected capacity in 2014 will yield hydrocarbonbased biofuels and 48% will yield cellulosic ethanol. The
success or failure of these initial facilities will affect both
the future composition of the cellulosic biofuels industry
and the future direction of the US alternative fuels policy
(Brown and Brown, 2013).
Production cost estimates of cellulosic ethanol for 2014
are about USD 2.55 per gallon based on corn stover8
feedstock with a price of USD 60 per tonne, which
is not yet competitive with bagasse-based cellulosic
ethanol production costs of between USD 1.46 and 2.06
per gallon (USD 10-40 per tonne baggase). In addition,
the profit margins per tonne of feedstock are negative,
compared to positive margins in Brazil (Boyle, 2013).
There are also a number of algae-based demonstration plants. Moreover a “green crude oil” plant with a
total capacity of 200 million litres (53 million gallons) is
planned to begin production by 2018. The final product
can be converted to for example jet fuel, among other
fuels (Janssen et al., 2013).
The US plays an important role in the international
bioenergy trade. 20% of its total wood pellet production was exported to Europe in 2010 (Goh et al., 2013).
Regarding bioethanol, domestic production of conventional type bioethanol from corn will be more than
sufficient to meet the currently effective RFS2 target of
15 billion gallons by 2022 (Lamers et al., 2011). Combined
with competitive production costs, this resulted in an
increase in bioethanol exports, mainly to Canada and
the EU.
For heating in buildings and industry, different types
of renewable energy sources satisfy heating demand.
In industry (excluding power and district heat generation), bioenergy provides 99.7% of total renewable energy use. In total, 1.4 EJ of renewable energy was used
in 2010 for process heat generation. Most biomass is
combusted in industrial co-generation plants to produce
both process heat and electricity. Co-generation plants
are located in various sectors such as food production
(mix of waste and biogas as fuel), chemicals production (wood pellets, other residues) or wood processing
(wood waste as fuel). Recovery boilers are another type
8 Stover consists of leaves, stalks and other residues left in the field
after harvest.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
of bioenergy combustion technology employed in the
industry sector. In 2010, the US produced 25 Mt/year of
bleached sulphate pulp and about 43 Mt/year of chemical wood pulp. Total black liquor consumption in the
pulp and paper sector was about 1 EJ/year accounting
for about one-third of the total global black liquor use
(IEA, 2007; FAOSTAT, 2014).
Solar thermal technology is also used for generating
industrial process heat. By end of 2011, total installed
solar thermal capacity in the US had reached
15.9 gigawatt-thermal (GWth), mostly unglazed
collectors (14 GWth). In addition there are 1.7 GWth
flat plate and 0.1 GWth of evacuated tube collectors.
The total of air collectors is 0.1 GWth, equally shared
between unglazed and glazed (AEE-Intec, 2013). Of
the total glazed solar thermal capacity in US (1.9
GWth) 3% is capacity related to purposes other than
hot water production in houses, such as solar district
heating, solar process heat and solar cooling (AEEIntec, 2013). One of the first large-scale systems was
installed in the US in California at a plant producing
food products to generate steam at 250 oC (5,068
m2 area, 2.4 megawatt-thermal (MWth) capacity from
a total of 384 collectors) (Sun & Wind Energy 2009;
AEA, 2010; Deutsche CSP, 2013). Geothermal use
provides only 0.04% of the sector’s total fuel demand
for process heat generation (IEA, 2013a).
Use of solar water heaters and geothermal
heat is low, in total around 100 PJ or less than
1.5% of TFEC
Half of all energy use in the buildings sector is electricity. Excluding electricity use, 6.5% of all fuels used
for heating and cooking are renewables. In 2010, total
renewable energy use in the building sector of the US
has reached 0.6 EJ/year. More than 80% of the total
renewable energy demand of the buildings was in the
residential sector with the remainder being in the commercial sector. About 90% of the total renewable energy
use was related to bioenergy (0.5 EJ/year). Total solar
thermal heat use was about 60 PJ/year. Total installed
solar thermal capacity in the buildings sector was more
than 15 GWth by end of 2011. Geothermal heat use was
about 5 PJ/year in 2010 (IEA, 2013a).
Co-generation plays an important role in the generation
of power and heat in the US. As of the end of 2011, total
installed co-generation capacity was 70 GWe. About
43 GWe of the total co-generation capacity is part of the
power sector. Another 25 GWe is industrial cogeneration. The total capacity utilisation rate in 2011 was about
57% (US EIA, 2012b).
In 2010, total power and heat production from main
activity CHP plants reached 610 PJ/year (170 TWh/year)
and 508 PJ/year, respectively. Total fuel demand to generate this total was 1,670 PJ/year, of which some 5-6%
(about 98 PJ/year) was bioenergy. Total fuel utilisation
efficiency of the main activity co-generation plants in
2010 was about 67% (IEA, 2013a). In addition, there are
autoproducer co-generation plants9. In the case of the
US, such plants generated power only. In 2010, total CHP
power production reached 540 PJ/year (150 TWh/year).
More than half of the total fuel input is natural gas, and
another 20% is from biomass. Power generation from
CHP plants accounted for approximately 7% of the total
power generation in US of more than 4,000 TWh/year.
Regional differences
There are important regional differences in the US. The
Midwest has extensive agricultural land and a strong
manufacturing sector. It accounts for one-third of the
total wind power capacity in the country as well as
80% of the country’s total biofuel production capacity
(ACORE, 2014a). The Northeast region is the second in
terms of the total solar and biomass power capacities
(ACORE, 2014a). Together with Northwest they account
for a large share of the total hydro capacity. Although
the sources for renewable energy in the Southeastern
region are high, deployment of renewable energy
has been slow because of the limited incentives for
developers and investors (ACORE, 2014a). The political
environment in the Southeastern region of the US has
been traditionally more supportive of fossil fuels, and
the wind resource availability is rather limited in the
region compared to other states. However, the region
is rich in solar radiation and years to come will show
whether the interest to renewables will change. The
western states are leaders of the country in terms of
renewable energy deployment (ACORE, 2014a).
9 Autoproducer is a statistical term used by the IEA and it is defined
as: “Autoproducer undertakings generate electricity and/or heat,
wholly or partly for their own use as an activity which supports
their primary activity” (IEA, 2013a).
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Figure 11: Transmission investment in the US by investor-owned utilities, 2007-2016
USD2012 million/year
Source: EEI (2014)
Note: Data excludes investments by coop, muni, state, and federal power which accounted for in 2009 nearly USD 5 billion (in real 2011 USD)
(Jimison and White, 2013).
There are important regional differences.
Wind generation is concentrated in
the Midwest, hydro is concentrated in
Northwest and Northeast. Biofuel
production is again in the Midwest. The
distribution is related to varying resource
Transmission and distribution grids
Today the US grid consists of 10,000 power plants and
15,000 substations. There are 3,200 utilities that make
up the US electrical grid. These power companies sell
USD 400 billion worth of electricity a year.
The grid can be split into transmission and distribution
grids. The length of the transmission grid is more than
200,000 miles of high-voltage (>230 kilovolts (kV)) and
more than 6 million miles of lower-voltage lines. The US
electric grid is comprised of three smaller grids. The
Eastern Interconnection operates in states east of the
Rocky Mountains, The Western Interconnection covers
the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountain States, and the
smallest covers most of Texas.
Since at least 1988, growth in the US long distance transmission capacity has lagged behind growth in electricity
demand. This has not resulted in unmet demand, but
in the long run the situation is untenable (APS, 2011).
According to recent reports, however, investment in
transmission capacity is accelerating. Utilities invested
about USD 14.8 billion in 2012 in grid transmission
projects (40% of total investments in 2012 to transmission and distribution infrastructure by investor-owned
utilities and transmission companies) (Tweed, 2013). It
is expected that investments will rise to USD 17.5 billion in 2013, and with “continued high-teens growth in
2013 and 2014” (Figure 11) (Tweed, 2013; Jimison et al,
2014). Investments in electric distribution infrastructure
reached USD 20.1 billion in 2012 compared to USD 19.2
billion in 2011 (ELP, 2013).
On the distribution side renewables can help to reduce
investment needs. For example solar PV fits well with
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
the peak of air conditioning demand during the day. If
the solar is installed on rooftops it reduces grid investment needs. Also remote areas may be serviced with
stand-alone or minigrid systems. This is already the case
in Alaska; with falling renewables costs this trend may
also spread to rural areas of the lower 48 states. Minigrids are projected to grow rapidly in the US.
Since 2010, more than 10,000 automated capacitors,
over 7,000 automated feeder switches and approximately 15.5 million smart meters have been put in place.
In 2012, the US had around 43 million smart meters installed (US EIA, 2014d). This is about 15% more than the
total number in 2011 (FERC, 2013a), and it is projected
to grow to 60 million by 2020. Nearly 90% of them
are installed in the residential sector (38.5 million) (US
EIA, 2014d), where the share of customers with smart
meters grew from less than 2% in 2007 to about 15% in
2010. The share of smart meters was 10% in the industry
sector in 2010. In most states, smart meter legislations
or policies are being considered. In 2010, 11 states had
adopted legislation and in three others smart-meter
requirements were pending. Of these 11 states, six of
them have smart meter growth rates of more than 10%
per year (US EIA, 2012c). The American Reinvestment
and Recovery Act of 2009 (“ARRA”) for the construction and operation of integrated biorefineries (ARRA)
allocated USD 4.5 billion to the US DoE for grid modernisation programs of which USD 3.4 billion is related
to smart grid investments (FERC, 2013a).
Demand response programmes are also expanding rapidly. They can help to reduce grid cost and they can also
help to integrate renewables (Deloitte, 2012). In 2012,
demand response measures applied to some 28.3 GW
in the markets served by US regional transmission organisations and independent system operators (RTO/
ISO) (FERC, 2013a). The PJM Interconnection LLC and
the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) accounted for 63% of this total.
On November 22, 2013, FERC passed Order 792 Small
Generator Interconnection Agreements and Procedures.
This order provides the terms and conditions for public
utilities to provide interconnection service for small generators (<20 MWe). The order specifically adds energy
storage as one of the sources eligible to interconnect to
the power grid (FERC, 2013b). As a result of this order
more renewable resources may be connected to the
The smart grids concept includes many technologies.
Its use in the renewables context has been described
in a working paper prepared by IRENA (IRENA, 2013c).
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
TO 2030
This section explains the Reference Case renewable
energy trends in the US between 2010 and 2030. The
REmap analysis begins with an assessment of energy
consumption projections and uptake of renewable energy technology options between 2010 and 2030 based
on current policies. To put this Reference Case in perspective, this section begins with a brief timeline of the
US energy demand developments since 1978, the year
the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act was enacted.
The Reference Case from the AEO (US EIA, 2013a)
has been used to develop the Reference Case for the
­REmap analysis. Renewable energy as a percent of
TFEC will increase from 7.5% in 2010 to 9.3% by 2020,
and to 10% by 2030 (Figure 13). The increase in the
Reference Case renewable energy share will be driven
mostly by an increase of renewable power generation
from 11.4% in 2010 to 16.3% in 2030. The transport sector will see an increase of renewable energy from 4.1%
to 6% by 2030, entirely in the form of biofuels. The industry sector will increase from 10.7% to 12.5% and the
buildings sector from 6.1% to 6.9% by 2030, both largely
driven by biomass.
However, the Reference Case based on the EIA AEO
underestimates renewable energy growth in the power
sector, and given recent market developments in wind
and solar, it is likely that these two technologies will see
significantly higher growth by 2030.
In the Reference Case, total power generation is expected to grow by nearly 20% (+739 TWh) from 4,130 TWh/
Figure 12: Growth of the total pimary energy supply of renewable energy carriers in the US, 1970-2030
Primary energy (PJ/year)
re 202
Hydroelectric power
Geothermal energy
Solar/PV energy
Wood energy
Waste energy
Wind energy
Note: US EIA primary energy accounting method (Substitution Method). 2013-2030 years are linear interpolated to 2030 values.
Source: IRENA analysis of US EIA statistics until 2013, 2013-2030 based on US EIA reference case (2014b)
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Figure 13: US Reference Case – Renewable energy shares in TFEC by sector, 2010-2030
Renewable energy share in TFEC
Electricity: Total
Source: IRENA estimates based on US EIA (2013a)
Figure 14: Reference Case renewable power generation growth, 2010-2030
Power generation (TWh/year)
Solid Biomass
Solar PV
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Figure 15: Reference Case growth of renewable energy use in end-use sector, 2010-2030
Renewbale energy consumption (PJ/year)
Solid Biomass Heat
Liquid Biofuels
year in 2010 to 4,870 TWh/year by 2030. Coal generation falls by around 78 TWh between 2010 and 2030.
Nuclear increases by 108 TWh and natural gas generation grows by 453 TWh by 2030. Renewable power will
increase the second most by 324 TWh (Figure 14).
By 2030, renewable energy will provide 813 TWh of
electricity. Hydroelectric generation will total 294 TWh
followed by solid biomass with 238 TWh, wind with
174 TWh, solar PV with 43 TWh, geothermal with
42 TWh, biogas with 22 TWh, and finally CSP with
3 TWh. However as stated this projections underestimate recent developments for wind and solar PV.
Renewable energy use in the end-use sectors (Figure
15) sees an increase in biomass heat from 2,105 PJ/year
Solar Thermal Heat
to 2,660 PJ/year in 2030 – almost the entirety of which
occurs in industry. In transport, liquid biofuels use increases from about 1,200 PJ/year to 1,567 PJ/year.
In the buildings sector geothermal heating increases
from 11 to 22 PJ/year, and solar thermal water or space
heating increases from 96 PJ/year to 126 PJ/year by
2030. However these numbers remain modest when
compared to the amount of fossil fuel use. Natural gas
used in all end-use sectors will increase from 16,300 PJ
to 18,080 PJ by 2030 (an increase of 11% in the entire
period, or 1,780 PJ), though this estimate may be low
due to recent developments. Encouragingly petroleum
use in transport will decrease from 27,060 PJ/year by
2,140 PJ to 24,920 PJ/year by 2030.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Key points
Renewables policy in the US has been largely
driven by supply security concerns on the federal
level, and economic activity and GHG mitigation
concerns on the state level.
On the federal level, the production tax credit
(PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) are the
key financial instruments for the power sector.
EPA GHG standards announced in June 2014
target new and existing coal plants but may also
work to the benefit of renewables by being an
important driver for wind energy, along with the
PTC and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).
State level RPS for utilities are another key policy
component. These vary widely by state.
There are various federal policies addressing the
production and use of liquid biofuels such as
Volumetric Excise Tax Credits (VETC), blending
requirements for biofuels, investment subsidies
for different sectors for the production and conversion of bioenergy feedstocks.
There are various federal and state level support
for solar water heaters and bioenergy use, but
their deployment is mainly left to the markets.
This section discusses the current renewable energy
policy framework, split into federal policies and state
level policies.
Federal policies
Under the Obama administration the national energy
strategy of the US has been classified an “all-of-theabove strategy”. US Federal and some State Governments have strongly supported expanding many forms
of renewable power generation in recent years.
On a federal level, reducing the dependence on oil imports is important. Renewables can help to meet this
independence as part of an “all of the above” strategy.
Innovation is critical to achieve further cost reductions
and increase the renewable share. Sustainable bioen-
ergy development, electric vehicles, transition to clean
energy technologies including renewables through the
Clean Energy Ministerial are all mentioned.
Cellulosic ethanol, drop-in fuels for diesel and jet fuel,
and bio-refineries have been promoted through research and development (R&D), fuel standards as well
as the funds provided from the American Reinvestment
and Recovery Act of 2009 (“ARRA”) for the construction and operation of integrated biorefineries.
Relevant Federal Laws include the 1978 Public Utility
Regulatory Policy Act (“PURPA”), the Energy Policy Act
of 1992 (“Energy Act”) and continuous modifications
through the Energy Policy Act 2005 (“EPAct 2005”),
the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007
(“EISA 2007”) and an amalgam of different Farm Bill
documents last updated in 2010. PURPA established the
first production tax credits for renewables. The Energy
Policy Act of 1992 liberalised the electricity market.
The Energy Policy Acts of 2005 and 2007 supported
renewable electricity and biofuels. PURPA and Energy
Act currently enable 18 states to offer consumers the
right to choose their energy provider. PURPA laws also
allow for open access to the electrical transmission grid
for independent power producers to deploy renewable
energy at the utility-scale.
The EPA act 2005 also established renewable energy
targets for Federal Agencies, EISA 2007 memorialised
E.O. 13423 federal greening requirements into law, and
2009 E.O. 13514 established the immediate requirement
for 30% better than ASHRAE 90.1 for all federal designs,
the 20% x 2020 energy efficiency gain target for Federal
Agencies (currently tracking towards 28% 2020) and set
a standard that all Federal buildings that are designed
in 2020 are to be net-zero in energy use by 2030. E.O.
13514 alone, has already translated into a 1% efficiency
gain to the economy as a whole, and will contribute
a 2.8% energy efficiency increase to the US economy
overall by 2020.
Added to these are President Obama’s “Blueprint
for America’s Energy Future” (2011), his early 2013
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
announced goal to double energy productivity by
2030 and his June of 2013 “Climate Action Plan”
which builds on the Blueprint targets and broad
goals. The approach, is to “deploy American assets,
innovation, and technology in order to safely and
responsibly to develop more energy here at home
and be a leader in the global energy economy” (White
House, 2014a). This strategy, encompasses advanced
extraction of natural gas and oil, limited nuclear
expansion, aggressive energy efficiency in buildings
and appliances, improved automobiles fuel efficiency,
as well as support for renewable energy. The EPA
through its authority to enforce clean air standards,
will set more stringent emission requirements for
both new and existing coal-fired power plants, and
it is currently studying the environmental effects of
the extraction of unconventional oil and natural gas.
Section 111 of the Clean Air Act establishes emission
standards for major stationary sources of dangerous
air pollution. Power plants are also included and on
June 25, 2013, President Obama directed EPA to
use this to curb carbon dioxide emissions from new
and existing plants (GPO, 2013). Latter is covered by
Section 111(d). Additionally President Obama has set
a target of doubling electricity generation from wind,
solar and geothermal sources by 2020 and he has
directed the US Department of the Interior to permit
the development on public lands of enough renewable
electricity to power 6 million more homes by 2020
(White House, 2013a).
Also recently agreed to were new CAFÉ standards for
cars and trucks that will come into effect by 2025, effectively doubling fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon
(23 km/litre) which is expected to have a considerable
effect on transportation fuel consumption for light-duty
vehicles (NHTSA, 2012). The US Department of Energy
has put in place energy efficiency standards for appliances, equipment and lighting, including air conditioners, refrigerators and washing machines. More efficiency
standards are pending Congressional action for greater
efficiency in buildings and industry.
On a federal level there are various policy approaches
that support renewable energy. The White House has
outlined (White House, 2013b) some broad initiatives to
support clean energy development:
Staying on the Cutting Edge Through Clean
Energy R&D
Promoting Renewable Electricity in Rural
Siting Record-Breaking Renewable Projects on
Public Lands
Opening a New Frontier for Atlantic Offshore
Wind Development
Expanding and Modernising the Grid to Integrate
Renewables and Increase Reliability
New Standard for Clean Energy
Double the Share of Clean Electricity over the
Next 25 years from 40% to 80% in 2035
Investing in Smart Grid Innovation and deploying
smart grids
Investing in DoE’s Advanced Research Project
Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)
Syncing R&D Investments and Clean Energy
Technology Deployment
Eliminating Fossil Fuel Subsidies to Help Support
Clean Energy
Doubling the Number of Energy Innovation Hubs
to Focus on Key Energy Challenges
A number of federal policies and subsidies supported
the renewable power generation capacity deployment
such as the production tax credit (created under the
EPACT in 1992), investment tax credit, renewable portfolio standards (renewable energy targets for utilities for
generation mix), feed-in tariffs, R&D subsidies, funding
and guidelines for industrial co-gen, and a North American Smart Grid Interoperability Panel to coordinate and
accelerate standards harmonisation.
With PTC, wind projects were able to reduce their annual tax bills by USD 23 per MWh in the first ten years of
operation. Solar projects benefit from ITC that is set at
30% of the capital expenditure. Tax credits have helped
the US to expand its renewable energy capacity. Once
the PTC expired, the next year experienced a slow down
in capacity expansion. While the ITC will continue to
be applied through 2016, PTC has already expired four
times, with the last being at the end of 2013. One option
that is considered to improve PTC shortcomings is to
set the rate equivalent to the gap between the LCOEs
of natural gas and wind based power generation which
would eventually reduce to zero over time as the LCOE
for wind declines relative to natural gas. However, there
are a number of limitations in this approach as LCOE is
not a complete metric to express the full costs of power
generation and it varies across the country substantially
depending on the market variations and resource avail-
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
ability. Furthermore, cost declines may not happen as
fast as estimated by models (IRENA, 2014d).
In early December 2014, a bill was passed for the one
year extension of the PTC. The extension will apply the
same rates. However, only limited impact is expected
because of the limited time for projects to meet the
eligibility requirements. Furthermore, in the absence of
the PTC by end of 2014 reduction in capacity expansion
and related jobs are expected .
There are also developments for the creation of a federal
Green Investment Bank based on Treasury bonds. The
spending limit in the first year would be USD 200 million, followed by spending limit of up to USD 500 million
to individual state programmes (CEP, 2014).
In many states rooftop PV has already reached “plugparity” – matching or even beating the cost of retail
electricity. Solar PV is also starting to be able to compete on a wholesale level; electricity sourced from
large-scale utility PV farms by local municipal utilities
in Palo Alto, CA and Austin, TX has resulting in power
purchase agreements in the range of USD 0.05-0.07 per
kWh, with the Austin deal including no benefits of the
production tax credit (Greentech, 2014).
Inclusion of Standard 189.1 in International Codes such
as International Building Code is a critical step to
wide-scale adoption of energy efficiency techniques
and targets. Standard 189.1 emulates the E.O. 13514’s
30% better than ASHRAE 90.1 standard for building
designs. Standard 189.1 has already been adopted as
a Code requirement in California, Portland, Seattle,
NYC, Chicago and DC. It is scheduled to be included in
IBC 2014 editions of the International Building Codes.
Standard 189.1 requires on-site renewable energy generation equivalent of not less than 20 kWh/m2 for
single-storied buildings, and not less than 32 kWh/m2
multiplied by the total roof area for all other buildings,
with exceptions
As this section shows, in terms of renewables in the
power sector, US has a number of policies promoting
the growth of renewable energy technologies. In terms
of end-use sectors, policies related to the transport focus largely on biofuels, as discussed below. For heating
in the building and industry sectors, in addition to tax
incentives, R&D subsidies which directly target renewable energy, there are also policies which indirectly
relate such as funding and guidelines for industrial CHP.
For the energy system as a whole (both the end-use and
power sectors), there are no nation-wide targets aiming
to reach a certain share of renewables. Targets related
to power generation exist in some states only which are
discussed in Section 5.2.
Federal biofuels policy
A number of policies, including federal level policies
such as the Renewable Energy Production Incentive
(REPI) are targeting the increased use of bioenergy
(Goh et al., 2013). The first biofuel policy came along
with the Energy Policy Act in 2005, RFS1 setting a
production target of 7.5 billion gallons of liquid biofuels
by 2012. RFS1 was then later amended with the current
RFS2 36 billion gallons by 2022 (EPA, 2014a). RFS2
distinguishes between the production of conventional
and advanced biofuels, which are defined based on
their GHG abatement potential. All biofuels which can
save at least 20% GHG in their life cycle compared to
petroleum-based equivalents are categorised as conventional. Conventional biofuel production is limited to
15 billion gallons by 2022. Advanced biofuels production
accounts for the remaining 21 billion gallons of which 16
billion is cellulosic biofuel (US EIA, 2013c). A biofuel or
bio-based diesel can be considered advanced if it saves
provide a minimum GHG emission reduction of at least
50%. Cellulosic biofuels provide a minimum GHG emission reduction of 60% compared to the petrochemical
equivalent (EPA, 2012).
Biofuel targets are currently under revision with an
EPA proposal to cut the 18.15 billion gallons (68.7 billion
litres) of biofuels mandated for use by EISA 2007 down
to 15.21 billion gallons, still representing an increase of
several orders of magnitude over current production
levels (final ruling expected in November 2014). Main
arguments are compatibility with older cars, small engine wear, and costs for upgrading gas station pumps.
Meeting these production targets and concerns on the
GHG performance of conventional biofuels resulted in
the deployment of new capacity for advanced biofuels
from different feedstocks. New capacity investments
also contribute to technological learning and reductions
in the costs of production. With more production, advanced biofuels are expected to improve their economic
viability in the near future and contribute further to the
US transport sector fuel mix.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Box 2: Energy efficiency in the US
The US is experiencing significant progress in the development of new energy efficiency policies. The Energy
Efficiency Improvement Act of 2014 (HR 126) which passed on 5 March, 2014 for improving energy efficiency
of the buildings us just one of them (ACEEE, 2014a). On 9 May, 2014, President Obama announced an additional goal of USD 2 billion in federal energy efficiency upgrades over the next 3 years. Combined with the
commitment of USD 2 billion in 2011, this is a total of USD 4 billion in energy efficiency investments through
2016 (White House, 2014b). Different drivers play a role in the development of US energy efficiency policies,
such as energy security, grid reliability or air pollution.
Each end-use sector has its own potential and challenges in terms of improving its energy efficiency. The
energy use and structure of the US building sector is an interesting case compared to other countries. The
typical lifetime of the buildings in the US is between 50 and 60 years old. This is a reason which limits the
capital stock turnover. The floor area of both residential and commercial buildings is large (high floor area per
capita) compared to other countries with similar income levels. Furthermore, appliance use accounts for a
large share of the sector’s total energy demand and it has been one of the main reasons why the building sector energy use has increased substantially in the past years. Energy efficiency of buildings (themselves) and
appliances are governed by codes and standards at the federal level, whereas at state level there are building
codes. State-level codes regulate the different types of demand in buildings and in some states codes also
exist for renovation of the existing stock. Buildings and appliances are subject to energy labeling indicating
their level of energy efficiency according to federal policy. In addition, a number of voluntary initiatives (e.g.,
Energystar; Home Energy Rating System) are also becoming commonly used (CPI, 2013).
By 2030, estimated techno-economic energy efficiency improvement potential in the building sector is 30%
for the residential sector, and 35% for the commercial sector. This estimates the total saving potential of
electricity and natural gas compared to the business-as-usual estimates for 2030 (Brown et al., 2008). New
buildings are expected to account for only a quarter of the total floor area of the US building stock by 2030
(CPI, 2013). This creates an important opportunity to reduce the building sector energy demand. Retrofits of
the existing building stock will also play a very important role. A recent report from The Rockefeller Foundation and the Deutsche Bank (2012) quantified the current market size of retrofitting the US buildings. According to the report, upgrading and replacing energy-consuming equipment would save up to USD 1 trillion
energy savings over 10 years which would require about USD 279 billion investment across the residential,
commercial and institutional buildings. Two-thirds of this investment potential exists in the residential sector.
As with buildings, the manufacturing industry sector has an aging capital stock. However, as a result of lowcost natural gas availability investments in natural gas-intensive industries such as chemicals industry are
expanding. While this raises significant potential for investing in best practice industrial energy efficiency
technologies, low energy prices, which make up an important share of the total production costs in some
sectors, could limit the full deployment of this potential. With best practice technologies, there is a technoeconomic energy saving potential of up to 15% in the US industry (UNIDO, 2010). Industrial energy efficiency
programs differ from state to state, and also within states. While some states require all cost-effective technologies to be deployed within a given sector, others focus on reducing the demand for specific energy carriers such as natural gas or electricity via different measures (SLEEAN, 2014). “Save Energy Now”, “Superior
Energy Performance”, “Energy Star for Industry” are among the different federal level programs addressing
industrial energy efficiency in the US (Griffith, 2012).
Energy efficiency in the transport sector is an issue which has received somewhat less policy attention, however, there are still a number of nation-wide energy efficiency related standards. In 2011, the US has adopted
a fuel efficiency standard for medium- and heavy-duty freight trucks that already account for 20% of the
transport sector’s TFEC, and whose fuel demand is growing faster than any other sector in the US (ACEEE,
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
2014b;c). The aim is to reduce 10-24% of the total fuel demand by 2017 compared to 2010 levels. The potential
to improve the energy efficiency of the non-light duty vehicles ranges from 25-50% for trucks to 50-75% for
marine and aviation modes (Vyas, Patel and Bertram, 2013).
In addition to the benefits of improving energy efficiency alone, there are synergies with the deployment
with renewables. The same amount of renewables results in a higher share of renewables based on a lower
TFEC. Furthermore, some renewable energy technologies offer the potential of improving energy efficiency
as well, such as electric vehicles (more efficient by a factor 2 compared to internal combustion engines) or
heat pumps (nearly three times more efficient than the most efficient condensing natural gas boilers).
A number of other policies support the deployment of
liquid biofuels, such as the VETC for fuel ethanol and
biodiesel blending or subsidies for capital investment
support, construction of biofuel plants, and other infrastructure (Lamers et al., 2011). VETC alone provides the
largest subsidy to both ethanol and biodiesel (Koplow,
2007). At the feedstock level, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) which started in 2009 aims
at the increased use of agricultural and forest products.
BCAP provides incentives for the establishment, production and delivery of biomass feedstocks for owners
and operators of agricultural land and non-industrial
private forest land (USDA, 2013).
emission standards through a combination of new EPA
actions including Mercury and Air Toxics Standards
(MATS) regulations as well as now, for the first time,
developing Carbon Emission standards. These carbon
standards apply to new coal power plants, effectively
stopping new construction. As mentioned in the memorandum from June 25, 2013, the EPA has been directed
to use its authority under Sections 111(b) and 111(d) of the
Clean Air Act to address carbon emissions from existing
power plants. Proposed carbon pollution standards,
regulations, or guidelines for existing power plants were
to be issued latest by June 1, 2014. They will be finalised
by June 1, 2015 (GPO, 2013).
As discussed in Section 3, as a result of these policies
the became a large producer and consumer of solid and
liquid bioenergy commodities. Bioenergy production
and use for power generation and heating is expected
to continue as well.
On 2 June 2014, the EPA released a draft rule proposing
limits on carbon pollution from existing fossil fuel power
plants (EPA, 2014b). According to this rule, EPA will be
taking steps to realise carbon emission reductions from
the power sector. The proposal includes an analysis of
two options, and the EPA’s recommended option is the
more stringent of the two. EPA estimates that this option would result in nationwide emissions reductions
of up to 27% by 2020 compared to 2005 levels, 29%
by 2025, and 30% by 2030. 2030 emission reduction
is equal to the emissions from powering more than half
the homes in the US in one year. Besides GHG emission reductions, PM pollution, NOx, and SO2 emissions
should be reduced by more than 25% as a co-benefit
in the same period. According to the Administration,
the Clean Power Plan will lead to climate and health
benefits worth between USD 55 billion to USD 93 billion
in 2030, and result in 2,700 to 6,600 fewer premature
deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 fewer asthma attacks
in children (EPA, 2014c). The Clean Power Plan will be
implemented through a state-federal partnership allowing significant flexibility to states to detail how they will
meet the goals of the new program.
In May 2014, President Obama called for commitments
to improve energy efficiency and solar deployment.
Building a skilled solar workforce is one of the actions
of this commitment. US DoE’s Solar Instructor Training
Network will support the training of 50,000 workers to
be employed in the solar industry by 2020. This complements the SunShot initiative’s achievement of training
22,000 people since 2010 (White House, 2014b).
Greenhouse gases
GHG emission reduction is another key policy component. This is achieved through various policies that
amount to a de facto ban on non-carbon capture and
storage coal power generation (air pollution, carbon
intensity standards). The Administration’s strategy is to
restrict coal power generation by imposing new stack
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
The EPA is seeking public comment on the proposed
rule, as well as variations on the proposed rule. The comment period will last for 120 days from the date of official publication of the proposal. After that, the EPA will
analyse and respond to the comments, and can make
adjustments to the proposed rule prior to finalising the
rule. This process is expected to be done by the middle
of 2015. This approach of having public comment on
multiple options for a rule, followed by additional analysis and revision by an agency, is the way US agencies
generally do regulatory rulemaking.
Based on the Clean Air Act, the proposed rule establishes a “best system of emission reductions (BSER)”
based on an analysis of opportunities available in the
electricity sector to reduce emissions, focusing on four
building blocks: 1) reducing heat rates in existing power
plant facilities; 2) increasing the utilisation rates for existing and under construction natural gas combined cycle power plants; 3) accelerating deployment of renewable energy and ensuring that existing nuclear energy
remains in operation; and 4) reducing energy demand
through energy efficiency.
Box 3: Renewable energy in California
California is one of the most ambitious states in the US in terms of energy efficiency and renewable energy.
At the same time it’s a large economy by itself and provides valuable insights on how to structure a transition.
California’s per capita electricity demand has been stable during the past 40 years. However population has
increased during this period. Gross demand stood at 296 TWh in 2013 and has been stable during the last
decade. The state accounts for nearly 8% of national demand.
California’s generates more than 200 TWh of electricity per year. In 2011, California produced 70% of the electricity it uses; the rest was imported from the Pacific Northwest (10%) and the US Southwest (20%). In-state
renewables generation share stood at 30% in 2013 including hydropower. Hydropower accounted for nearly
half of all renewable generation (CEC, 2014).
State power generation capacity stood at 73 GWe in 2012. Natural gas is the main source for electricity generation at 60% of the total in-state electric generation. The state had 15.9 GWe hydro, 6.5 GWe wind, 3.5 GWe
solar, 2.8 GWe geothermal and 1.1 GWe landfill gas and bioenergy power generation capacity in 2013 (CEC,
2014). Main growth in recent years has been in solar and wind while hydro and geothermal are stable. The
state accounts for 80% of US geothermal capacity and has been a leader in CSP: the state has 354 MWe of
solar thermal power capacity that has been in operation for 30 years. 4.2 GWe of solar thermal capacity have
been approved and 1.5 GWe additional solar thermal capacity is under review. But many projects have been
withdrawn or have met planning problems. Nearly 0.9 GWe of solar thermal capacity is under construction
(ACORE, 2014a). In 2002, California established its RPS Program, with the goal of increasing the percentage
of renewable energy in the state’s electricity mix to 20 percent of retail sales by 2017. The 2003 that goal was
increased to 20 percent by 2010, and the 2004 a further recommended increasing the target to 33 percent
by 2020. The state has now an ambitious target of 25% renewable retail sales by 2016 and 33% renewable
electricity by 2020 (excluding large hydro), more than a doubling. California is on its way to exceed the RPS
for the period 2014-2016 by 15%.
Transmission expansion is a priority to enable interconnection and deliverability of renewable electricity. California has over 1 billion litres (264 million gallons) per year of renewable fuel generation capacity, 72% ethanol.
The objective is 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2025, including one million battery electric vehicles. This
equals around 5% of total motor vehicle stock.
There is a programme in place to support solar water heaters and rooftop PV systems. The objective is to
install 3 GWe rooftop solar PV by 2016 and 585 million therms of solar hot water systems by end of 2017. The
State-wide budget is USD 3.6 billion (ACORE, 2014a).
Apart from RPS and subsidies for rooftop systems policies in place include net metering, subsidies for selfgeneration and renewable energy auctions (ACORE, 2014a).
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Under the proposal, EPA establishes state-specific goals
for the power sector’s carbon intensity, and provides
states with options for meeting those goals in a flexible
manner that accommodates a diverse range of state
approaches, which can including working together with
neighboring states to develop multi-state plans.
In its proposal, EPA requests comment on many
aspects of the rule, including, for example, whether
states should be able to implement the rule in
concert with other states, on its assumptions about
what constitutes the “best system of emission
reductions,” and on the two alternative options and
their assumptions. EPA also takes comment on a
range of BSER assumptions that could substantially
affect the stringency of the 10-year or the 5-year
options, depending on feedback received in the public
comment period.
In November 2014, the US together with China announced
GHG emission reduction goals. By 2025 the US plans
to reduce its CO2 emissions by 26-28% compared to
2005 levels. These targets are similar to what has been
envisioned in the 2009 American Clean Energy and
Security Act and can be seen as an extrapolation of the
reductions of 17% planned for the year 2020.
5.2 State level policies
State policies are a major driver (notably in states such as
California, Colorado, Texas, New Jersey, and Hawaii) (see
ACORE, 2014a, for an overview). Much of the US energy
supply has been coordinated on a regional level where
states, counties and cities have a wide variety of initiatives to support renewable energy development. Leaders
include California and Colorado where Public Utility Commissions are strong and resources are plentiful, but some
states are much less supportive of renewable energy,
specifically in the Southeast of the US. However these
states have high renewable energy potential, particularly
with biomass, small hydro and PV, and efforts should be
made to develop this resource potential.
As of 2013 RPS, or Renewable Electricity Standards,
have been developed under federal agencies by 29
States and Washington DC (8 additional states have
voluntary standards or goals) (DSIRE, 2013; C2ES, 2014).
When combined, these states generate up to about 70%
of total US net power. RPS is one of the most successful
Table 1: Select Renewable Portfolio Standards for
power generation
Renewable Power (%)
Source: DSIRE (2013)
approaches that requires local utilities to supply to consumers a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources (see Table 1). Some states have adopted
federal energy efficiency standards as well. However, it
should be noted that several states are considering repeal or suspension of these standards, and at least one
state has already done so.
State level renewable portfolio standards for
utilities are another key policy component.
These vary widely by state
In addition to the federal policies renewable portfolio
standards, there are various other state level tax credits
and grants regarding the increased use of different bioenergy commodities (UNECE, 2011). Financial incentives
are typically used to support feedstock demand, supply
and lower costs of capital and they are not limited to
bioenergy necessarily, but cover other renewable energy source as well.
While there are targets aiming to increase the use
renewables in power generation and biofuels in the
transport sector, with regarding to heating and cooling,
support from the level of federal or states for the wider
use of renewables, including biomass, is limited (UNECE,
Since September 2009, nine states10 are participating
in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI
10 The nine states participating in RGGI are: Connecticut, Delaware,
Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power
plants through a cap and trade program (RGGI, 2014).
The program, which is the first mandatory marketbased CO2 emission reduction program in the US, was
reviewed in 2012, and the current cap is 91 million short
tons which will annually decline by 2.5% between 2015
and 2020 (RGGI, 2014). The aim is to reduce electricity
sector emissions by 2020 to 45% below the 2005
levels. California also instituted in 2012 a cap-and-trade
programme for CO2 that envisions reducing emissions
Box 4: Renewable energy in Hawaii
Hawaii has a target of 70% energy independence by 2030. Within the 70% goal, locally generated renewable
sources will account for 40% of total energy consumption, while achieving greater energy efficiency makes
up the remaining 30%. The policy is based on scenario analysis (NREL, 2011).
Hawaii had 700 MWe renewable power generation capacity in 2012. Biomass, solar and wind are all around
200 MWe, supplemented by smaller amounts of geothermal and hydropower. Renewables account for 14% of
electricity generated in 2012 (State of Hawaii, 2013). Demand stands at 10 TWh and solar PV in particular is
growing rapidly. The state has around 14 TWh of renewable electricity potential, including more than 7 TWh
of geothermal on the main island Hawaii and more than 2.5 TWh of wind with a very high capacity factor on
all six islands (State of Hawaii, 2012a).
The target is 40% renewable electricity by 2030. Island interconnectors are being established as resources
are not evenly distributed; Oahu in particular lacks resources and sites to economically move beyond 25-30%
renewable energy on its own.
There is a strong economic incentive. Electricity prices in Hawaii were USD 0.32 per kWh in 2011, the highest of
all US states (State of Hawaii, 2012a). Such high prices are typical of islands with oil based power generation.
A net metering system is in place. There are tax rebates for solar and wind installation. Three utilities offer
feed-in tariffs, there are concessional loans for PV, wind, biogas and biofuel projects by farmers and aquaculturists.
There is a rebate system in place to support solar water heaters (USD 750-1000 per system). Also there is an
E10 standard, and Alaska Airlines will introduce locally grown biofuels from 2018.
Hawaii had 1500 EVs and nearly 16 000 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) in 2013. There is an EV project in place
on Mauii, in cooperation with NEDO from Japan (State of Hawaii, 2013).
Each year, Hawaii uses between 1.7 and 2.2 billion gallons of liquid petroleum fuels. Hawaii has favorable highway tax rates, an ethanol blending mandate, an ethanol facility tax incentive, and an alternative fuel standard
that sets a target of 20% of highway fuel demand to be supplied by alternative fuels by the year 2020. Since
2000 there is an objective of 40 million gallons per year of in-state biofuel production capacity. A recent study
indicates that a biofuels industry of between 100 and 300 million gallons per year beyond 2023, representing about 10% of liquid fuel demand, appears to be both significant and achievable (State of Hawaii, 2012b).
However this will require significant buildup of celluloses ethanol, algae, drop-in fuel capacity for aviation etc.
In a nutshell, Hawaii reflects the issues for the much larger US energy system. However much higher fossil
fuel and electricity prices that can be attributed to the island conditions exacerbate the problem and create
a strong incentive for a transition. At the same time the state benefits from the R&D and innovation capacity
of the mainland. This makes Hawaii a unique test bed that can also provide valuable insights for other islands
countries and territories.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Figure 16: Comparison of the direct federal financial interventions and subsidies in the energy sector of the
US, 2010
million USD/year
million USD/year
NG and petroleum
Smart grids, T & D
Liquid biofuels
Source: IRENA analysis of US EIA (2011)
to 1990 levels by 2020. In comparison to RGGI which
focuses on the power sector only, the programme in
California covers electricity generators, CO2 suppliers,
large industrial sources, and petroleum and natural gas
refineries as well (SEE, 2013). California has the most
developed marketplace for cap-and-trade of CO2 and
has successfully has auctions for large emitters of CO2.
It is expected that by January of 2015 the cap-and-trade
law will also apply to petroleum used in the transport
sector, which in 2014 was estimated at 53 billion litres
(14 billion gallons), and could add between USD 0.150.20 to the price per gallon for motor fuels. California
would become one of the first regions in the world to
put a price on carbon emitted in the end-use sectors
(with the exception of large industrial emitters) (CW,
Renewables policy in the US has been largely
driven by supply security concerns on the
federal level, and greenhouse gas mitigation
and economic activity concerns on the state
There is a large number of other state and local programs
designed to promote a wide variety of renewables,
but these all cannot be listed in this report. A source
for information on these programs can be found at
As opposed to some EU countries, climate change
historically played a rather small role in the US federal
level renewable energy policy, although this is changing. Other issues played so far a more important role
compared to climate change among all environmental
issues (Elliott, 2013). In the case of some specific states
which focused on GHG mitigation, designing renewable energy policies gained priority (e.g., California).
Economic activity is another reason why there are state
level renewable energy policies (UCS, 2013).
5.3Conventional and renewable
energy subsidies
National and international organisations provide estimates of the subsidy levels in the US for fossil fuel and
renewable energy sources. The US EIA (2011) provides a
snapshot of the direct federal financial interventions and
subsidies in the energy market for the year 2010. In the
energy sector, a total of approximately USD 22 billion
of intervention and subsidies were provided (excluding
conservation and end-use subsidies with a total of USD
14.8 billion). Much of this total is tax expenditures11 (USD
12 billion), followed by direct expenditures to producer
11 According to US EIA (2011), these are “…provisions in the federal
tax code that reduce the tax liability of firms or individuals who
take specified actions that affect energy production, consumption,
or conservation”.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
and consumers of energy (USD 5.2 billion). R&D related
intervention and subsidies amounted to USD 3.5 billion
with the remainder USD 1.2 billion being related to loans
and loan guarantees and electricity programs targeting
specific consumer groups.
According to the EIA total subsidies in the US (excluding
conservation and end-use) has increased by about 60%
between 2007 and 2010, from USD 13.9 to USD 22.3,
respectively. The increase in total electricity related and
non-electricity related were similar to the total.
In 2010, conventional fuels (coal, natural gas, petroleum products and nuclear) accounted for 30% of the
total (USD 6.7 billion). 66% is related to renewables for
power and heat generation as well as liquid biofuels
(USD 14.7 billion). Total federal direct subsidies in the US
renewable energy sector were more than double compared to fossil fuels in 2010. When excluding subsidies
for biofuels, more than 80% of the renewable subsidies
were related to power generation.
Liquid biofuels (USD 6.6 billion) and wind (USD 5 billion) accounted for nearly three-quarters of the total
subsidies in the renewable energy sector. Solar and
biomass received each USD 1.1 billion per year.
Subsidies related to tax expenditures account for more
than half of the total subsidies in the renewable energy
sector (USD 8.2 billion, 55%), followed by subsidies for
direct expenditures to producers and consumers of energy (USD 4.7 billion, 32%).
Compared to the relatively new renewable power industry, the conventional power sector has enjoyed a long
historical learning curve to develop cost-effective generation. Incentives to accelerate the renewable learning
curve could be helpful to hasten and broaden the switch
to renewable energy technologies. According to the
estimates of a study by Koplow (2013), master limited
partnerships (MLPs) are often excluded from federal
assessments of energy subsidies. MLP is a special category of business partnership structure which is dominated by oil and gas companies. MLPs avoid corporate
level incomes taxes and distribute to cash to owners
on a tax-deferred basis. This creates a disadvantage in
electric, heating and liquid fuel markets for renewables.
According to the same study related tax subsidies are
as high USD 4 billion per year in recent years. When
adding this total to existing estimates of subsidy to
conventional fuels, the total amount is nearly as high as
the levels for renewables.
5.4Cost and benefits of existing
Understanding the cost and benefits of existing policies is essential for policy-makers to be able to evaluate
these policies and ensure that necessary modifications
are done. RPS is in place in more than half of the US
states and in many for longer than half a decade. To
date, many studies have looked into the assessment
of the cost and benefits of RPS. According to Heeter
et al. (2014), average incremental RPS compliance cost
in the US was equivalent to 0.9% of the retail electricity rate, with the average ranging from 0.1% to 3.8% in
restructured markets to between -0.2% and 3.5% in
traditionally regulated states. Emission or human health
benefits of RPS policies translate to USD 4-23 per MWh
for renewable power generation, depending on the cost
value assumed in the studies surveyed. In terms of the
benefits over the lifespan of the projects, estimates
show a range between USD 22 and 30 per MWh. Finally,
wholesale price reductions of about USD 1 per MWh or
less have been achieved, or price suppression benefits
of between USD 2 and 50 per MWh.
Carley and Browne (2012) conducted a literature review
to identify to explain the reason of the widespread adoption of RPS – one of the dominant drives of renewable
power uptake. They found the causes include intrastate
environmental features, local air pollution, high power
demand growth, cost-effective wind production potential, differences in states’ natural resource endowment as
well as the role of economic and political factors such as
gross state product per capita, state legislature partisanship and ideology, and state-level citizenship ideology.
Their study also elaborates on the effectiveness of
RPS. According to some case studies, RPS results in an
uptake of renewable power generation in specific locations and it also results in competition between renewable energy producers, e.g., wind in Texas. The policy
also result in the diversification of the electricity mix
portfolio, however, in the case of California non-hydro
uptake resulting from RPS was limited. One important
finding is that RPS results in renewable energy in new
capacity investments as opposed to the substitution of
existing capacity. Hence this may result in rather mod-
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
est increases in the renewable energy share of a state’s
total energy mix. The results of a number of models
based on state-level data (from 1998 to 2006), RPS is
found to encourage renewable energy investment and
deployment (Carley, 2009). However, RPS is not in all
cases an effective instrument to result in high shares of
renewables in the energy mix of electricity.
Some states are not on track to reach their RPS targets and they are also not achieving the intermediate
benchmarks as a result of the noncompliance from participating utilities. Noncompliance is found to originate
from low financial penalties, limitations in transmission
capacity and other procurement limitations. For example, siting difficulties for new renewables capacity and
expansion of the transmission grids acted as a barrier.
One important finding is that as of 2011 more than 90%
of all new RPS was from wind. This may limit diversifying
the portfolio of generation technologies and also the future viability of technologies which are emerging today.
Many states have added carve-out and credit multiplier
features to RPS with the aim of helping diversification
and R&D which produced positive results, for example in
the cases of centralised and small-scale solar PVs.
RPS has electricity price impacts and compliance
costs. Empirical research showed that electricity price
increases are negligible or modest from RPS implementation. Palmer and Burtraw (2005) analysed the
potential effects of policies to promote renewable
sources of electricity in the US. According to their findings to 2020, RPS would raise electricity prices only
minimal and primarily reduce gas-fired generation.
A PTC would lower electricity prices at the expense
of taxpayers, which limits its effectiveness in reducing carbon emissions, and it is less cost-effective at
increasing renewables than a RPS. Chen et al. (2007)
analysed the results and methodologies of 31 distinct
state or utility-level RPS cost-impact analyses completed since 1998 which represents RPS in 20 different
states. The majority of the studies project modest cost
impacts. The results of almost three-quarters of statelevel cost studies show that RPS will have little impact
on retail electricity rates, which are expected to see
increases no greater than 1%.
According to Carley and Browne (2012), compliances
costs faced by utilities are insignificant due to the PTC,
substantial wind power potential and a sizeable RPS
target with low levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) (due
to economies of scale). For the case of solar, it is different because solar carve-out and RPS compliance costs
sometimes conflict, where obligation to install solar
increased the cost of RPS compliance. This trend is now
changing with the latest large-scale utility projects becoming more cost-competitive.
The study by Wei, Patadia and Kammen (2010) focused
on the socio-economic benefits from clean energy
technology deployment. According to the findings of
this study, aggressive energy efficiency measures combined with a 30% RPS target in 2030 can generate over
4 million job-years by 2030 while increasing nuclear
power to 25% and carbon capture and storage (CCS)
to 10% of overall generation in 2030 can yield an additional 500,000 job-years (Wei, Patadia and Kammen,
2010). The result is that renewable energy can create
seven times more jobs than a nuclear/CCS low carbon
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Key points
The US is blessed with abundant resources of
all types of renewable energy. Wind and solar
resources are some of the most abundant in the
Shifting energy consumption in the end-use sectors from fossil fuels to renewable electricity provides a means of increasing the utilisation of the
significant renewable power potential.
The US bioenergy resources account for around
a fifth of the world resource potential and the
potential equals nearly a quarter of the national
energy use,
Hydropower resources have already been used
to a significant extent though additional poten-
tial exists with upgrading potential and adding
power generation to non-powered dams
Biomass supply costs vary from USD 1 to more
than 10 per GJ depending on the type of biomass. Transportation of biomass over long distances will raise these costs as bioenergy use
6.1Renewable power generation
Table 2 provides an overview of technical potentials for
renewable energy in the power sector according to a
recent NREL assessment (2012b). With the exception
Table 2: Renewable energy resource potentials of US
Technical potential
2 232
38 066
116 146
10 955
Solar PV (rooftop)
Solar PV
(utility, urban)
1 218
Wind (onshore)
Wind (offshore)
Biopower (solid)
Biopower (gaseous)
Geothermal (EGS)
REmap 2030
REmap 2030 /
Technical potential
% of GWe % of TWh
32 784
16 976
145% 1
3 976
31 345
12010 biomass power capacity according to the EIA includes 3 GWe municipal waste and 3 GWe wood biomass and excludes plants under 1
MWe. Other estimates that include smaller plants estimate capacity around 12-15 GWe.
2 Technical potential based on the study by NREL would depend on the amount of biomass which would be available for power generation
next to other markets.
3 Comparison only of REmap Options for Hydropower and INL technical potential of non-dam/reservoir potential. No additional dam/­
reservoir Options were considered for REmap.
4 All values exclude pumped-hydro (approx. 20 GWe ) and small hydro (7 GWe )
5 Technical potential based on Hydropower & Dams (2013).
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Figure 17: Typical LCOE ranges and weighted average for renewable power technologies
Solar PV
OECD North America
Source: Based on figure in IRENA (2013d), solar PV updated in 2014
Note: Assumes a weighted average capital cost of 10%. All results presented exclude subsidies, unless explicitly mentioned. These are LCOEs
and among different approaches, LCOE is one way to examine the cost-competitiveness in a static analysis. LCOEs do not substitute for the
need to do detailed, nodal modelling of the electricity system if one wants to identify the least cost combination of new generating capacity,
type and location to achieve a least cost expansion or maintenance of the electricity system, note this should also include analysis of the
demand-side such as efficiency and demand-side management options.
of hydropower and biomass, all renewable power
technologies identified in the REmap Options fall well
below the technical potential identified by NREL. For
hydro, NREL’s assessment is below the current capacity
of nearly 80 GWe; however different assessments have
come up with much higher potentials. For example,
one assessment mentions technical and economic
hydropower potentials at 153 GWe and 100 GWe,
respectively (Hydropower & Dams, 2013).
of assessing technical resource potential is to look at the
availability of biomass. IRENA analysis determined the
US has a 19-23 EJ of supply potential, and only 16 EJ is
used in REmap, therefore the power production total
for biomass falls within the technical supply potential
according to IRENA estimates.
Hydropower resources have already been
used to a significant extent though additional
potential exists with upgrading potential and
adding power generation to non-powered
Excluded from Table 2, are tidal energy resources for
power generation which have potential ranging from 0.9
TWh/year in Western Passage, Maine up to 2.1 TWh/year
in Golden Gate California. Admiralty, Washington also
has a high estimated potential of 1.7 TWh/year (US DoE,
2009). Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
approved a ten-year license for the 600 kWe experimental tidal project at Admiralty, which will be connected to
the grid (FERC, 2014).
Biomass power also exceeds the technical potential
identified by NREL. Since biomass power production is
dependent on the amount of available fuel, another way
The US is blessed with abundant resources of
all types of renewable energy
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
In some parts of the country renewable power generation technologies can already compete with conventional generation based on cost alone. IRENA’s Renewable
Power Generation Costs report shows (see Figure 17)
that wind power can already generate electricity without subsidy for as little at USD 0.04 per kWh of LCOE
in certain areas, making it competitive with, or cheaper
than, new gas-fired generation (IRENA, 2013d; Dedrick,
Kraemer and Linden, 2014). In other parts of the country,
without the production tax credits, the US wind industry
would need to drive down costs of the projects itself to
ensure economic viability. This is especially a challenge
for the offshore wind. The European counterparts who
are more experienced in the offshore wind sector have
targeted cost reductions for 2020 which are still much
higher than the expected costs of production from gas
and other fossil fuels in the US (CEP, 2014).
6.2 Biomass supply potential
Compared to many other countries, the US is experienced in carrying out bioenergy resource assessments.
Based on the key studies available for the US (e.g., “Billion ton study”, US DoE (2011b)), Batidzirai, Smeets and
Faaij (2012) estimated the biomass supply potential for
the US for 2030 at 9.4-23.5 EJ. About 3.5-8.9 EJ (about
37% of this total) originates from lignocellusic feedstocks.
The US has large biomass resources, some of which are
underutilised such as mill and crop residues. Potentials
of forestry and agricultural residues are 2.3-4.1 EJ and
3.4-9.7 EJ, respectively (about 60% of the total). The
contribution of first generation crops is small, amounting
to 0.2-0.8 EJ (3% of the total).
IRENA has conducted a biomass supply analysis (2014c)
for the US and has come to a similar result for the high
supply potential, but with more lower end supply potential (see Table 3). According to this analysis, which
estimates the biomass supply potential of seven different biomass types for more than 100 countries, the
lower end of the supply potential for the US could be
approximately 18.9 EJ by 2030. The higher end is estimated at 22.7 EJ, including 7.5 EJ of biomass crops on
surplus agricultural land or wood/grasses crop potential
on marginal land; an additional 7.2-7.4 EJ of forestry
residue biomass resulting from logging/forest thinning
operations; agricultural crop residues as well as food
and animal waste up to 7.8 EJ by 2030. Total biomass
supply potential in the US is about 15-20% of the total
Table 3: Breakdown of total biomass supply in
Forest products incl. residues
Agricultural residues incl. animal waste
Energy crops
Total supply potential
Source: IRENA (2014c)
global biomass supply potential of 95-145 EJ (IRENA,
2014c). If all the US biomass supply potential was to be
deployed, about 20% of the US total primary energy
supply today would be provided by bioenergy.
The US bioenergy resources accounts for
around a fifth of the world resource potential
and equals nearly a quarter of the national
energy use
The price of biomass depends on the resource type,
where resource is located, where it is delivered and in
which form it is transported.
Based on an EPA report published in September 2007
(EPA, 2007), prices of primary mill residues, forest
residues and urban wood waste were among the lowest
in the US, ranging from 0.2 to 2.7 USD per GJ. In 2010,
delivered sawdust costs reached nearly USD 4 per GJ
(Sikkema et al., 2011).
In the Southeast US, wood pellet prices reached USD
9.5 per GJ in 2010 due mainly to tight feedstock supplies that pushed up pellet production costs (Sikkema et
al., 2011). Including VAT, wood pellet prices were about
USD 14.3 per GJ in 2010 (Goh et al., 2013). With financial
support for all kinds of feedstock bioenergy from the US
government, pellet production costs are expected to go
down by about USD 1 per GJ. In 2012, wood pellet prices
decreased to USD 8 per GJ (Hoefnagels, 2014).
According to the EPA report (EPA, 2007), landfill gas
and food waste gas prices were between USD 1 and 3
per GJ. The price of agricultural residues (mainly corn
stover) ranged between 3.5 and 4.2 per GJ. The prices
of forest thinning were the highest, ranging between
5.5 and 9 USD per GJ (delivered costs). More data on
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
the prices of biomass are provided in WGA (2008) and
US DoE (2011b).
According to a study which estimates the supply costs
of corn stover and switchgrass in the US, corn stover
supply costs would range from USD 2.35 to 2.8 per GJ
and switchgrass from USD 3.6 to 4.1 per GJ (compared
to the coal market price of USD 34.3 per ton, or around
USD 1.3 per GJ, in January 2008). These ranges are
explained by the differences in the transport distances.
Increasing the one-way transportation distance from
5 miles to 50 miles adds about USD 0.5 per GJ (Brechbill
and Tyner, 2008).
Different types of biomass are located in different parts
of the US. Depending on the market, location of demand
could be distributed evenly across the country (e.g.,
transport fuels), or could be concentrated in specific
regions (e.g., pulp and paper sector). Logistics (depending on the type of feedstock) could increase the supply
costs of biomass, given that distances between supply
and demand sources in the US could be long. Deployment of pre-processing technologies, including tor-
refaction, pelletisation, and pyrolysis, gain importance
as they would increase the energy density of biomass
which in turn could reduce transportation cost by more
than half (IRENA, 2014c).
In addition, to costs of logistics, predicting the future
prices of biomass is challenging. Seasonal and weather
conditions (affecting yields), increased demand for different bioenergy types from different markets (paper,
power, fuels, etc) as well as the complex relationship
with food production all have impacts on the prices of
biomass. In view of these uncertainties, cost-competitiveness of biomass relative to conventional fuels is
sensitive and can change easily, which should be considered when designing new bioenergy policies.
Biomass supply costs vary from USD 1 to
more than 10 per GJ depending on the type
of biomass. As supply and demand are not in
close proximity, transportation of biomass
over long distances will raise these costs as
bioenergy use increases
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Key points
Options have been identified that could raise US
renewable energy use in TFEC from around 5 EJ
in 2010 to over 18 EJ by 2030 (an increase from
7.5% to 27%). REmap Options are evenly split
between renewable power and renewable heat
applications (incl. liquid biofuels).
Wind and biomass would account for nearly
three-quarters of the total renewable energy
use in REmap 2030. For over two thirds of the
REmap Options that have been identified in the
power sector is related to wind. The remainder
of REmap Options is equally divided between
biomass, solar and geothermal.
Wind capacity would increase six-fold from today.
Total biomass use would increase three-fold from
today. Biomass would account for more than half
of the total renewable energy use in TFEC.
Additional biomass use potential is concentrated
in heating markets (buildings and industry).
IRENA cost projections for solar PV and CSP are
lower than those of EIA and NREL.
The total package identified reduces average energy costs by USD 0.9 per GJ for consumers or it
raises cost by USD 2.0 per GJ for society (USD 10
bln savings to USD 20 bln/year additional cost).
Cost are outweighed by estimated savings due
to external effects including avoided negative
health effects and a reduction of 1,700 Mt of CO2
per year in 2030.
There are challenges for wind and biomass related to connecting supply and demand, and costs
associated with these as well as institutional and
regulatory barriers.
The REmap analysis for the US utilises an internally
developed REmap tool that incorporates the EIA’s Reference Case for 2020 and 2030 (i.e., business as usual),
allows for localised commodity and fuel price inputs, as
well as localised renewable and conventional technology cost and performance characteristic inputs. The data,
assumptions and approach used have been summarised
above in Section 4. The tool then allows IRENA to enter
additional renewable energy options in the end-use sec-
tors of industry, buildings, and transport, as well as for
power and district heat generation.
The process for using the tool and creating the REmap
Options is as follows:
First, a Reference Case for 2020 and 2030 was
created. This was based on the 2010 IEA extended energy balance and subsequently IEA
data was updated based on the EIA’s AEO 2013
(with 2010 being the base year). The Reference
case for the period between 2010 and 2030 was
estimated based on EIA projections. The results
of this projection were explained in Section 4.
Second, commodities and fuel prices were localised based on projections provided by the EIA
AEO both for 2020 and 2030.
Third, technology cost and performance criteria
(e.g., capacity factors) were localised based on
studies provided by the EIA AEO, NREL, including the Renewable Electricity Futures Study
and Transportation Energy Futures Study, and
IRENA’s own estimates.
Lastly, additional renewable energy options for
all end-use sectors and the power sector were
analysed based on various studies and assessment and entered into the tool.
The US has a very high potential of renewable energy
utilisation because of its large size and diverse geography with strong resource intensity in many areas. The
following studies have been used to identify additional
renewable energy options beyond the Reference Case:
For the power sector, the NREL Renewable Electricity Futures Study (80% RE-ETI scenario) was
used12 (NREL, 2012a); no early retirement of power plants was considered.
For transport, the NREL Transportation Energy
Futures (TEF) study (NREL, 2013) was used13. The
12 The study assumes different energy efficiency improvement rates
and electricity consumption totals than the 2012 AEO.
13 The study assumes a different fossil fuel consumption projection
than the AEO.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
TEF scenario from the Buildings Industry Transportation Electricity Scenarios14 (BITES) tool was
used which includes biofuel, with limited electro
mobility and hydrogen fuel-cell deployment.
For the industry sector, a recent IRENA renewable energy in industry roadmap (IRENA, 2014b)
and its accompanying data was used; only renewable energy options for new capacity were
For buildings, an internal analysis of Reference
Case developments and realisable potential was
done. Energy consumption in the buildings sector is expected to decline slightly over the period,
despite growth in total floor space. For new construction occurring over that time, varying levels
of renewable energy penetration were considered. For existing building stock a system retrofit
rate of 20% a decade was considered with partial
substitution of fossil heat and cooling options
with renewables. Buildings undergoing significant retrofits assume renewable energy deployment consistent with the implementation of a
code similar to Standard 189.1 of the International
Building Code for the US building stock. These
assumptions result in a renewable technology
penetration rate of between 16-20% of installed
capacity in the building sector.
This section is divided into five sub-sections. Section 7.1
focuses on the potentials of different renewable energy
technologies in the US and also mentions the top regions with resource availability. Section 7.2 provides the
REmap Options. In Section 7.3, costs of REmap Options
are estimated and Section 7.4 presents the cost-supply
curves for the REmap Options. Section 7.5 discusses
these findings.
7.1Renewable energy
The potential of wind in the US mainly lies in the centre
of the country (the Midwest) stretching from Canada
to Texas (see Annex E for resource map). In this region,
wind speeds routinely average 8.5 meter per second
at 80 meter height. This leads to capacity factors for
onshore wind of as high as 40% or even more. The abil14 The study is available at
ity to deliver electricity to consumers from these high
resource areas which are often far from consumption
centres can prove a challenge given existing grid infrastructure. For this reason, in the analysis wind deployment has been broken down into two wind resource
categories, one with high resource (70% of capacity additions) and another with moderate wind resource (30%
of capacity additions) representative of regions closer
to the eastern US load centres. Capacity factor for the
high wind regions is assumed to be 42% by 2030, and
30% for the low-speed wind regions. A total of 290 GWe
of additional wind capacity is assumed over the REmap
period (on top of the 63 GWe in the Reference Case in
2030). Onshore wind will increase to 314 GWe in REmap.
For offshore wind, an additional 40 GWe is assumed over
the period on top of the 2 GWe in the reference case. Total offshore and onshore will total 356 GWe. This growth
is based on NREL results assuming 290 GWe (of which
11 GWe is wind offshore) by 2030 and also includes additional wind capacity of around 65 GWe (30 GWe of which
is offshore wind) due to increases in electrification in the
end-use sectors identified in the REmap analysis. The
result is total wind capacity of around 356 GWe (42 GWe
offshore). In order to meet the increases that were analyzed by NREL, around 13 GWe/year of newly installed
capacity need to be installed, to meet the increased
electrification needs identified in REmap in the end-use
sectors, and additional 3 GWe/year would be required, in
total around 16 GWe/year of additional onshore/offshore
wind would need to be installed. This is higher than the
US Wind Vision scenario which suggests that 10% of
the US electricity demand would be supplied by wind
by 2020, 20% by 2035 and 35% by 2050. This requires
a growth in installed capacity of around 10 GW/year
in the near term realising a total installed capacity of
210-230 GWe by 2030 (US DoE, 2014a).
Solar PV/CSP
In the west/southwest solar irradiance levels of +5 kWh/
m2/day (see Annex E for resource map) result in capacity factor of over 22% for some utility based PV projects. The solar resource in the US differs significantly
between regions so a differentiation was made for the
REmap analysis between two areas: solar PV systems in
high (Southwest/West US, representing 50% capacity
additions) and lower solar irradiance (South/Midwest/
Northeast US, representing 50% capacity additions)
regions, the latter with a capacity factor of 18%. Capacity factors for solar PV for residential applications are
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Figure 18: Factor increase in power capacity over 2012 for solar PV and wind for 2030, reference case and
Factor Growth by 2030 (over 2012)
Solar PV
Solar PV
2030 Reference Case
17% and 14%, respectively. An additional 110 GWe in the
2010-2030 period (on top of the 24 GWe in the Reference Case in 2030) was assumed in REmap 2030. This
includes an additional 73 GWe as analyzed by the NREL
study, plus an additional 38 GWe to meet electrification
needs in the end-use sectors identified in the REmap
analysis. In total by 2030, 135 GWe of solar PV would
be installed, representing an installation rate of around
7 GWe per year. This growth is similar to experiences in
China, Germany and Japan showing that more growth in
solar PV in the US seems possible (see Figure 18).
CSP also plays an important role in certain regions of
the US, particularly the Southwest where it also has high
potential. An additional 1.4 GWe on top of the 1 GWe in
the Reference Case has been assumed.
The US also has some of the best geothermal potential
in the world. Primarily centred on the western region,
deep enhanced geothermal systems can provide a geothermal resource exceeding 150° Celsius (203° Fahren­
heit) (see Annex E for map). Additionally geothermal
heat pumps can be used in buildings and industry for
low temperature heat. In the power sector, an additional
Solar PV
Solar PV
REmap 2030
18 GWe has been assumed on top of the 6 GWe present
in the Reference Case. 210 PJ of additional heat provided
by geothermal heat pumps has been assumed.
As discussed earlier in Section 6, the US has substantial
biomass potential in the form of crop, forest and mill
residues, and still unrealised waste and landfill methane
emissions potential. The US already produces significant amount of biofuels from crops, and the potential
with new processes to produce advanced bioethanol
from agricultural waste, or other cellulosic feedstocks
is high. Primary biomass potential used either in power
generation or for heat production is also substantial
and currently underutilised (see maps in Annex E). The
regions with the most potential are in the Midwest for
crops, and the West/South for forest residues. An additional 52 GWe of biomass power generation (including
CHP used in industry) has been assumed on top of the
24 GWe present in the Reference Case, and an additional
3.5 EJ of solid biomass use in industry and buildings
has been assumed on top of the 2.5 EJ in place in the
Reference Case. Similarly, an additional 1.6 EJ of liquid
biofuels have been assumed on top of the 1.6 EJ in the
Reference Case. With new regulations addressing the
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
coal-based power generation, biomass co-firing (especially with wood pellets) is expected to gain a larger
market share (Goh et al., 2013).
Reference Case assumes a total hydro capacity of
79 GWe, and an additional 35 GWe has been included
under the REmap Options (capacity factor 44%).
Figure 19 shows total primary bioenergy demand based
on REmap 2030 reaches 15.7 EJ per year, which based
on IRENA’s estimates would represent between 70%
and 85% of the total supply potential. Almost 40%
would be consumed for the production of biofuels. This
would be followed by the demand in industry.
According to an assessment by US DoE of every twomile stream segment for its potential to deploy small
scale hydropower across the US, there are more than
500,000 viable sites where small scale hydropower
can be deployed to produce more than 100 GWe power
(Kosnik, 2010).
Total biomass demand in REmap 2030 would
require 70-85% of the total supply potential
with 40% of the total demand estimated for
the transport sector
The US has ocean potential along all its coastlines, but in
particular along the western coast ranging from northern California through Washington State and towards
Canada and Alaska.
Hydro/Marine Hydrokinetic
Additional Potentials
Hydropower in the US is currently the largest source the
renewable power generation; however it is expected to
be overtaken by wind power due to limited new realisable potential of large scale hydroelectric power plants.
Additional potential was assumed to include mainly
retrofitting and upgrading turbines at existing dams, the
addition of power generation facilities at non-powered
dams, and some new run-of-river hydro projects. The
The detailed results of the supply assessment for renewable power generation for the REmap Options can be
found in Annex C at the end of this study.
The analysis can still be expanded to include additional
renewable energy options, particularly in buildings and
industry where no comprehensive accelerated renewable energy scenarios are available. In industry, retrofits
Figure 19: Primary bioenergy demand by sector with REmap Options, 2030
Power Sector,
4.0 EJ
6.2 EJ
Total 15.7 EJ/year
Industry and
Buildings, 0.8 EJ
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
4.7 EJ
for biomass medium/high temperature process heat,
and solar thermal and geothermal for low/medium
temperature heat could be considered. In the buildings,
higher retrofit rates for low temperature geothermal/
aerothermal heat-pumps and solar thermal heating systems could be considered. In the transport sector, additional electromobility and modal shifts (to electric bus
or rail) could be considered. And in the power sector,
consideration could be made to increase the renewable
energy uptake based on changes in renewable energy
technology costs within the last couple of years since
the NREL Renewable Electricity Futures Study was
released. Additionally renewable hybrid power systems
with integration with natural gas generation could be
7.2Roadmap table and
implications for renewable
REmap results in a significant increase in the amount
of renewable energy consumed in total final energy. In
2010 a little under 5,000 PJ of renewable energy was
consumed in the US. Around 70% was in the form of
biomass, including biofuels and biogas. The only other
sizable contributions were from renewable electricity
in the form of hydro and wind. In the Reference Case
for 2030 an additional 2,000 PJ of renewable energy
will be consumed with the largest increase in absolute
terms occurring in biomass, however strong growth
of over 100% increase will be seen in wind and over a
10 fold increase in solar PV. The Reference Case from
the EIA AEO likely underestimates renewable energy
growth in the power sector, and given recent market
developments in wind and solar, it is likely that these
two technologies will see significantly higher growth by
2030 under business-as-usual.
The REmap Options show that considerably more deployment of renewable energy is possible. Renewable
energy in TFEC could nearly triple to 18 EJ compared
to the Reference Case (6.8 EJ). Figure 20 shows the anticipated increase for each renewable energy resource.
The largest growth is seen in absolute terms in biomass.
Nonetheless, although biomass may still be the largest
source of renewable energy in REmap 2030, wind, solar
and geothermal actually show the highest growth rates.
Wind power accounts for two thirds of the
REmap Options identified in the power
sector. The remainder is equally divided
between biomass, solar and geothermal
Total hydropower capacity increases by about 35 GWe
between 2010 and REmap 2030, from 78 GWe to 114
GWe. Compared to the development in hydropower
Figure 20: Increases in renewable energy consumption in TFEC by resource
Renewable energy in TFEC (PJ/year)
2030 Reference Case
REmap 2030
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Table 4: Breakdown of renewable energy share by sector
Renewable Share of:
Reference Case 2030
RE use REmap
2030 (EJ/
as % of:
Heat consumption
Heat, Electricity & DH
Sector TFEC
Heat consumption
Heat, Electricity & DH
Sector TFEC
Fuel consumption
Fuels & Electricity
District Heat
capacity between 2000 and 2010 of only few GWe additions, this is a large increase. However this increase will
include run-of-river and upgrades of current capacity
with more efficient turbine systems and the powering
of unpowered dams.
Table 4 and Figure 19 show the breakdown of renewable
energy end use by consuming sector. Note that biomass
as an energy source can be used for power, transport
fuels, and heat applications biomass technologies can
provide energy services in all sectors. Therefore most
of the growth in biomass is therefore not in the power
sector, rather in the form of biofuels and residue combustion for heating used in industry.
Options have been identified that can raise
the renewable energy use in TFEC from
around 5 EJ in 2010 to 18 EJ by 2030. REmap
Options are evenly split between renewable
power and renewable heat applications
(including liquid biofuels)
Figure 22 shows how the REmap Options would change
the primary energy fuel mix in 2030, with renewable
energy replacing other (“conventional”) energy sources.
Depending on how the conversion of renewable energy
to primary energy is calculated, renewables will either
become the largest or second largest contributor
of energy services in total primary energy demand
Figure 21: Breakdown of renewables by application and sector in final energy, 2010 and REmap 2030
Biomass Heat Industry*
Heat 44%
Biofuels Transport
Transport Fuels
Biomass Power
Biomass Heat / District
Heat Buildings 11.5%
Geothermal Heat 0.2%
Power 44%
Biomass Heat
Heat 38%
Fuels 18%
Solar PV 4.7%
Power 32%
Biogas Power
REmap 2030 - 18 EJ
Geothermal Power
CSP 0.1%
Geothermal Power 1.0%
Power secto
Wind 6.5%
2010 - 5 EJ
CSP 0.1%
Solar PV 0.3%
Biomass Heat /
District Heat Buildings
Geothermal Heat 0.1%
Solar Thermal Heat
Biomass Power 7.9%
Solar Thermal Heat 2.0%
Biofuels Transport 17.4%
Biogas Power 0.4%
Other- end-use 1.5%
*incl. combined heat and power and district heat
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Primary Energyy use in 2030 (EJ/year)
Figure 22: How renewables offset fossil fuels in REmap 2030 compared to Reference Case, 2030
20% Reduction
150% Increase
9% Reduction
130% Increase
58% Reduction
22% Reduction
Natural Gas
Primary energy use in 2013
Reduction in REmap 2030
RE low
RE high
Increase in REmap 2030
Note: Primary energy use for the analysis of the US is estimated based on TFEC and primary energy use in power generation; it includes
energy derived from blast furnaces and coke ovens and it excludes non-energy use as well as energy for industry own-uses, for oil and gas
extraction and for oil refineries.
(TPED)15. The renewable energy high calculation uses
the EIA partial substitution method while renewable
energy low calculation uses the IEA physical energy
content method. These do not represent different cases,
or levels of renewable energy consumption, rather
differences in converting renewable electricity and heat
into primary equivalents.
In primary terms renewable energy is increased between 130-150% over the 2030 Reference Case, representing a renewable energy share in TPED of 27%
for “RE low” or 34% for “RE high”. Coal sees the most
significant reduction with 58% fuel savings to just over
12 EJ of primary fuel to become the second lowest contributor to primary energy just above nuclear (which is
presented in physical energy content terms, comparable
then to renewable energy low). Natural gas sees the
second largest reduction in absolute terms, however
it only represents a 20% in fuel savings. Oil remains
the largest, or second largest if using the substitution
15 There are different methods applied to estimate the total primary
energy demand. The two applied in this study are the “physical
energy content” and “substitution” methods. The physical energy
content method is used by the IEA and Eurostat where renewable
electricity and biofuels are counted as primary energy as they appear in the form of secondary energy, while geothermal, CSP and
nuclear are counted using average process efficiencies to convert
them into primary energy equivalents. The substitution method is
used by the US EIA and BP where renewable electricity and heat
are converted into primary energy using the average efficiency of
the fossil fuel power and heat plants which would otherwise be
required to produce these quantities.
method, contributor of primary energy and sees only a
9% reduction.
Table 5 provides more detail about the evolution of the
energy system as envisioned in this study, including
2010 (the analysis base year), 2030 Reference Case,
and REmap 2030. The renewable energy share in TFEC
grows from 7% in 2010 to only 11% in 2030 according to
the Reference Case.
Implementing all REmap Options (see Sections 6.1-6.5)
can raise the renewable energy share to 27% in REmap
2030. This will result in total renewable energy use
of 18.1 EJ/year by 2030. This consists of 3.1 EJ liquid
biofuels, 6.8 EJ renewables for heat in end-use sectors
and 9.1 EJ renewable power generation. Electrification
in end-use sectors results in additional power generation of 250 TWh/year in REmap 2030 compared to the
Reference Case, i.e., 7% additional electricity demand.
Biofuels used in transport will total 3.2 EJ, with 40%
coming from advanced biofuels.
The share of renewable power generation grows to 48%
in REmap 2030. This includes 26% variable power (based
on generation). Growth in the power sector’s renewable
energy share is substantial compared to the Reference
Case. This is mainly due to growth in wind (nearly 980
TWh), with both biomass (including biogas) and solar
PV adding around 200 TWh each, followed by hydro
and geothermal with around 140 TWh each. In terms of
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Table 5: US REmap 2030 Overview
1. Electricity generation
­ apacity
Reference Case 2030
REmap 2030
Hydropower (excl. pumpyed hydro)
Wind Onshore
Wind Offshore
Biomass (incl. CHP)
Solar PV
Solar CSP
1 154
Solar PV
Solar CSP
Solar water heater / cooling
Geothermal energy for heating
Biomass residential
Biomass industrial
1 529
2 060
5 077
2 212
2 810
6 877
Electric vehicles (EV, PHEV)
Electric vehicles
1 196
1 567
3 108
4 129
4 868
5 224
64 150
66 678
65 688
Renewable gas, heat and fuel
3 410
4 478
9 985
All renewable energy
5 105
6 812
18 100
Ratio-renewables to TFEC
Total TPED – Partial substitution method
89 900
95 100
88 400
Renewable primary fuels or equivalent
7 700
11 800
29 800
Ratio-renewable to TPED
Total TPED – Physical energy content method
90 300
95 550
86 124
Renewable primary fuels or equivalent
6 130
10 120
22 900
Ratio-renewable to TPED
2. Heat Supply
3. Vehicle
4. Ratio of electricity generation
Gross power generation
Generation ratio of renewables
5. Ratio of Total Final Energy Consumption
6. Ratio of Total Primary Energy Demand
1 Based on US EIA AEO 2013; the AEO 2014 has revised up the reference case to 77 GWe, however only after the preparation of this analysis.
This includes 14 GWe of wind projects under construction as of second quarter of 2014, but the additional estimated 26 GWe is in planning
stages is excluded from the AEO 2014 projections.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
(the right y- axis)
(the left y-axis)
Solar CSP
Solar PV
Installed capacity (GWe)
Installed capacity (GWe)
Figure 23: Power capacity by renewable energy technology
2030 Reference Case
capacity, wind increases by almost six fold to 365 GW
(incl. 42 GWe offshore) in REmap 2030 compared to
63 GWe in Reference Case (see note 2 in Table 5). This
increase is also being driven by increased electrification
in the end-use sectors, which is supplied with renewable
electricity coming from wind (70%) and solar PV (30%).
It is mainly coal capacity that is being replaced; there
is 189 GWe less coal capacity in REmap 2030. For more
detail see the summary tables in Annex F.
Wind power accounts for almost two thirds of
the REmap Options that has been identified
in the power sector. The remainder is divided
between biomass, solar and geothermal
Figure 23 provides an overview of capacity developments based on the REmap options. Wind, solar PV and
geothermal offer the greatest growth in capacity terms,
with growth potential in REmap 2030 around five times
greater than the projected capacity in 2030 according
to the Reference Case.
REmap 2030
The renewable energy share ranges between 13 and
39% in end-use sectors. This growth is mainly from
biomass. Primary biomass demand in the US nearly
triples from 6 EJ in 2010 to more than 16 EJ in REmap
2030 if all REmap Options are deployed (demand
in all sectors). About three-quarters of this total is
demand from the end-use sectors. 6.2 EJ is required
as raw biomass for the production of liquid biofuels
of 3.1 EJ (based on a 50% conversion efficiency of
raw biomass to final product). 5.1 EJ is demand for
industrial process heat generation. 0.8 EJ is required
for heating in the building sector. The remainder 4 EJ is
demand for power generation in industrial CHP plants
and power-alone main activity plants. Total biomass
demand would be 70-85% of the total biomass supply
potential of 19-22.7 EJ (IRENA, 2014c). This outcome
indicates that raising the renewable energy share in the
US will require the deployment of a substantial amount
of its domestic biomass resources. Moreover as the
US continues to be an exporter of various bioenergy
commodities, utilisation may well reach the limits of
supply and raise the cost.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Total biomass use would increase three-fold
from today. Biomass would account for more
than half of the total renewable energy use
The contribution of non-biomass renewable energy
technologies to heat supply in the building and industry
sectors is relatively lower, solar thermal at 1 EJ and geothermal at 0.4 EJ. Although their contribution is less, the
growth in capacity for both is substantial. Solar thermal
grows by a factor 10 and geothermal grows by a factor
40 between 2010 and 2030. Solar thermal capacity in
2030 would reach more than 310 GWth (or 450 million
square meters). This is as much as the solar thermal
capacity installed worldwide today.
The number of EVs increases to 1 million per year only in
Reference Case by 2030. According to REmap Options,
the total number can be increased by another 26 million in
the same year, to a total of 27 million vehicles on the road.
Of this total 21 million will be PHEVs, and 6 million being
all electric. The amount of additional electricity needed to
power these vehicles would total almost 150 TWh per year
– 60% of the additional 250 TWh of power demand resulting from electrification. It is assumed that this demand will
be met by renewable power sources.
7.3Renewable energy technology
cost projections
Table 6 provides an overview of current and projected
LCOE for new capacity plants LCOE of existing plants
are excluded from this figure16). Both the EIA and a summary of LCOE projections completed by NREL project
that natural gas combined-cycle generation will decline
from around an USD 70 per MWh from 2008-2012 to
between USD 55-65 per MWh in 2020 and 2030 (see
also Box 1). However it is assumed that REmap Options
will not substitute natural gas based generation, rather a
portfolio representing advance coal and nuclear, both of
which are projected to remain around USD 95 per MWh
according to the EIA.
According to EIA, NREL or IRENA projections, many
renewable energy technologies will be able to compete
based on LCOE with advanced coal and nuclear power
16 REmap substitution does not require early retirement of capital
stock, so comparisons of cost to existing plants is not made.
by 2030, if not sooner. Renewable energy technologies
such as onshore wind and solar PV (utility) are projected
even to compete with natural gas based generation
(these estimates do not include any subsidies). In 2030,
utility scale solar PV could be the cheapest, followed
by wind onshore with high wind resource and natural
gas. However, it should be noted that costs related to
the integration of variable renewable are outside the
scope of this study, and according to the IEA this could
add between USD 5 and USD 25 per MWh (IEA, 2014).
These additional costs, depending on whether they
are on the low or high end, could have an effect on the
ranking of power generation costs. It should also be
noted, however, that rooftop solar PV is one of the only
technologies that can produce electricity directly at
points of consumption, so a comparison with wholesale
power costs are not appropriate. Rather if viewed from
a “plug-parity perspective” i.e., against the price of retail
electricity, rooftop solar PV costs are around USD 0.09
per kWh, which provides a saving when compared to retail rate of USD 0.11-0.15 per kWh. It shows that solar PV,
wind onshore (both high and low resource) and landfill
gas also result in cost savings.
By 2030 onshore wind and utility scale solar
PV will be the cheapest power generation
In the buildings and industry sectors, the outlook is
more challenging for renewable energy technologies.
(See Annex D for an overview of these sector end-use
costs). Due to the increased supply of domestic natural
gas, and a continued low price of both household and
industry natural gas, many types of renewable energy
technologies that provide space heating, or process
heat, will find it hard to compete based on price alone..
Exceptions may be made where solar cooling technologies or heat pumps can replace air conditioning
(particularly important during times of peak demand),
areas where a high solar resource can take advantage of
solar heating, or where biomass supply is ample and can
provide co-generation of heat and power.
In the transport sector the outlook for renewable energy
is strong. Since US oil is a benchmark for international
crude oil pricing, the price per barrel in the US does
not deviate much from the increases seen around the
world. The EIA projects the price to increase to USD 138
per barrel by 2030, which translates to a price for pet-
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Table 6: Comparison of LCOE for power sector technologies
IRENA 20132
EIA 20193
Hydro, run-of-river
Wind onshore
NREL 20304
REmap 20305
Wind onshore, low wind
Wind offshore
Solar PV (Rooftop)
Solar PV (Utility)
Solar PV (Rooftop), low
solar irradiance
Solar PV (Utility), low solar
Solar CSP PT storage
Biomass steam cycle
Landfill gas ICE
Coal, US weighted cost
Nuclear, US weighted cost
Coal (pulverised, scrubbed)
Coal – IGCC
Coal – IGCC with CCS
Natural Gas (combined
Natural Gas – with CCS
1 NREL Transparent cost database, average 2008-2012, Assumes a discount rate of 7%.
2 Assumes a discount rate of 10%.
3 (2014 estimates). Assumes a real after tax weighted average cost of capital
of 6.5%
4 Page 38 (converted to 2010 USD with 5% inflation), average of 6 projections, all projections
made around 2009 for 2030 and some, such as solar PV, are outdated. Assumes a discount rate of 7%.
5 Assumes a national discount rate of 7%.
6 NREL assumes that starting in about 2015, based on the AEO data set nuclear capital costs start to decline in over time, with projected
costs falling below USD 2,500 per KWh by 2030.
rol increasing from USD 23 in 2010 to USD 32 USD per
GJ in 2030 (USD 3.02 – 4.22 per gallon) – an increase
of around 50% assuming no increases in the gasoline
(petrol) tax. The price pressure that this will bring to
petroleum based transport will enable many types of
alternative transport technologies or fuels to compete
on a cost-basis. However, because many alternatives exist ranging from biofuels (conventional and advanced),
to hydrogen, biomethane, electromobility, and because
there are infrastructure costs associated with increased
uptake, the cost structure of these technologies are still
hard to estimate. What is clear, however, is that most of
these technologies pose realistic potential to compete
with gasoline (petrol) use in transport on a cost-basis
according to the methodology applied and the cost
data (capital and operation and maintenance (O&M)
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
costs, energy prices and discount rates) used in this
supply curve is not used to develop the REmap 2030,
but it is a representation of the REmap Options which
have been selected.
7.4Summary of REmap Options:
cost-supply curves
The REmap Options are a portfolio of technologies of
accelerated renewable energy deployment in the power,
district heat, and end-use sectors of buildings, industry
and transport. This portfolio is not an allocation of the
global additional potential based on the GDP of the US
and the other 25 REmap countries, nor does it represent extrapolations. Further technology portfolios can
be generated based on the different understanding of
the parameters that constitute REmap Options or other
studies looking at the specific case of the US.
The previous sections have discussed the technology
options and the technology cost. In this section, the
options are aggregated into an overall potential curve,
and they are ranked in terms of their cost effectiveness.
The cost-supply curve displays an approximate representation for the realistic potential of renewable energy
technologies – the REmap Options – which can be deployed by 2030 on top of the Reference Case. The cost
The results of the analysis are shown in the cost-supply
curves in Figure 24 through Figure 27. This includes
Figure 24: REmap Options cost supply curve, business perspective, by resource
Solar PV
Average substitution cost (USD2010/GJ TFEC)
Wind onshore
Wind offshore
Solar thermal
Biomass traditional
Biomass other
Transport with renewable electricity
12 13
Average Weighted
Cost of
(-0.9 USD/GJ)
15 16
Renewable energy share in total final energy consumption (%)
See Annex C for the numbered technologies.
Note: The purple bars represent electrification technologies. The substitution costs of these technologies include their annualised capital
(e.g., EV ownership cost), O&M and energy costs vs those of their conventional counterparts (e.g., ICE passenger car running with gasoline).
It is also assumed that each additional electrification technology will result in renewable power generation capacity investments; hence, it
is assumed they consume electricity from renewable sources only. These costs are included via the electricity prices that account for the
changes in the US power generation mix. As opposed to depicting the energy demand technologies (e.g., EV, heat pumps), bars for electrification technologies could also be represented by the renewable electricity supply technologies which consists of 70% wind and 30% solar
PV in the case of the US.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
two sets of curves: one based on local costs (business
perspective) that incorporate the local cost of capital
(7% discount rate), commodity prices that include local
taxes or subsidies, and technology cost and performance characteristics; and another (government perspective) based on standard international commodities
costs (with differentiation made for coal and natural
gas between export and import countries) and a fixed
10% discount rate. The former reflects factors likely to
influence private investment decisions; the latter with
factors more relevant to government decisions on policy
and spending. Each of these two curves is presented
twice, once colored by resource and once by sector.
The localised cost supply curves are used to examine
the economic cost and financial savings potential of
increased renewable energy uptake, the standard international curve is used when considering R&D needs,
comparing renewable potential and costs across regions
or globally and it also provides insight into cost differences between the US and global markets resulting
from policy decisions such as energy taxation.
cost options on the right side; however the figure gives
a perspective of the entire country. Decision makers
may assume that options represented by individual
blocks in the supply curve are homogenous in terms of
substitution costs. However, the blocks represent averages based on the assumed deployments in the REmap
2030. The cost curve should not be misinterpreted as a
series of steps from left to right, in order of costs that
can be chosen or not chosen in isolation; rather, there
are synergies and interactions, and all of these options
need to be exercised together to achieve this level of
costs and the indicated renewable energy shares. For instance, some options produce savings or improvements
in efficiency that help reduce the costs of more expensive options below those that would exist otherwise.
The focus on the cheapest individual options will not
result in the least expensive overall transition; achieving
that requires a holistic approach, and only when all of
these options are pursued simultaneously can the share
of renewables in TFEC of US be raised to 27% by 2030
according to this study.
Decision makers will be tempted to pick low-cost options, from the left end of the curve, and to skip high-
In Figure 25 the same curve is displayed but with the
technologies coloured by sector. This curve shows that
Figure 25: REmap Options cost supply curve, business perspective, by sector
Average substitution cost (USD2010/GJ TFEC)
Transport with renewable electricity
12 13
Average Weighted
Cost of
(-0.9 USD/GJ)
15 16
20 21
Renewable energy share total final energy consumption (%)
See Annex C for the numbered technologies.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Average substitution cost (USD2010 /GJ TFEC)
Figure 26: REmap Options cost supply curve, government perspective, by resource
Solar PV
Wind onshore
Wind offshore
Solar thermal
Transport with renewable electricity
Biomass traditional
Biomass other
Average Weighted Cost of
Substitution (2 USD/GJ)
10 11
14 15
Renewable energy share in total final energy consumption (%)
See Annex C government perspective for the numbered technologies.
the additional potential lies largely in power, industry
and transportation biofuels.
Figure 26 and Figure 27 are the REmap cost-supply
curves for the US based on standardised international
commodity price estimates (which exclude the effects
of taxation or subsidy) and a 10% discount rate. The
curve is significantly different from the localised one,
resulting from the changes relating to the discount
rate (10% versus 7%), and higher natural gas, coal and
biomass prices. In addition to showing cost differences
driven by commodity prices that are locked into a local
market (such as natural gas), this curve also shows the
effects of price difference resulting from subsidies and
taxes on energy and how they can affect technology
deployment. This curve is also used to look at regional
and international contexts when comparing the results
from the US.
For the REmap cost-supply curves, the Reference Case
growth in renewable energy from 2010-2030 is shown
by first horizontal bar, which is coloured based on
resource. The resource coloring is consistent with the
deployment of renewable energy seen in the Reference
Case. The results of the REmap analysis and accelerated
deployment of renewable energy (the REmap Options)
is plotted in the curve as coloured bars showing the additional potential of each technology (on the x-axis) and
the average incremental cost of substitution of deploying that technology in lieu of a conventional variant (on
the y-axis). The Reference Case already includes some
significant expansion of renewable resources: wind and
solar already see growth in the Reference Case and their
incremental potential is lower in the REmap Options. In
the US, renewable energy in TFEC is expected to grow
from 7% in 2010 to around 10% by 2030.
The conventional variants for these REmap Options are
generally petroleum (gasoline or diesel) for transport
technologies and natural gas for both buildings and
industry applications (with an exception for heating oil
in buildings). For power production an average wholesale power production price of USD 0.09 per kWh was
used, based on a weighted average as follows: 6% new
nuclear, 5% advanced coal CCS, and the remaining 89%
EPA compliant conventional coal17.
17 Flue gas desulfurization/dry sorbent injection are required for
compliance with the EPA MATS standard.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Average substitution cost (USD2010 /GJ TFEC)
Figure 27: REmap Options cost supply curve, government perspective, by sector
Transport with renewable electricity
Average Weighted Cost of
Substitution (2 USD/GJ)
14 15
17 18
Renewable energy share in total final energy consumption (%)
See Annex C government perspective for the numbered technologies.
The total package identified reduces average
energy cost by USD 0.9 per GJ for consumers
The results from the REmap cost-supply curves show
that the majority of REmap Options identified, if viewed
from a business perspective (national prices), could be
deployed at a cost-savings when compared to natural gas, coal or oil alternatives (see Annex C). Table 7
shows the average cost of substitution for each sector. If
viewed from a business perspective the REmap Options
result in cost-savings of USD 0.9 per GJ, led by cost
competitive renewables deployment in the industry and
power sectors (large amount of biomass residues in industry; onshore wind, solar PV (utility), and geothermal
in the power sector). If viewed from the perspective of
governments (international prices), the cost of substitu-
Cost-curve results by sector and technology
The results in Figure 24 are dependent on projections
of technology cost and fuel prices. An overview of the
assumptions underlying these projections is available in
Annex A-D. The technology option mix and costs vary
according to sector. Costs associated with the Reference
Case are not quantified as they are part of expected energy system developments and outside the boundaries
of the REmap analysis.
Table 7: Overview of the average cost of ­substitution of REmap Options for the US
Business Perspective
(national prices)
Government Perspective
(international prices)
Average of all sectors
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
tion increases to USD 2.0 per GJ, assuming the removal
of tax on fossil fuels (since biomass is taxed relatively little and other renewable energy technologies that have
no fuel demand are not effect by fuel taxes) and a high
discount rate of 10% (most renewable energy technologies have higher capital costs).
For power generation geothermal, solar PV, wind (onshore) are all cost competitive and result in cost-savings
when compared to the average weighted cost of conventional generation. Wind onshore results in cost savings in both high and low resource areas. Wind offshore
results is only a slight incremental cost of USD 1.2 per
GJ, similar to hydro at around USD 1 per GJ. Geothermal
power is cost competitive, but only slightly with around
USD 1 per GJ in cost savings. Solar PV can result in
cost savings both in utility scale in both high and low
resource areas, and rooftop scale is cost competitive in
high resource areas and but has a low incremental cost
in areas with lower solar intensity. It should be noted,
however, that rooftop PV is one of the only technologies that can produce electricity directly at points of
consumption, so a comparison with wholesale power
is not appropriate. Rather if viewed from a “plug-parity
perspective” i.e., against the price of retail electricity,
rooftop solar PV costs around USD 0.09 power kWh,
which provides a saving when compared to retail rate
of USD 0.11-0.15 per kWh.
In the industry sector the renewable potential is largely
found in biomass and some limited solar thermal applications (compared to natural gas-fired systems).
Biomass CHP results in cost-savings (USD -2.7 per GJ)
when using residues as a fuel. However, direct heat applications with biomass for high-temperature process
heat, results in an incremental substitution cost of
around USD 6 per GJ. The deployment potential of low
temperature process heat from solar thermal is limited
even though it results in only slightly higher incremental
costs (USD 2.6 per GJ). All renewable energy technologies in industry substituted natural gas based heating
and process heat systems.
In the building sector the potential identified of REmap
Options for buildings is limited, although many of the
technologies are cost-competitive (compared to a mix
of petroleum and natural gas heating systems). Biomass
heat (pellets) is cost competitive when compared to fuel
oil based heating, which is common in the northeast of
the US, but not with gas. Solar cooling results in an in-
cremental cost (USD 11 per GJ) when compared against
electric cooling (air conditioners). Both geothermal and
aerothermal (air-to-air) heat pumps cost slightly more
(USD 1-9 per GJ) due to their high capital costs, but
these technologies are significantly more energy efficient. Solar thermal heat results in only slightly higher
costs (USD/GJ), even when compared to low priced
natural gas.
In the transport sector biofuels remain cost competitive
with a large potential of second generation bioethanol
that results in cost savings. First generation bioethanol
has limited potential due to increases already seen in
the Reference Case and results in slight positive cost of
substitution. Electromobility has significant potential,
though appearing small in energy consumption terms,
is actually large when based on passenger miles. This is
due to the high efficiency of electricity-based vehicles
relative to their petroleum-based equivalents. An electric vehicle can travel 2-3 times the distance using the
same amount of energy as a gasoline vehicle where half
or more of the physical energy is lost in combustion.
Both electro-mobility and hydrogen fuel cells show
positive costs of substitution. However this is the result
of an assumption of the capital cost for these types of
vehicles being higher than their conventional variants.
An important note with all electrification technologies
is that they shift fuel consumption to the power sector, and increases in electricity demand resulting from
this shift are met with new renewable power capacity,
according to the REmap methodology. The effects of a
higher share of renewable power on wholesale power
generation costs are taken into account.
Benefits of REmap Options
In addition to economic arguments for increased renewable energy deployment, there is also strong environmental one. In fact, environmental considerations,
particularly for CO2 mitigation, are the driving force
behind government interest in RE. The REmap Options
would result in an estimated reduction of 1.6 gigatonnes
(Gt) of CO2 by (Table 8) reducing emissions from over
5.5 GT to 3.9 Gt. The largest decrease would occur in the
power sector where 95% of the TWh of REmap Options
renewable electricity generation would replace coalfired power. If all REmap Options were fully deployed,
the US could reduce its CO2 related emissions from
energy combustion by 30% over the 2030 Reference
Case. President Obama has pledged to reduce CO2
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Table 8: Development of US CO2 emissions, 2010-2030
Reference Case 2030
REmap 2030
Total Avoided
2 369
2 364
1 188
1 176
1 904
1 772
1 586
5 604
5 547
3 909
1 639
Power and district heat generation
Total emissions from fossil fuel
c­ ombustion for energy services
emissions by 17% from their 2005 levels by 2020 (White
House, 2013a). In 2005 CO2 emissions from energy
consumption were around 5.8 Gt, and in 1990 around
5 Gt. In REmap 2030 they would be 3.9 Gt and would
therefore represent a reduction of 33% over 2005 levels,
and around 22% over 1990 levels. With increased energy
efficiency measures, these reductions would be even
Emission intensity of the power generation mix would
reach 232 grams CO2 per kWh (g CO2/kWh) by 2030.
Compared to the Reference Case this is a reduction
of more than half, and compared to 2010 level (575 g
CO2/kWh) it is approximately 60%. EPA targets a
reduction of 30% compared to 2005 level (595 g CO2/
kWh) which is also met with REmap Options, but also
partly from switching to less emission intensive fossil
fuels in the Reference Case such as natural gas instead
of coal.
There are also socio-economic benefits of increasing the
share of renewables. According to IRENA’s estimates,
about 6.5 million people were already employed in 2013
in the renewable energy industry worldwide (IRENA,
2014e), a number which, according to REmap 2030,
could reach 16 million (in cumulative job-years) by 2030.
This implies an equivalent of 0.9 additional jobs which
could be created in the global renewable energy sector
(IRENA, 2014a). Given that a large share of the global
renewable energy use estimated in 2030 would be in
the US, the country can benefit from these additional
jobs created.
Today, the renewable energy sector of the US employs
612,000 people. A third of this total is employed in
liquid biofuel production, and one-quarter in the solid
biomass sector (IRENA, 2014e). By 2010, the US wind
industry employed more workers (85,000) than the
coal mining industry (80,000) (NRCD, 2014). The
supply chain of jobs is spread across 560 facilities in
43 states (US DoE, 2014a). Bioenergy industry in the
US also contributed to the creation of many jobs. The
supply chain of the ethanol industry, for example, employed in total 386,500 people in 2013. Direct (86,500)
and indirect (87,000) jobs accounted for 45% of this
total (ABF, 2014). US Wind Vision (US DoE, 2014a)
envisages a growth in wind-related direct jobs of
233,000 and another 175,000 induced jobs by 2030.
The REmap Options identified in the US result in a small
incremental cost of substitution from a government
perspective. The result is an incremental system cost18 of
USD 13-20 billion in 2030 (Table 9). System cost calculations from a government perspective exclude energy
taxes and subsidies, and use a standard 10% discount
rate for capital investment. Incremental system cost
does not include benefits related to reductions of air
pollution (health) and CO2 emissions. If such externalities are included, and depending on how these are valued, full deployment of the REmap Options could result
in estimated reduced health costs of USD 10-29 billion
per year by 2030. These avoided external costs result
from a reduction of health complications due to air
pollution from fossil power plants and fuels used in the
transport sector. If the benefits of the 1.6 Gt of reduced
CO2 are taken into account, an additional USD 32-128 billion per year could be saved by 2030 (based on carbon
18 Net incremental system costs: This is the sum of the differences
between the total capital and operating expenditures of all energy
technologies based on their deployment in REmap 2030 and the
Reference Case in the period 2010–2030 for each year.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
price of USD 20-80 per tonne CO2)19 The result of these
externalities is a reduction in energy system cost when
including the health and CO2 benefits of between USD
29-137 billion per year. It is therefore possible to more
than double the share of renewable energy from 8%
to 27% by 2030 with significant in social costs savings
if external costs are included, and depending on how
these are valued.
Table 9: Financial indicators of REmap Options,
based on government perspective
(USD bln/year)
Changes in costs of the energy system (in 2030)
Incremental system cost
from -29 to -10
Reduced CO2 externalities
from -128 to -32
Net cost-benefits
Cost are outweighed by savings of external
effects including 1 600 Mt of CO2 reductions
per year
Table 9 shows that total investments in renewable energy technologies needed to attain the 27% renewable
energy share would require USD 86 billion in investment
per year, of this USD 77 billion would come from the
REmap Options and USD 9 billion from investments
taking place in the Reference Case. The REmap Options
investment of USD 77 billion would replace an investment volume of USD 39 billion that would have been
invested in convention al energy variants, therefore
an incremental investment of USD 38 billion per year
would be needed. The table also shows that in addition to higher investments, an annual subsidy of USD
46 billion would be required to make REmap Options
with positive substitution costs “competitive” with fossil
technologies. Technologies which require a subsidy lie
mainly in the end-use sectors rather than in the power
sector, namely for heating in buildings and industry (solar thermal) and electric vehicles. The subsidy need per
MWh of final renewable energy is equivalent to USD 1.4,
excluding the effect of any carbon price.
This cost would likely be borne by consumers in the
form increased energy costs or by consumers as taxpayers. It is important to note that by 2030 many renewable energy technologies will not require a subsidy, and
should actually result in lower energy costs, so a better
metric for energy prices is the incremental system cost,
which shows that energy prices would increase only
very slightly. However it is important to also consider
the greater economy wide benefits, which as previously
discussed result in net savings by 2030 of between USD
29-137 billion per year.
19 Efficient mitigation assumes that the cost of prevention does not
exceed the cost of the damages prevented. The value of the benefits depends on and will vary with the carbon price assumed for
the calculation.
Reduced human health
­ xternalities
Incremental subsidy needs
from -137 to -29
Investments (average between today and 2030)
Incremental investment needs
Total investment needs
(REmap Options)
Total renewable energy
­investment needs (REmap
­Options and ­Reference Case)
7.5Discussion of REmap 2030
Options for US
REmap 2030 growth compared to historical
To achieve the estimated renewable energy growth,
efforts need to be made on multiple levels to better
understand some implications of this growth, renewable
energy deployment in the US can be put into perspective with similar trends seen in other countries and projected by other scenarios.
The incremental renewable energy use needed to triple
renewable’s share of TFEC between 2010 and 2030 in
the US, is split equally between the power and end-use
sectors. REmap Options in the power sector are dominated by wind, about two-thirds of the total. Biomass
use dominates the REmap Options for the end-use
If all wind REmap Options are implemented by 2030,
wind power consumption would account for 22% of the
total renewable energy use of the US in REmap 2030,
and 20% of the total power generation in 2030.
Total biomass heating (32%), transport fuels (17%) and
power (8%) consumption would account for 57% of the
total US renewables consumption (Table 5 and Figure 19
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Figure 19 shows the deployment rates for various renewable energy sources in the US under REmap 2030. Compared to 2010 levels, onshore wind generation would
grow by more than 10 times, from 96 TWh/year in
2010 to 1,154 TWh/year in 2030. This implies a growth
in installed capacity of 14 GWe per year on average for
onshore wind and 2 GWe per year for offshore wind between 2010 and 2030. Compared to historical capacity
growth rates, this is a substantial increase. Annual wind
capacity growth increased from 2.5 GWe/year in 2006 to
10 GWe/year in 2009. However, in subsequent years annual capacity growth decreased from 10 GWe/year to 5
GWe/year in 2010 and 6.6 GWe/year in 2011. Only in 2012
did capacity additions increase again to 13 GWe/year.
Realising the installed capacity in REmap 2030 would require such annual capacity growth rates to be sustained
for the next 16 years. Compared to REmap 2030, the
Reference Case underestimates current developments.
In 2013, installed wind capacity reached 61 GWe, which
is only 2 GWe lower than the Reference Case estimate of
63 GWe for the total of wind onshore and offshore.
The growth in biomass demand according to REmap
2030 is also high. In the entire period between 2010 and
2030, total biomass demand would need to grow by
about 4 times. The demand growth for solid and liquid
biofuels is different. Liquid biofuels would need to grow
by about 2.5 times to about 130 billion litres (34 billion
gallons) per year in REmap 2030. This is more than the
global production capacity already installed today.
In the period between 2006 and 2011, liquid biofuel
production in the US increased by about 18% per year.
The required annual growth between 2010 and 2030 is
less than this, estimated 5% per year. In view of historical
developments, this growth seems feasible. As opposed
to today’s situation where most demand originates
from conventional biofuels, in 2030 around 40% of the
total demand would be provided by advanced biofuels
(55 billion liters per year). By comparison, cellulosic
ethanol production capacity in 2013 in the US was only
46 million litres (12.2 million gallons) per year (Janssen
et al., 2013).
The estimated growth in solid biofuels for heating and
power generation is higher than in liquid biofuels, by
about 4.5 times, from 2.5 EJ in 2010 to about 11 EJ in
2030. This implies an annual growth of more than 8%
per year. However, the historical trends between 2006
and 2012 show that the solid biofuels demand is actually decreasing (see Figure 28). This is explained by the
decrease in solid biomass use for industrial applications although the demand for power generation and
residential heating has slightly increased (UNECE, 2013).
Technology deployment index (2010=100)
Figure 28: Deployment of wind and bioenergy deployment in Reference Case and REmap 2030, 2000-2030
Wind onshore
(REmap 2030)
Solid biomass
(REmap 2030)
Liquid biofuels
(REmap 2030)
Reference Case
Wind onshore
Liquid biofuels
Solid biomass
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
According to REmap 2030, solid biofuel demand mainly
grows for power generation, by about 8 times between
2010 and 2030. About 40% of this growth is attributed
to industrial CHPs and 60% is related to the growth in
power-alone systems and co-firing. The demand for
solid biomass for power generation has been growing
rather slowly and has fluctuated between 1.5 and 1.8 EJ
per year since 2000. Recently biomass use in industrial
applications (incl. CHPs) is decreasing, mainly due to
lower activity in biomass consuming sectors such as
the pulp and paper sector, but also due to shale gas use
in investments for new capacity. As a result, increasing
the demand for power generation by 8 times will be a
The growth rates for biomass demand for residential
and industrial heating applications in REmap 2030 are
40% and 220%, respectively. As a result, biomass for
heating would nearly triple from 2.1 EJ in 2010 to 5.7 EJ
by 2030. Current wood pellets production capacity in
the US is around 8.2 million tonnes of which only half
is used for production. Planned production capacity is
about 15 million tonnes in the next years (UNECE, 2013).
If all of the existing and planned capacity was to be fully
utilised, it would be sufficient to provide half of the demand in the US residential sector in REmap 2030. The
next two sections discuss further the challenges and
barriers in wind and bioenergy in the US.
The results of the REmap 2030 show that wind and various bioenergy applications together account for nearly
three-quarters of the total renewable energy use in the
US. This would mean that the US would rely mainly on
these two resources, and would require that all of the
different applications of biomass use would be fully
and successfully deployed. This creates additional uncertainty given the challenges facing each technology
as discussed above. The potential of renewables other
than wind and bioenergy, such as solar, geothermal and
others, must also be explored further to ensure that a
portfolio of renewables is deployed.
Wind power challenges
There are challenges which are specific to each technology to realise the deployment according to REmap
2030. Most of the total wind capacity being developed
or under construction (announced capacity of 40 GWe,
and 14 GWe capacity was under construction by the end
of the second quarter of 2014) is located in Midwest
(AWEA, 2014; Cleantechnica, 2014c). This implies new
grid connections to the rest of the country which will
be a challenge to realise in the 2010-2030 timeframe. In
total, about a quarter of the power generation capacity
in REmap 2030 is based on wind. According to NREL
(2012a) grid integration studies showed that up to 30%
power generation from wind can be reliably and economically accommodated in the future.
There are two studies looking at grid integration and
transmission in the US, covering the west and east
parts. The Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission
Study (NREL, 2009) looked at the needs to integrate
20%-30% wind in the Eastern Interconnect by 2024.
The findings of the study showed that there are no
technical barriers to achieving 20% integration, but that
a significant transmission line would need to be built;
otherwise, a 20%-30% share would not be feasible. The
time to build new transmission capacity is longer than
new plants, therefore planning is key. A similar study –
Western Wind and Solar Integration Study – looked at
the needs in the west part of the US for accommodating
30% wind and 5% solar (GE Energy, 2010). The technical
analysis provides a number of solutions to reach these
levels which include extensive balancing, area cooperation and minimal forecasting errors among others. The
analysis also highlighted the importance of sufficient
long distance and intra-area transmission within each
state or transmission area for renewable energy generation to access load or bulk transmission (GE Energy,
2010). However the results of these studies are presented as least cost options, and other solutions that include
less transmission capacity to integrate higher shares of
renewable electricity are also possible.
Realising installed capacity of 356 GWe by 2030 implies
a growth of around 16 GWe per year capacity. About
85% of this growth is related to onshore and the other
15% is for offshore wind. Equipment manufacture capacity would need to be able to meet the needs of
the estimated capacity growth. Existing equipment
manufacturing industry for onshore wind would need to
be expanded to meet the demand and a new industry
would need to be established for the manufacture of
offshore wind equipment. Although in the past years
some bottlenecks have been observed in the manufacture of various equipment along the supply chain, new
production capacity has been installed. Today a few
companies dominate equipment production market in
the US, and growth in production capacity would need
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
to be sustained in the long-term as well. In the particular case of offshore, deployment requires infrastructure
built at sea, such as ports and service vessels (NREL,
2012a). The manufacturing, materials, and human resource needs for offshore development could benefit
from the extensive offshore oil and gas expertise that
exists in many coastal regions of the US. From a technology perspective, NREL (2012a) identified main barriers
and uncertainties for high shares of wind deployment
where R&D can play a role to increase efficiencies with
improved technologies (e.g., advanced power electronic
control, direct-drive generators) and ensure that costs
(e.g., standardisation and defining refinement for offshore foundations and support structures) are competitive relative to conventional energy sources.
Biomass challenges
As discussed earlier in Section 5.2, the breakdown of
bioenergy supply is more or less equal across the three
different sources covered by IRENA’s analysis: forest
products, agricultural residues & waste and energy
crops each account for a third of the 2030 estimated
total supply potential of 19-23 EJ. According biomass
resource estimates made by NREL, the bulk of the forest
and primary mill residue supply potential is in Southeast
of the country. Additional potential exists also in the
Northwest as well. Secondary mill residues are roughly
evenly distributed across the country, including Northeast and Southwest. With regard to crop residues, most
of the potential is in the Midwest (NREL, 2012b). With
regard to energy crops, the growth potential for switchgrass, willow and hybrid poplar is mainly in the Midwest,
with some also in Eastern states (Milbrandt, 2005).
2007). Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin are among the
states with large biomass-fired installed CHP capacities
today, explained by the availability of feedstock in these
regions. Part of the growth in 2030 is expected to happen in these regions with easy access to feedstocks and
where already large manufacturing industry exists, but
also in locations where much of the chemical (e.g., East
Coast and Gulf coast) and food (spread across the region) industries are located in. Since not all these plants
will have close proximity to feedstock supply, developing logistics for domestic trade will gain importance.
Similarly, to increase the use of solid biomass for heating
in the building sector across the country to the levels
estimated in REmap 2030 will require the development
of biomass logistics. In addition, some local reasons may
still need to be resolved. For example, in the Southeastern US, which is the richest in terms of availability of
forest bioenergy products, a number of reasons slow
down the transition to renewables including concerns
about federal control and support for states’ rights, the
presence of strong coal and nuclear industries, cheap
gas prices and very low electricity rates (Wood, 2009).
The estimated bioenergy demand in 2030 means also
the deployment of a large number of biofuel production
and power generation and heating plants.
Conventional biofuel demand is estimated to account
for 60% of the total demand with the remainder 40%
being from advanced biofuel. A larger share of advanced biofuels production from non-food feedstocks
(e.g., residues) which do not compete with land and
water resources for food production as is the case today,
will help a transition to a sustainable energy system
in the transport sector. The use of such feedstocks is
especially important in the case of the US where corn
products are pervasive in the food industry. Assuming
on average 5 PJ per year production capacity per ethanol mill and biodiesel plants, and assuming all production is met domestically, producing 3.1 EJ per year liquid
biofuel in the US would require investing in about 600
plants (majority of this would be ethanol mills).
Most of the biomass used for industrial applications will
be for CHP plants. Assuming that the capacity factors
of these plants will be close to today’s levels (about
60%), total installed biomass CHP capacity would reach
around 50 GWe. This means that a substantial share of
the biomass power capacity in the US in REmap 2030
would be on-site industrial CHPs. Based on an average
power generation capacity of 20 MWe, this capacity
would translate to the need for about 2,500 CHP plants
operating by 2030; average investment costs for such a
plant are around USD 30 million at today’s prices (EPA,
Today most ethanol production is located in states
where corn production is concentrated in the Midwest,
such as Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska or Minnesota. It can be
expected that this will also be the case in the future
where most plants will be constructed in the same
region given the availability of corn. Advanced biofuel
plants using corn residues as a feedstock will also be
located in these parts as it is already the case in today’s
commercial-scale plants under construction (Sheridan,
2013). Given the availability of woody biomass, there
are a number of plants being built in the Northwest
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
and Southeast states where such feedstock is available.
To ensure cost-competitiveness, high capital cost of
advanced biofuel plants need to be reduced (ACORE,
2014b; IRENA, 2013b). While biofuel plants will be close
to regions with feedstock availability (mainly Midwest
and a number of other regions with wood biomass
availability), demand is concentrated in the East and
West coasts of the US. The costs related to the delivery
will increase the overall supply costs, and not only that,
but also the number of blending stations will need to
increase with growing demand.
Moreover different transport modes (e.g., rail cars
trucks) and other technical issues (e.g., corrosion in
pipelines and blending stations and obstacle related to
going beyond the E10 blend to E15) related to biofuel
logistics will need to be resolved to realise these potentials (Farrey and Chung, 2010). The development of infrastructure to handle higher ethanol blends is very slow
and higher ethanol blends have a bad image because
consumers believe higher shares could damage vehicles
in spite of the fact that there is no significant damage to
vehicles produced after 2001 (DeDecker, 2014).
The US is already playing an important role in the international trade of wood pellets and liquid biofuels. If the
US continues to be an exporter of bioenergy commodities in the coming years and with increasing demand for
biomass in REmap 2030, the limits of biomass supply
will be reached. First, additional international demand
will create pressure on the limited US biomass resources; second, the deployment of the logistical supply
chain supply of the US (e.g., collection of residues, their
transport, etc), will become increasingly complex and
expensive at a time when US transport infrastructure
is already in a parlous state. However, this may, in fact,
serve as a brake on international demand.
Several policies are already in place in the US to foster
increased sustainable biomass supply and use. These
mainly focus on the production of liquid biofuels and
its sustainability from a GHG emission perspective;
they would need to be expanded to cover the heating
and power generation application of biomass. On the
demand side, long-term policies setting targets of bioenergy use should also be implemented for heating and
power generation applications (see next section). The
economic viability of bioenergy is mainly determined
by the cost and price of biomass. These are hard to
predict, influenced by factors such as logistics, distances
in transport, policies, changes in demand, etc. Such factors are relevant to all energy pricing, so that cost and
market uncertainty present a certain amount of risk for
investors in any energy facility, and in this case could
limit the growth of biomass capacity.
Nearly three-quarters of the total renewable
energy use in REmap 2030 is related to wind
and biomass, but there are challenges in
connecting supply and demand centres and
the costs associated to these
Variable renewable energy shares and costs
Although a number of studies show that accommodating
high variable renewable energy shares in the grid is
possible, most show that it will require a substantial
expansion of the transmission capacity. However, this
is not as simple as building new lines. Based on the
analysis of 10 REmap countries with the highest variable
renewable energy shares in 2030, IRENA developed
a grids roadmap (IRENA, forthcoming a). The main
recommendation of this report is that there are different
ways to integrate high shares of variable renewables
to the grid. Factors such as the existing grid system,
interconnection capacity, technology availability and
development, policies and institutional framework,
technical characteristics of generation such as capacity
factors, but also power demand characteristics etc. all
are important and vary by country. Hence there is no
one-size fits all solution for countries. This diverse set
of options is also highlighted in the NREL’s Renewable
Electricity Futures Study. The study provides additional
scenarios showing how higher shares of renewable
electricity can be achieved if there is limited expansion
of transmission capacity or constrained power system
For example, Denmark is estimated to have a variable
renewable energy share of more than 80% by 2030,
mostly coming from one type of renewable energy:
wind. Relying on its well-structured interconnector
capacity with the neighboring countries through the
Nordic Power Exchange, Denmark can achieve such
high shares. The country is also using tools for demand
forecasting as well as relying on biomass for dispatchable generation. Germany, another example with high
variable energy shares of nearly 75% in 2030, is a much
larger country in comparison to Denmark. However, it
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
has a strong institutional framework and planning efforts that include an expansion of transmission capacity
and policies aimed at diversifying its renewable energy
mix that will help the country to reach such high shares.
There are also energy storage technologies which are
being developed for various applications, including
household PV systems with storage to promote selfconsumption, smoothing renewable energy supply from
wind and solar PV as well as regulation in grids with high
variable energy shares (IRENA, forthcoming b). Smart
grids are another option that integrate information and
communication technologies to the electricity generation and consumption chain to improve reliability, costs
and efficiency (IRENA, 2013c).
In the US a mix of different options will be needed to
help realise the variable energy shares in this study,
but more importantly there needs to be research and
discussion about what the shares in this study – if
achieved by 2030 – mean for the decades after. The
very high levels of variable renewable energy seen in
Denmark and Germany will only occur in the US after
2030, when shares will approach the levels analyzed by
the NREL Renewable Electricity Futures Study in 2050.
New policies will need to address the medium term
(up to 2030) needs in each region to achieve the right
technology mix. The main barrier nationwide for the US
at the moment is the technical feasibility of expanding
the transmission capacity within some regions within
the next few years.
The REmap analysis is a macro analysis of the options
for the US and needs to be supported by detailed,
system-wide modeling of specific expansion plans to
identify if certain regions in the US with high levels of
variable renewable power will have sufficient spinning
reserve capabilities to meet ramping that is sometimes
required with the variability of wind and solar. Better
forecasting techniques for wind power as well as advanced inverters for solar PV that reduces the demand
for energy storage are approaches to maximize power
output. At a macro-level, these will not be an issue until
variable renewables meet very high levels of penetration, as the US has significant thermal power capacity
that is available in cases where capacity from solar PV
and wind are too low to meet demand. The key issue is
whether the is enough capacity in the right locations
through time to meet the ramping needs and how other
approaches such as demand side management, interconnection and storage fit into a system that is able to
integrate increasingly high shares of variable renewable
Moreover, the investment required for transmission
for renewable power also tends to be higher than
that for conventional central-station power because
of the distances from population centers, because the
relatively smaller size of renewable generation facilities
that raises the per MW cost of transmission capacity,
and because the variable nature of some renewable
energy sources results in higher grid stability and
balancing costs.
Such power system operation and cost effects were outside the scope of this analysis as it did not looked into
grid integration or system related costs resulting from
higher levels of renewable energy deployment. NREL’s
Renewable Electricity Futures Study (NREL, 2012a) provides a comprehensive analysis of many of the technical
issues and costs relating to the operability and integration of high levels of renewable energy. The power sector renewable energy options for REmap were based
on the NREL study. The NREL study explored “grid
integration issues using models with unprecedented
geographic and time resolution” and finds that “renewable electricity generation from technologies that are
commercially available today, in combination with more
flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of the total US electricity generation in 2050”
(NREL, 2012a).
The study looked into requirements for grid storage and
flexible demand-side technologies, as well as transmission infrastructure. It provides a variety of cost metrics
that include investment needs for new generation,
storage, interruptible load, transmission, O&M, and fuel
costs. However the result of their assessment shows the
associated costs of their various scenarios only for the
year 2050.
In Table 10 the associated costs of several of the renewable energy scenarios are shown based on their
analysis. A renewable energy share of 30% by 2050 (not
all variable renewables), would have no effect on the
average retail electricity price. However, higher shares
of up to 60% or 90%, can result in increase on average
of 20% and 35%, respectively (NREL, 2012a). While a
one-to-one comparison to REmap 2030 results is not
possible due to the 2030 timeframe of REmap, the estimates provide an indication of the potential changes
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Table 10: Direct power sector costs of renewable energy scenarios for 2050
NREL Futures Scenario,
­renewable energy share (%)
Average Retail Electricity Price in
2050 (USD/MWh)
Change relative to power sector
price baseline (%)
Baseline (roughly same fossil
­contribution as today)
-1 to +2
Source: NREL (2012a)
in electricity prices on a pathway to such high levels
envisioned in NREL for 2050.
IEA also have estimates of the integration of renewables
which could add an incremental USD 5-25 per MWh:
USD 3-5 per MWh in back-up capacity costs; USD 1-7
per MWh into maintain grid stability; and USD 2-13 per
MWh in extra transmission and distribution to demand
centers (IEA, 2014). As the data indicates, ranges associated with the additional costs of integration are
wide. Similar to the way how much variable energy
shares can be integrated into the grid depends on the
country, costs of integration are also country specific.
Although it may provide an indication, experience in the
costs in one country may not be applicable to another.
This is, however, one of the most important areas which
requires further research by accounting for the specific
case of the US.
A 2012 study looking into the marginal economic value
of variable renewable energy found that as penetration
levels of these technologies increase, the marginal value
of the power they generate declines (Mills and Wiser,
2012). A recent report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL, 2014) explored strategies for
mitigating this reduction in economic value of higher
variable renewable power shares. In REmap 2030, the
share of wind power and solar PV in total power system
capacity reaches 25% and 10%, respectively. According
to the LBNL (2014), implementing a range of measures
will increase the cost of variable power generation
as shares increase compared to a scenario where no
measures were taken. Scenarios with 20% and 30%
wind penetration were presented, and when interpolating results for the 25% share of wind found in REmap,
the best choice of measures include: demand-response
programs using real-time pricing (increase in value of
wind by USD 4.3 per MWh), geographic diversity of
wind turbine siting (USD 3.8 per MWh), quick start natural gas peakers (USD 0.3 per MWh), and a having a 10%
share of solar PV in system capacity (USD 0.1 per MWh).
The study shows that when reaching higher shares of
variable renewable wind power, measures addressing
demand-side energy management, geographic siting,
fast start dispatchable power generation, and deployment of solar PV all increase the value of wind power
compared to a scenario where these measures were
not taken.
Furthermore, although the average share of variable
renewables in generation is estimated as 27% in 2030,
given the size of the US, a better understanding of developments at state and regional levels will be required.
Compared to this country-average, in some states higher variable renewable energy shares will be achieved
(such as wind in Iowa and solar PV in California and
Arizona). In addition, further insight needs to be gained
into how the variable renewable energy shares can be
accommodated at the state and regional level.
The case of electrification
The REmap analysis showed that biomass resources
in the US are large and could be sufficient to meet the
potential in REmap 2030. However, affordable and
sustainable sourcing of biomass remains an important
question. The concurrent deployment of alternative and
complementary renewable energy resources can help to
reduce the potential dependence on biomass.
For heating, alternatives are limited, especially in the
case for high temperature process heat generation in
the manufacturing sector which can only be generated
from biomass (or fossil). In the buildings and district heat
sector, solar thermal, heat pumps and geothermal are
alternatives. Although the REmap shows they offer large
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Figure 29: Renewable energy technology options in the cases of REmap 2030, REmap-E and REmap-U, 2030
13 500
Additional renewable energy in TFEC (PJ/year)
11 500
33% RE share
Other renewables
27% RE share
9 500
Wind o
26% RE share
Wind onshore
7 500
Solar PV
5 500
Solar thermal
Biomass (power)
3 500
Modern biomass
Modern biomass
1 500
- 500
REmap 2030
Note: REmap-E results in a reduction of biomass consumption shown with the negative value in the graph
potential, on-site land availability, access of plants/buildings to resources as well as costs could be constraints.
In the power sector, there are plenty of alternatives. Solar PV, onshore/offshore wind, CSP, hydro, geothermal,
ocean/tide/wave technologies all have further potential
beyond what is estimated in REmap 2030. In the transport sector, liquid biofuels play by far the most important role to raise the sector’s renewable energy share.
Next to the use of biofuels, the contribution of electric
vehicles and modal shift are, however, rather limited.
However, both electrification options are commercially
viable and their deployment could be accelerated instead of or in tandem with, liquid biofuel growth.
Electrification also offers the potential to reduce fuel use
for heating. To further explore and clarify the renewable
electricity potential, an additional set of REmap options
expressly for power generation was created, REmap-E,
which considers a more radical electrification scheme
than REmap 2030. It essentially replaces all biomass
with electricity from renewables. In REmap-E, it is assumed the deployment of three technology strategies
to reduce biomass dependency and increase the share
of electricity in end-use sector. In the building sector,
heat pumps deliver the required heat in the building and
industry sectors instead of biomass (for low temperature process heat). In the transport sector, modal shifts
(public trams, electric buses and trains) can replace liquid biofuel. Increased electricity demand of these enduse sectors would be supplied by additional solar PV
and wind on/offshore capacity. Additional solar PV and
wind generation could also replace power that would
otherwise have been generated by biomass.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
In 2030, the result of electrification in the manufacturing
industry results in an increase in electricity demand resulting from a switch from biomass fuels to heat-pumps
around 280 TWh/year. The resulting shift of industry
to areas where ample, cheap renewable electricity is
available results in an increased electricity demand of
160 TWh/year.
Figure 19 compares the renewable energy share in the
energy mix of 2030 under three possible futures for
2030: REmap 2030 and REmap-E (both specific to the
US) and REmap-U, which shows how a 30% renewable
energy share could be achieved on a global basis. Note
that the share of renewables in TFEC would be slightly
lower with electrification technologies replacing biomass, even if that additional demand is met by renewable power generation. Nonetheless, under this scenario,
it would be possible to achieve a renewable energy share
in TFEC of 26%, amounting to still nearly a tripling of the
total renewable energy share between 2010 and 2030.
The reason why the renewable energy share in REmapE is slightly lower than REmap 2030 is because the
amount of biomass used in REmap 2030 is considerable
and the amount of energy it would deliver cannot fully
be met with electrification technologies alone.
Figure 27 shows the development of REmap Options in
REmap-E compared to REmap 2030. Biomass demand
in the US is assumed to increase to 5.3 EJ by 2030
instead of 13 EJ in REmap 2030. This translates to a
modest increase of approximately 1.1 EJ in biomass demand by 2030 compared to today’s levels. This growth
assumes that the biomass demand in the industry and
transport sectors remain at the Reference Case level.
Compared to REmap 2030, this is more than halving
the demand for total biomass in both of these sectors. Compared to the Reference Case, biomass use for
power generation is also halved. In the building sector,
demand consumption increases by only 4% between
2010 and Reference Case.
Figure 27 also shows the breakdown of renewable energy use in REmap Options. In REmap-E there are only
minor additions of biomass use from the building sector.
In comparison, due to electrification in end-use sectors
the additions to solar PV (yellow bars), wind onshore
and offshore are higher compared to REmap 2030. The
total capacity of solar PV and wind reaches 460-520
GWe and 420-440 GWe in REmap-E compared to 135
GWe and 356 GWe in REmap 2030, respectively. This
also raises the share of variable renewables from 5% to
over 30% of generation, implying that even more efforts
will be required in ensuring grid stability compared to
the REmap 2030 case.
Another important finding is that REmap-E results in
a lower TFEC in 2030 of 59 EJ compared to 65 EJ in
REmap 2030. This is a saving of nearly 10% with the
main reason being the higher energy efficiency of
electrification technologies over combustion energy
systems when viewed in final energy terms. As a result,
even with a smaller increase in EJ from the REmap Options in REmap-E, a similar share of renewables can be
achieved as in REmap 2030.
Another strategy for doubling the global renewable
energy share is represented by the case of REmap-U
(also shown in Figure 27). In this case, all countries are
assumed to reach at least 30% renewable energy share
by 2030 regardless of where they stand today, using a
generic mix of different renewable energy technologies.
While some countries would need to substantially increase their renewable energy shares from today’s very
low levels to 30%, others would meet, or even surpass,
this level according to their Reference Case developments.
A number of technology options and strategies are
required to ensure that all countries reach at least 30%
by 2030. According to REmap-U, the first strategy in
all countries is to reduce energy demand by implementing ener­
gy efficiency measures. The reduction
potential would differ for each country, varying with
the growth of energy consumption and the current
level and distribution of energy intensity. For the US an
energy efficiency improvement of 2% was assumed. The
second strategy involves using in­creased electrification
technologies for countries that do not achieve a 30%
renewable energy share after the REmap Options and
energy efficiency improvements are considered. This
includes the US. The electrification technologies chosen
for US are those used in REmap-E, with the exception
of industry relocation, which is not considered, and with
an increase in biomass imports of around 1.3 EJ/year. As
shown in Figure 27, REmap-U takes the US renewables
share to 32%, using more solar PV and wind REmap Options for electrification than in REmap 2030.
Substitution costs of REmap-E and REmap-U are
estimated to be somewhat higher than for REmap
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
2030. Among the three cases, REmap-E is the most
expensive, resulting in an average cost of substitution
increasing from USD -0.9 per GJ in REmap 2030,
to between USD 1.1 and 3.3 per GJ depending on
how the increase in electrification is met by a mix of
renewable power technologies and the potential needs
for supporting infrastructure. In this case, additional
renewable power generation is met by a mix of solar PV
and wind, which represent an increase of 300% and 20%
over REmap 2030 levels, respectively. The cost increase
relates largely to the increase costs assumed with
installation of the electrification technologies (electric
vehicles, electric public transport, and heat-pumps).
For the case of REmap-U, the cost of substitution is
higher than REmap 2030, but lower than REmap-E. The
range for the cost of substitution is estimated as USD
0.7-2.7 per GJ. The cost impact is lower explained by the
fact that only an increase of about 50% of the REmap-E
total electrification is realised in REmap-U. Additionally
the assumed energy efficiency improvements yield
cost savings since less renewable energy capacity is
Comparisons to other scenarios
There are many studies which look at the short- and
long-term developments in the US energy use as well as
the potentials for renewable and energy efficiency technologies. Studies are conducted by national research institutes (e.g., such as the various Department of Energy
national laboratories) as well as organisations active in
the global debate on energy issues (e.g., Greenpeace,
IEA). The aim of this section is not to provide a detailed
comparison of REmap 2030 findings to each one of
these studies; the aim is rather to provide a comparison
to recent ones.
The basis for the accelerated deployment of renewable
energy technology for power production identified in
the REmap Options is IRENA’s interpretation of the
NREL’s Renewable Electricity Futures Study. The NREL
Study provides several cases for 2050, for the REmap
Options the “80% RE-ETI” (evolutionary technology
improvement) scenario was used, reflecting a “morecomplete achievement of possible future technical advancements” (NREL, 2012a). Generally the renewable
power technologies mix contained in this report is consistent with the NREL projections, although some variability could exist due to variations in the reference case
and assumed deployment rate.
In May 2014, Greenpeace published the US edition of
the Energy Revolution (Greenpeace, 2014). According to
its Energy Revolution scenario (most ambitious climate
policy scenario), Greenpeace projects a TFEC of 46 EJ
by 2030, 19% of the 2011 base year of the study. The estimated TFEC in REmap 2030 is 40% higher than Greenpeace projections. The main difference stems from the
TFEC of the transport sector where Greenpeace projects
a saving of 32% compared to 2011 levels whereas REmap
2030 estimates only 5% decrease. Installed renewables
capacity according to Greenpeace is 1366 GWe (mainly
568 GWe wind and 339 GWe solar PV) compared to 488
GWe of conventional generation capacity. In REmap
2030 a much lower renewables capacity is estimated of
716 GWe and a higher conventional generation capacity
of 681 GWe. The renewable power generation share according to Greenpeace can reach 71% in 2030 compared
to 48% in REmap 2030.
The renewable energy share in end-use sectors also increases substantially according to the Greenpeace projections in 2030: 57% in buildings, 51% in industry, and
18% in transport. This is partly explained by the higher
share of electricity use in TFEC (30% compared to 25%
in REmap 2030) and a share of renewable electricity
generation as high as 73%.
Another interesting outcome of the comparison is that
Greenpeace projections rely on only a limited amount
of primary biomass demand of 5.5 EJ compared to
more than 16 EJ primary biomass demand in REmap
2030. This shows that Greenpeace projections follow a
combined strategy of energy efficiency and electrification technologies to raise the US renewables share to as
high as 41% compared to REmap 2030 estimates of 27%
based on somewhat stable growth in TFEC in the period
2010-2030 and mainly bioenergy and wind being the
renewable energy resources.
IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2013 provides various scenarios to 2030 for the US (IEA, 2013b). The most ambitious climate policy scenario, the 450ppm scenario,
projects a renewable energy share of 25% in the US total
energy mix in 2030. This is comparable to REmap 2030
estimates of 27%. However, there are differences in the
growth in demand, capacity and contribution of renewable energy technologies to this total.
Compared to 2010 levels, according to the IEA, TFEC
of the US decreases by 8% to 52 EJ as opposed to an
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
approximate 15% increase of 65 EJ according to REmap
2030. Hence a higher level of energy efficiency improvements is assumed for by the IEA. Given that a similar
level of renewable energy share is achieved in 2030
in both the 450ppm scenario and REmap 2030, this
implies a lower absolute renewable energy use in the
450ppm scenario.
According to the IEA, power generation in the US increases by 9% compared to 2010 levels to a total of
4,710 TWh/year in 2030. This is about 500 TWh/year
lower than the REmap 2030 estimates of 5,220 TWh/
year. One of the drives is the increased electrification
in the end-use sector identified in the REmap analysis.
The renewable share in power generation is also lower
according to the IEA, estimated at 32% with half of that
being solar PV and wind. The breakdown of renewable
power generation shows similarities for all technologies
with the exception of CSP. About 112 TWh/year power
generation from solar CSP is assumed according to the
IEA from a total installed capacity of 29 GWe compared
to only 8 TWh/year generation in REmap. In terms of
absolute capacity growth, REmap estimates about 50%
higher capacity for wind and solar PV compared to the
IEA and a factor two higher for biomass (incl. industrial
CHP) and geothermal.
Total primary energy demand according to both the
450ppm scenario and REmap 2030 are similar, estimated at 14 EJ and 16 EJ, respectively.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Key points
Most coal and nuclear plants are reaching the end
of their life in the coming 15 years and this opens
up special opportunities to introduce renewables
despite anticipated constant electricity demand,
Low cost shale gas presents a challenge, although gas prices have recovered from recent
lows and hover now around USD 4-5 per GJ, at
which level for example wind can compete,
Specific major impediments include the need
to accommodate intermittence and lack of suitable interconnection and transmission capacity
and the long planning procedures for interstate
power lines.
8.1Energy system characteristics
As shown in Figure 9, energy demand in the US has
recently been relatively flat, with fossil and nuclear
power generation accounting for 87% of power
generation in 2013. As a consequence uptake of
renewables under any circumstance would tend to imply
largely the replacement of existing fossil and nuclear
based capital stock, using renewables to drastically
reduce CO2 emissions, replacement of fossil fuels by
renewable energy is a major goal. In either case, such
replacement is primarily and realistically limited by the
relative generating costs and efficiencies, by reliability
constraints and by the age profile of the existing capital
stock if massive stranded costs are to be avoided in the
transition process.
This question of capital inertia is significant. Fossil and
nuclear power plants accounted for 87% of power generation in 2013; both have a long plant life expectancy.
Coal plant age averages around 36 years and nuclear
around 30 years (US EIA, 2013b), with plant life extensions up to 60 years not uncommon. Natural gas plants
have an average plant age profile of around 18 years
(see Table 11), reflecting the concentrated construction
of new plants in the last decade.
Table 11: Total installed capacity and weighted average age based of the generation capacity
Installed capacity
Average age
Natural gas
Other gases
Conventional hydro
Conventional fuels
Solar thermal and PV
Wood and its products
Other biomass
Source: IRENA estimates based on US EIA (2013b).
Note: Only utility size capacity is included, excluding plants smaller than 1 MWe.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Figure 30: Cumulative conventional power plant capacity and their initial year of operation
Cumulative installed capacity (MWe)
Conventional generation capacity (as of 2011)
Other gases
Natural gas
Initial year of operation
Source: US EIA (2013a)
Figure 30 shows the cumulative conventional power
plant capacities as of 2011 as a function of the initial
year the plant operation. Natural gas plants have seen
the most increase (light green line). By comparison,
little coal capacity has been added since 1980s (dark
blue line). Most coal plants in operation were installed
before 1980 and can be expected to be retired by 2030,
assuming a lifetime of 40 to 50 years. Coal continues to
be challenged by cheap gas and tougher environmental
barrier in the US is the existing institutional framework
which does not sufficiently provide for the required
planning and building of the transmission grids and
where no authority exists to do enforceable energy
system planning (Jimison and White, 2013). Permitting
and licensing requirements and endless regulatory approvals to chase, stemming in large part because lines
usually cross property owned by hundreds of different
private landowners, as well as various government
As a result of the EPA Clean Power Plan, generation
owners have recently announced 47 GWe of coal-fired
capacity retirements for 2015 and beyond in the Eastern
Interconnection alone, a significant increase just in the
last two years. Renewable power technologies such as
wind, utility scale solar PV, biomass and geothermal
may provide options for replacing part of this retired
Most coal and nuclear plant are reaching
the end of their life in the coming 15 years
and this opens up special opportunities to
introduce renewables despite the constant
electricity demand
Given the aging power system of the US, investments
are required for new high-voltage lines and improve the
existing ones. However, there are barriers to expanding
the transmission structure and grid optimization. Technical and economic barriers play a lesser role. The main
Furthermore, developing technology to harvest the
plentiful renewable resources, operating procedures to
integrate them on the grid, and regulatory structures
to ensure that the grid is reliable and that value and
costs are shared appropriately among stakeholders are
main implementation challenges. The remote location
of renewable energy resources and their high variability
requires a new level of wide-area coordination across
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
traditional physical, ownership, and regulatory boundaries. It will therefore be necessary to develop technical,
operational and regulatory structures that enable these
integration challenges (APS, 2011). It should be noted
that while integration of intermittent power to the grid
is a concern rather unique to renewable energy, grid
management and regulatory issues are not.
A number of specific grid connection concerns are
worth noting. First is the connection to the grid of
good wind resource areas in the Midwest to centres of
demand on the East and West. High voltage DC lines
are the preferred mode of connection over such long
distances. Extra high-voltage lines of 765 kV can carry
the three times the amount of power single 500 kV lines
would carry. In addition, losses in the power transmission also decrease with high voltages. The costs of such
high voltage lines (USD 2.6 million per mile) are also
lower by up to 70% compared to 345 kV (USD 9 million
per mile) and to 60% compared to 500 kV lines (USD
6.9 million per mile) (ETA, n.d.).
NREL sees a need for about 120 thousand “Gigawattmiles” of new transmission, an investment of USD 6.5
billion per year between now and 2050 to reach 80
percent renewables. Most of this would be built in the
sparsely-populated wind belt. This would add about 6080% to the existing grid capacity. Some of this capacity
would need to be built under any circumstances to accommodate growing demand, regardless of how rapidly
renewable power replaces conventional power. But the
geographic configuration of the grid will definitely be
affected by the deployment of renewable resources.
The Midwest has already successful in integrating 12
GWe of wind (10% of the Midwest Independent System
Operator’s total generation capacity) with few difficulties. Geographic diversity (varying wind speeds in different parts of the region throughout the day), better
forecasting, transmission expansion and upgrades and
learning from the experiences of grid operators across
the US and from other countries helped to make this
transition easier for the Midwest (Jimison and White,
Market fragmentation and bureaucratic procedures
which apply to both conventional and renewable energy
technologies, result in relatively high prices of certain
renewable energy options compared to other options.
Soft costs (or non-hardware costs) which are related
to permitting, inspection, interconnection, overhead,
installation labor, customer acquisition, and financing,
could be substantial. They could represent about half
of the total installed solar PV prices (Ardani et al., 2013).
Grid connection is considered as a major barrier to renewable energy capacity investments. There are restrictions on interconnecting non-utility generators to the
grid system. Many if not most renewable energy facilities are independent power producers (IPPs), and so are
subject to such non-utility and small business requirements. These can add costs that reduce the economic
viability of renewable energy projects (Walsh, 2013).
The lack of sufficient interconnection capacity and the
long planning procedures for interstate power lines act
tend to hinder grid expansion, potentially limiting integration of both new conventional and renewable generation into the grid. Particularly difficult for distributed
renewable power are low capacity limits in several states
resulting in the applicability of some interconnection
procedures to a small market only. Additional factors
that can increase the costs of small distributed generation systems include liability insurance (Fink, Porter and
Rogers, 2010), and lengthy and difficult interconnection
approval processes (Alderferer, Starrs and Eldrigde,
2000). In the specific case of offshore wind, technical
barriers including installation and grid interconnection
and the lengthy permitting processes were found to be
the main barriers (US DoE, 2012). A study focusing on
the policies in Michigan found that inconsistent permitting processes by jurisdiction and varying interpretations of the tax code for solar systems were the main
barriers to limit commercial and residential market
expansion of solar PV (Miller et al., 2012).
The building sector in the US provides opportunities for
increased renewable energy technology deployment,
both in old building stock and new builds. However new
buildings are expected to account for only a quarter
of total floor space by 2030. Therefore retrofits of old
buildings, and the codes that determine how they are
made, will play an important role in determining the energy profile of the sector. When a building is retrofitted,
new space heating, water heating, and cooling systems
are often also installed. This provides an opportunity for
the installation of renewable energy technologies such
as geothermal or aerothermal heat pumps (for space
heating and cooling), biomass pellet heaters, and solar
thermal systems (for domestic hot water). The US has
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
the largest cooling demand in the world: half of the
energy consumed for cooling worldwide is consumed
in the US. This leaves significant opportunity to increase
the techno-economic efficiency of these cooling systems through the use of heat-pumps, as well as solar
cooling technologies.
in particular in large energy consuming plants, increase
the risks. In comparison, solar thermal is already being
deployed in the US manufacturing plants, showing that
it is a cost-effective option in some regions and applications. Some waste and residue feedstocks are also
comparable with coal prices on a GJ basis.
The age of the industry sector capital stock in the US
is rather old. Most plants are 25 years or older (IRENA,
2014b). Investments to new industrial capacity were
limited until a few years ago, when growing availability
of natural gas, led to new capacity investments in some
sectors (e.g., chemical and petrochemical plants), implying the strong relationship among industry investments,
energy security and energy prices. This relationship
creates both barriers and opportunity for renewable
energy in the manufacturing industry. Solar thermal,
geothermal and biomass are all alternatives for heating,
but access of plants to resources and security of supply,
In the transport sector, options are limited to liquid biofuels and electric transport modes. There are significant
technical and economic barriers to the deployment of
advanced biofuel technologies. The success of biofuels
first depends on their compatibility with the existing
transportation system which requires fuel testing and
certification processes. The cost of all types of bioenergy commodities depends on feedstock prices, which
are uncertain. Furthermore, new technologies need to
be developed which can convert cellulosic feedstocks
efficiently and at low cost to final products.
Box 5: Innovation in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has become an early leader in clean energy research, innovation and deployment, thanks in
part to its scientific expertise and highly qualified workforce. In the absence of a federal approach to energy
issues, Massachusetts is one of the US states that have taken control of its own destiny in developing clean
energy. It has committed to reducing GHG emissions by 25% in 2020 and by 80% in 2050, both compared to
the 1990 level. The Commonwealth was the first in the country to combine energy and environmental agencies to increase the ease of deploying clean energy and leads by example in reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emission in state agencies. It made energy efficiency its first fuel and has led the nation for three
years, as ranked by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Massachusetts was the first state
to legislate a RPS in 1998, and has successfully kept pace to meet its minimum standard for new renewable
energy generation which grows to 15% in 2020. Finally, the state has prioritized clean energy growth through
innovation and entrepreneurship.
As a result of these initiatives, more than 5,500 clean energy firms are doing business and more than 80,000
clean energy workers are employed in the state as of 2013. The state has experienced nearly 30% growth in
employment related to clean energy jobs in the past three years. Clean energy also substantially contributed
to the economic growth of 2.4% experienced in the first quarter of 2014.
Since the launch of the state’s solar PV carve-out of the RPS program in 2010, the installed capacity has risen
from a few MW to nearly 600 MW in the middle of 2014. A second phase program was recently launched
to maintain solar growth to 1 600 MW by 2020. Massachusetts also focuses increasingly on offshore wind
development, with the establishment of the nation’s largest offshore wind blade testing facility in Boston,
the build-out of an offshore wind staging terminal in New Bedford and the anticipated first US offshore wind
project once the Cape Wind project gets built.
The state is also one of the first in the US to adopt mandates for renewable heating and cooling. In 2014 the
state passed a bill allowing system owners utilizing renewable heating and cooling technologies such as heatpumps, wood pellet burners or biomethane burners to earn alternative energy credits that are needed by
utilities to meet the state’s RPS obligations.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
8.2 Fossil fuel pricing
The US has some of the lowest fossil fuel prices in the
world. Unlike other developed markets such as the EU,
the US has no carbon price or system of capping and
trading emissions (though California has recently enacted an emissions cap-and-trade scheme). These two
factors have led to inexpensive fossil based power and
heat generation utilizing natural gas and coal – both
of which are below world benchmark prices due to
ample domestic supply. However petroleum products
are more closely aligned with world prices. Unlike other
developed economies, the federal gasoline tax in the US
remains unchanged since the 1990s and at USD 18 cents
per gallon (USD 4.8 cents per litre) and does not align
with the substantial increase in the oil prices since then.
When local and state taxes are included the average fuel
tax amounts to 49 US cents per gallon.
Recent years have shown power generation switching
from coal to gas and this trend will depend on relative
coal and gas prices and the viability of renewables to
meet wholesale supply needs. In early 2013 coal consumption in power generation increased 14% compared
with the same period in the previous year, as natural
gas prices at Henry Hub increased by around 40% from
USD 2.58 per GJ (USD 2.45 per MBtu) in 2012 to USD
3.68 per GJ (USD 3.49 per MBtu) in the same period
of 2013. Absent environmental or other regulations
restricting CO2 emissions for existing power plants, coal
plants could again become economic relative to gas
with natural gas prices in the range USD 4.7-5.8 per GJ
(USD 4.5-5.5 MBtu) or higher. However the recently announced EPA standards for existing coal power plants,
if implemented, would significantly restrict coal power
plants on CO2 grounds unless CCS technology is able to
be deployed.
As mentioned earlier in Section 3.2, the slight increase
in energy price projections will result in continued
price pressure for renewables trying to compete in the
electricity wholesale market with natural gas based
Gas prices have recovered from recent lows
and hover now around USD 4-5 per GJ, at
which level wind can increasing compete
on the wholesale power markets without
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
This section starts by discussing the key characteristics
of US policy making and draws conclusions about what
this implies for successful policy proposals (Section 9.1).
It continues with the recommendations for new policies
to raise the renewable energy share to the level of the
potentials estimated in this report (Section 9.2). It ends
with a discussion on the relevance of REmap findings to
the mitigation of climate change (Section 9.3).
9.1Key characteristics of the US
policy framework
IRENA analysis suggests a significant potential for renewable energy, up to 27% of final energy by 2030. This
is lower than the 36% objective for the world as a whole,
but not surprising for a country that has huge and varied resources of fossil fuels (Elliott, 2013).
The feasibility, efficiency and effectiveness of policies
depend on the characteristics of the national energy
policy governance system. What works in Europe or
China cannot be directly transferred to the US, and
vice versa. But general recommendations are possible,
for example, that policy support must be consistent,
predictable and long-term if renewable energy is going
to make a significant contribution (Randall and Porter,
Governments in general find themselves continually
needing to balance any number of competing objectives, interests and demands on the public fisc. The
political process by which this balance is achieved is less
than optimal from any perspective. The US is no exception. Private and public interests are seldom consonant,
and changing the status quo requires political effort.
Under such circumstances, effecting dramatic changes
in the US energy sector is a daunting task, though not
necessarily impossible. A concerted focus will be needed at all levels of government to overcome regulatory
and economic inertia and bring about an accelerated
switch to renewable energy as envisioned by REmap
2030. The president approves legislation and is involved
in setting the policy agenda, but policy changes often
require effective legislation, which falls to the Congress.
The actual job of implementing a policy falls to the different executive departments and to the states. State
environmental, consumer protection and regulatory
agencies play a crucial role. As regards renewable energy, several Federal agencies play a key role. Below is a
brief list of the agencies with an important role to play
in accelerating the deployment of renewable energy
technologies, and a summary of their mission.
Knowledge – The EIA collects, analyses, and disseminates independent and impartial energy information
to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets, and
public understanding of energy and its interaction with
the economy and the environment. Its data, analyses,
and forecasts are independent of approval by any other
officer or employee of the US Government, including
DoE. It has a budget of nearly USD 100 million per year.
RD&D, innovation and transition management – the
mission of the DoE is to “ensure America’s security and
prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and
nuclear challenges through transformative science and
technology solutions”.
The FERC is responsible for competitive markets, energy infrastructure and oversight. This includes interstate
electricity transmission and hydroelectric projects. On
a local and state level, usually state public utility commissions are responsible for setting retail electricity
rates, approving construction of in-state power plants,
regulating mergers and acquisitions of in-state energy
companies and ensuring the reliability of the electricity
distribution network.
The EPA uses its standard promulgation powers to force
policy changes in sectors of the economy for environmental protection. As discussed in Section 8.1 a recent
example is the EPA’s June 2014 proposal (EPA, 2013b),
which if implemented, will regulate the power sector’s
carbon intensity, and requires states to meet CO2 intensity levels for their power generation sector.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Within these various agencies support for renewable
energy has been mixed, and does not yet reflect a sense
of urgency. Nonetheless, there are perhaps a surprising number of federal policies supporting renewable
energy deployment to date. These include variously
renewable energy targets for utilities for generation mix,
preferential dispatch for renewable generation, feed-in
tariffs, tax incentives, preferential pricing, R&D subsidies, blending requirements for biofuels, funding and
guidelines for industrial co-gen, and a North American
Smart Grid Interoperability Panel to coordinate and accelerate standards harmonization.
Moreover, climate is now recognized as a serious issue
and attention to energy efficiency and renewable as
solution to the problem has grown, with a presidency
that is trying to set an ambitious agenda. The policy
recommendations reflect the possibilities within the
existing framework.
In this regard, it is particularly important when considering next steps to recall the major shift that occurred
in US regulatory policy in the 1990s. In that decade, the
rapid technological changes in the US gas and electricity industries resulted in the restructuring of those industries and a dramatic change in their regulation. With
the industries more competitive at every level, regulatory policy changed from traditional “command and
control” to one where regulators set up economic incentives within a framework of specific goals, depending
on market responses to effect the desired changes over
time. This reliance on economic instruments to bring
about policy changes could be applied usefully and
creatively in structuring incentives for a massive switch
to renewable energy. Innovative financing schemes can
be an important part of such incentives. In fact a number of investment banking houses have already devised
innovative financing schemes for renewable energy projects designed to permit investors to profit from existing
financial and tax advantages attached to renewable
energy, while minimizing their investment risks.
The risks of investing in renewable are greatly reduced
by the fact that virtually all of the ancillary and integration costs needed to make a project viable are not borne
by project developer; they are generally borne by consumers in the form increased energy costs or by consumers as taxpayers. Nonetheless, creative financing
schemes are being developed to further reduce project
risks. One example limits the capital outlay for a solar
project to the ownership of solar panels, installed on
rooftop space leased from building owners. The building
owner gets cheaper power and rent; the panel owner
earns his return on investment through the US Investment Tax Credit, and sells power to the utility. A second
scheme involves the pooling of debt for a great number
of different renewable energy projects, and then selling
bonds on this consolidated portfolio of projects. Solar
power projects are especially attractive for these socalled “green bonds”.
These financing schemes – however creative and useful
they may be – nonetheless rely for their success on the
assumed diligence of policy makers to create the appropriate background conditions for projects to be viable.
So while investors may not need to concern themselves
with transmission or transition problems, governments
do. The need for appropriate policies does not change.
The following sections discuss abiding policy needs to
accelerate the uptake of renewable energy by 2030.
9.2Policy framework and
This report discussed the current energy situation, existing policy framework and barriers to renewables in
the US and identified the potential of renewable energy
technology to nearly triple its energy share by 2030.
Based on these findings, this section provides a list of
policy recommendations in five areas. These areas of
policy action are determined based on IRENA’s analysis
of 26 REmap countries and in consultation with the
national experts, and they consist of the following: 1)
establishing transition pathways for renewable energy,
2) creating an enabling business environment, 3) integrating renewable energy, 4) managing knowledge, and
5) unleashing innovation.
Planning transition pathways:
Setting national plans and targets and developing longterm strategies to support the growth of renewable
energy use based on credible and attainable targets are
the starting points for increasing the renewable energy
share in any country. Various organizations in the US are
already active in developing major energy use scenarios
being used by various stakeholders. If these scenarios
are continuously updated to reflect the rapid developments in renewable energy markets, in terms of technology development, innovation and costs, they would
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
provide a strong baseline for the US to plan its transition
pathway to 2030 and beyond.
There is large potential for all different types of
renewable energy sources, in particular for biomass and
also for renewable power generation from solar and
wind. In fact, three-quarters of the US renewable energy
use in REmap 2030 would come from wind and biomass
when all REmap Options are implemented. Given
the availability of other renewable energy resources,
policies should ensure the deployment of all types of
renewables to avoid technology lock-ins and accelerate
the transition.
Based on the findings of this report, several recommendations emerge which are presented below. Although
not discussed in great detail below, economic feasibility will be key factor in realizing the implementation of
each recommendation during the transition period from
today to 2030. Therefore these should be taken into account in formulating new policies.
Reconsider the EIA forecasts for renewable energy (making upward revisions for wind, solar)
and cost projections, taking into account the
potential for energy efficiency improvements.
Facilitate the use of DoE lab estimates that take
into account the latest technology and cost information in energy planning.
Reach consensus on the cost and benefits of accelerated renewables uptake, both from a business and from a macroeconomic perspective.
Develop a national renewable power objective,
along the lines of the biofuel objective, with
special attention for solar and wind, which would
accelerate already the rising share of renewable
power generation to replace aging conventional
power plant capacity.
Diversify transport sector energy use with EVs
and liquid biofuels, and put more emphasis on
the development of cost-effective solutions for
freight, aviation and shipping.
Overcome the biofuel blendwall, improve the existing biofuel objectives for the transport sector
Develop national objectives for renewable heating and cooling in the buildings and industry sectors which can be maintained for the long-term
and make sure they are supported by financial
Consider including renewable thermal energy
sources in federal and state building energy
codes and standards.
Promote the use of non-biomass renewable technologies for heating which so far have limited
market share in heating applications.
Integrate renewable energy strategy into the US
climate change mitigation strategy.20
Creating an enabling business environment:
In order to support deployment and improve the costeffectiveness of renewable energy technologies, national plans of the US should be supported with extended
policy support and long-term commitment to improve
the cost-effectiveness of renewable energy technologies (e.g., removal of soft costs). For example, the
SunShot initiative aims to reduce the soft costs of solar
PV by at least 80% in compared to the 2010 levels (per
watt), and also reducing its share in the total installed
solar PV prices from about 50% to 35%-43% in the
same time period (Ardani et al., 2013). Modeling studies
showed that achieving the SunShot targets could result
in one-third of the total power generation to come from
solar PV by reducing, the need for CCS, nuclear and
replacing natural gas in western North America (Mileva
et al., 2013).
In uncertain policy environments, risks related to investments increase, and hence the costs of technologies.
As noted above, establishing policy frameworks that
create appropriate conditions for investment are crucial
to increasing confidence of investors in implementing
renewable energy technologies, even when creative
financing options are available.
The pros and cons of distribution of subsidy support
between renewables and conventional technologies as
well as the continuity of support to maturing technologies are hotly discussed. Today, renewable and other
clean energy sectors are often dependent on subsidies
and policy support because of their higher costs (particularly in the special case of shale gas in the US, see
also Table 6), perceived risks compared to mature fossil energy technologies, and a regulatory and financial
institutional structure centered on conventional energy
systems. Without such support, it is difficult for these
technologies to gain a market share and increased man-
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Box 6: US National Energy Goals, according to the US Department of Energy’s
Quadrennial Energy Review21
Economic Competitiveness: Energy infrastructure should enable the US, under a level playing field and fair
and transparent market conditions, to produce goods and services which meet the test of international markets while simultaneously maintaining and expanding jobs and the real incomes of the American people over
the longer term. Energy infrastructures should enable new architectures to stimulate energy efficiency, new
economic transactions, and new consumer services.
Environmental Responsibility: Energy infrastructure systems should take into consideration a full accounting
(on a lifecycle basis) of environmental costs and benefits in order to minimize their environmental footprint.
Energy Security: Energy Infrastructure should be minimally vulnerable to supply disruptions and should be
able to mitigate impacts, including economic impacts of disruptions by recovering quickly or with use of
reserve stocks. Energy security should support overall national security.
Desirable Characteristics in 2030:
Minimal-environmental footprint. Energy systems should be designed, constructed, operated and
decommissioned in a manner that is low carbon, and with minimal impact to water quality and quantity; and minimize the land use footprint, impact on biological resources, and toxic emissions.
Affordability. Ensures system costs and needs are balanced with the ability of users to pay. (Note three
potential balancing points: overall system costs, system needs/benefits, and system cost allocation).
Also, estimating avoided costs can be more complex than for simple levelized costs – calculations
require tools to simulate the operation of the power system with and without any project under consideration. Estimating social costs and benefits can be even more complex.
Flexibility. Energy infrastructure that accommodates change in response to new and/or unexpected
internal or external system drivers (i.e., intermittent power). Sub-characteristics of flexibility included:
– Extensibility. The ability to extend into new capabilities, beyond those required when the system
first becomes operational. -Interoperability. The ability to interact and connect with a wide variety of
systems and sub-systems both in and outside of the energy sector. -Optionality. Provides infrastructures or features of infrastructures that would allow users to maximize value under future unforeseen
Robustness. A robust energy system will continue to perform its functions under diverse policies
and market conditions, and has its operations only marginally affected by external or internal events
(including intermittent power). Sub characteristics of robustness include: – Reliability, sturdy and
dependable, not prone to breakdowns from internal causes (e.g., due to component failures); – Resiliency. The ability to withstand small to moderate intermittent disturbances without loss of service, to
maintain minimum service during severe disturbances, and to quickly return to normal service after a
Scalability. Energy infrastructure should be able to be sized to meet a range of demand levels. Systems
can be scalable by being replicable, modular, and/or enlargeable.
Safety. Energy systems should be designed, constructed, operated and decommissioned in a manner
that reduces risks to life or health.
21 Text adapted from two presentations which can be found at and
ufacturing capacity to drive down costs and improve
technology learning. In recent years subsidies have
helped to improve the efficiency of technologies (e.g.,
advanced batteries, solar panels) and created market
support which has, for example, resulted in substantial
reductions in the cost of wind and solar technologies.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
However, in the US electricity markets solar and wind
are not always cost-competitive (though they are becoming increasingly so) compared to power from cheap
shale gas or coal (at least if external costs are not factored into the cost estimates).
Renewable cost-competitiveness needs to be improved
further through deployment and innovation which can
eventually lead to independence from subsidies. REmap
2030 provides a snapshot of cost competitiveness of
renewable excluding subsidy (see Section 7.4) through
the financial indicator of incremental system cost, and
when factoring benefits from improved health and environment, renewables result in significant cost-savings to
the energy system as a whole. However to get there this
requires continued support until cost-competitiveness
of different technologies are reached. This can be done
by targeted support with reducing subsidy levels until
technologies are mature and cost-competitive. When
achieving this, investment certainty needs to be ensured
and a diverse energy portfolio should be aimed at by
avoiding technology lock-in. Similar subsidy support
should also be phased out from mature energy sectors
to ensure a competitive market in particular given they
still receive much subsidy support as the US EIA (2011)
estimates show. It should be noted, however, that moves
are already being made to force greater internalization
of external costs, particularly in the area of carbon-related emissions, which will raise the cost of conventional
energy use.
Develop policies which allow for more market
certainty and provide investment certainty. Abolish PTC for well-established technologies such as
for fossil fuel production today21, and gradually
to 2030 for wind and biomass as to ensure level
playing field.
Better account for the external costs related to
human health and GHG emissions in fossil fuel
21 Speech Senator Ron Wyden, Chairman of US Senate Committee
on Finance, 7 April 2014, New York. More information on the role
of subsidies in the USA can be found in US EIA (2011), EESI (2014)
and ELI (2011).
Reduce the installed cost of solar PV and CSP,
technologies which are currently lagging behind
compared to other renewables, through innovative financing scheme and streamlining of planning process on state and local level. This will
also help renewables which are other than wind
and biomass to contribute to the power sector’s
fuel mix.
Ensuring smooth integration of renewables
into the system:
Integrating the large amount of different renewable energy technologies in different sectors requires particular
attention. Given the wide distribution of resources in the
US and the varying distance of resources to locations
of demand locations will require the deployment of
enabling technologies in both the power and end-use
In the case of the power sector, the share of variable
renewable energy generation could reach 26% in the
US according to REmap 2030. While such levels could
be challenging to accommodate in some countries, as
discussed earlier in the previous section, grid integration
is often seen less of an issue for the US assuming that a
significant transmission capacity can be built. Reaching
the variable renewable energy shares in the US as
quantified in this report will, however, require dramatic
investments in new transmission capacity in a very
short time period. Expanding transmission capacity
is essential to deliver the renewable resources from
remote areas to densely populated demand centers,
to ensure the integration of variable energy sources
and increase the transfer capacity of interconnections.
Implementing all REmap Options would imply wind
capacity growing by about 16 GWe per year, requiring
new transmission facilities, for which manufacturing
capacity of equipment would need to grow at similar
rates. Expanding transmission capacity will ideally be
supported by shortening the current planning times
from a decade or longer (largely due to right-ofway negotiations) to periods more consonant with
construction of new renewable energy generation
facilities (typically less than two years) (Jimison and
White, 2013). Utilization of existing natural gas peakers
and ramping them more, decentralized and diversified
renewable energy capacity, and demand response are
all other components of the solution as also discussed
earlier in Section 7.5.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Increasing biomass demand in REmap 2030 will require
more intensive utilization of the US supply potentials.
Today, the US is one of the largest investors in advanced
biofuel production capacity, but investments need to
be accelerated in order to reach the demand estimates
according to REmap 2030. Similarly, production of
bioenergy products for heating also needs to be accelerated as it will play a key role in both the building and
manufacturing sectors. In addition, US may continue to
play an important role in the international bioenergy
market. This increasing demand requires new strategy
and policies to develop and deploy various types of biomass resources including forestry residues, excess regrowth, processing residues, forest products, food and
beverage post-consumer waste, agricultural residues,
notable from corn and finally energy crops. Optimal allocation of biomass resources should be promoted on
the basis of most sustainable and cost-competitive applications in power generation, heating and as transport
fuels. Moreover, bioenergy policies should be integrated
with policies in the areas of resource (agriculture, land,
water) and infrastructure (logistics, biomass conversion
plants) to ensure sustainable sourcing and supply of
biomass. Such integration can be greatly facilitated by
the use of models assessing climate-land use-energywater systems.
Enhance the effectiveness of the electricity grid
system with enabling technologies, including responsive load, energy storage, hydrogen fuel cell,
waste heat and smart grid technologies.
Strengthen interconnection capacity and upgrade grids in order to facilitate variable renewable energy integration.
Reduce the lengthy and complex interconnection
planning and approval procedures through more
federal communication, and facilitate state-bystate approval for routing and siting transmission
Prioritize the transmission capacity investments
for inter-regional lines that link balancing areas.
Closely coordinate energy efficiency and renewable energy policies, as important synergies are
possible in terms of efficiency measures that
encourage renewables and renewables options
that result in still higher efficiency.
Closely coordinate agriculture, forestry and bioenergy policies as to ensure sufficient quantities
and acceptable price for feedstocks while maintaining sustainability of supply.
Assess the requirements and train the workforce
to meet the future needs of the technology advancements and policy changes.
Creating and managing knowledge:
In terms of the deployment and potential of renewable energy, the US has extensive knowledge. Some of
the renewable energy technologies such as the ocean
technologies could still benefit from public awareness
of their large potential. This could help to ensure that
their deployment is also considered in the portfolio of
technologies. Consumers of fuels for heat generation
can also benefit from more awareness campaigns about
the array of costs and benefits of renewable energy
technologies to ensure that solar thermal, geothermal
and heat pumps are deployed next to biomass-based
The US is already very active in developing and sharing
knowledge about the sustainability of liquid biofuels
with decision-makers and the scientific community, in
particular through the modeling efforts for understanding the biofuel life cycle GHG emissions related to land
use. These have been accounted for in the expanded
RFS2 to categorize biofuels based on their emission
profile. Continuing to generate knowledge for other
bioenergy commodities and similar emission categorization for solid biofuel and biogas use in other markets
should be the next steps.
Establish and improve programmes to increase
awareness and strengthen the capacity of manufacturers, installers and users,
Assess and communicate the transmission
expansion benefits to accelerate investments.
Benefits of transmission include economics,
linking balancing areas, reducing the local effects
of total variability of renewables, loads and
conventional generators by aggregating larger
Design renewable energy technologies from the
point of view of product and service life-cycle
environmental and sustainability impacts.
Raise public acceptance of renewable energy and
ensure dissemination of accurate information.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Unleashing innovation:
Innovation in new and existing technologies as well
as in policy/finance schemes is necessary to develop
and deploy cost-effective and efficient renewable
energy technologies. Innovation will also ensure that
the renewable energy share of the US would not slow
down after 2030, but continue with the development
and commercialization of breakthrough technologies.
The Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) and the
Quadrennial Technology Review (QTR) which are being
prepared by the US Department of Energy aim to
address the issues around technology development
and deployment (US DoE, 2014b;c). These reviews
focus on six particular strategies, namely: (i) increase
fuel efficiency, (ii) electrify the vehicle fleet, (iii) deploy
alternative hydrocarbon fuels, (iv) increase building
efficiency, (v) modernize the grid, and (vi) deploy clean
The capital stock of the hydropower plants in the US
is on average older than 50 years. This creates a large
potential for upgrading the existing plants with new
and efficient turbines without needing to invest in
Box 7: US renewable energy R&D: Shifting emphasis from invention to deployment
Over the 35-year period from the DoE’s inception at the beginning of fiscal year 1978 through 2012, federal
funding for renewable energy R&D amounted to about 17% of the energy R&D total, compared with 15% for
energy efficiency, 25% for fossil, and 37% for nuclear (Sissine, 2012).
DoE R&D for energy efficiency and R&D amounts to USD 1.175 billion in 2014. This includes nearly USD 250 million for solar and biomass each, USD 88 million for wind and around USD 50 million for geothermal and water
power. The requested budget for 2015 is 10-20% higher. There is also R&D sponsored by individual states. In
comparison, General Electric alone spent USD 2.1 billion on energy infrastructure research in 2011 (all forms of
energy) highlighting the importance of the private sector in energy related R&D.
In addition, in 2014 the DoE announced a USD 4 billion in loan guarantee program available to innovative
renewable energy and efficient energy projects (US DoE, 2014d). The program is aimed at supporting market
ready technologies.
ARPA-E, or Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy is a US government agency that was set up in 2007
and is tasked with promoting and funding research and development of advanced energy technologies. It is
modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
ARPA-E is intended to fund high-risk, high-reward research that might not otherwise be pursued because
there is a relatively high risk of failure.
ARPA-E was created to fund energy technology projects that translate scientific discoveries and cutting-edge
inventions into technological innovations, and accelerate technological advances in high-risk areas that industry is not likely to pursue independently. It does not fund minimal improvements to existing technologies; such
technology is supported through existing DoE programs, such as those of the DoE Office of Energy Efficiency
and Renewable Energy (EERE).
ARPA-E funding comes in relatively small amounts, typically USD 0.5-10 million per project. Government
agencies, academia and private individuals can apply. Several rounds have been held dispersing grants typically up to USD 100 million each. 362 projects have received more than USD 900 million through ARPA-E’s
programs and open solicitations.
Twenty-two of the projects projects that have received about USD 95 million in federal funding have raised a
collective USD 625 million in private-sector investment. And while venture investment is one way to measure
success in the green technology field, it’s far from the only one. Some ARPA-E grant-winning companies have
done well raising venture capital funding and landing customers and partners on their own. Private sector
leverage should be a priority for further expansion.
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
completely new infrastructure. Reservoirs without any
turbines can also benefit from such retrofits.
Transport costs can increase the delivered costs of
biofuels substantially especially with increasing transport distances as more resources are used. One way
to reduce the additional costs from transportation is
to convert biomass into high energy density products
with pre-processing technologies such as torrefaction
or pyrolysis.
Furthermore, currently almost all potential of renewables in the transport sector is related to road transpor­
tation. By contrast, an increasing share of transportation
will be from aviation and although their shares will
still be low, shipping and rail transport will also gain
importance. However, no renewable energy alternative
potential has been estimated in REmap 2030 for these
requires the entire portfolio of technologies to be developed and deployed. Hence, promoting the use of
all different renewable energy technologies, including
transportation fuels, heating/cooling technologies, different power generation alternatives and others will be
necessary to reach the levels of renewable energy share
identified in this country roadmap. This will require massive investments. There are also a number of related
technology-specific areas which require focus. The recommendations for new technology related policies are
discussed below.
Solar PV and wind:
Continue to support public and private research,
development and demonstration (RD&D) and
deployment of breakthrough renewable energy
Continue to develop biorefinery concepts that
can utilize biomass for generation of power,
heat, chemicals, materials and food. Integrate
commercial-scale plant with a functioning biomass supply chain.
Explore new solutions for expanded applications
in freight transportation, aviation and shipping
including algae.
The most important finding of this study is that – if
fully implemented – the portfolio of renewable energy
technologies selected according to REmap 2030 which
could nearly triple the renewable energy share of US in
its final energy mix from about 8% in 2010 to 27% by
2030, or more than double the share in 2030 compared
to the Reference Case. Some of these technologies
result in savings (e.g., wind, utility PV), others require
additional costs (e.g., biomass pellets for heating in
building and industry sectors). Some have very high
additional potential (e.g., solar thermal) and others
relatively small.
Regardless of the cost or additional potential, tripling
the renewable energy share between 2010 and 2030
Continue the development of stable and predictable federal tax and energy policies which have
been successful in private sector growth.
Create an investment and regulatory environment that will allow solar PV and wind capacity
to be installed by 2030 on par with today’s global
installed capacity.
Strengthen efforts for offshore wind along the
East coast.
Suggest Federal government to take leadership
in improving the cost-competitiveness of solar
heating and cooling technologies with financial
incentives including tax credits, rebate/grant programs and renewable energy credits until they
are mature and cost-competitive.
Solar heating and cooling:
Accelerate deployment of solar water heaters in
buildings and industry as existing conventional
heat generation capacities are retired and in new
building and industry plant investments.
Support technology development and initiative
tax policy for the deployment of geothermal
Improve the efficiency of leasing and permitting
efforts for federal public land where most geothermal power resources are located.
Hydro and ocean:
Support research and development of environmental friendly turbines and new technologies.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Existing hydro facilities to be upgraded with
newer turbines and non-power dams can have
power generation installed.
Ensure funding and support for ocean technology development and testing.
Accelerate decision making for efficient siting
and permitting of ocean energy equipment.
Recognize the importance of biomass as a
reliable resource in various applications, including
as a dispatchable power generation source, and
ensure the development and deployment of
sustainable biomass feedstocks which are truly
carbon neutral.
Consider stronger support for biogas digestion
for power generation and CHP.
Enhance the overall efficiency of black liquor use
(higher power-to-heat ratios).
Mandate road vehicle technology standards that
require higher shares of biofuels. Mandate the
gasoline retail infrastructure to handle E15. At the
same time promote drop-in fuels such as butanol
to circumvent the blending problem.
Consider promotion of biomass and liquids exports.
Reaching a 27% renewable energy share by 2030 for
the US is not an end-point. With innovation and technological learning, existing technologies will improve
in efficiency and gain further economic viability, and
breakthrough technologies of today will be commercialized. Technology deployment needs to account for the
developments and continue to go beyond these levels
by 2030 with new policies in place.
9.3Relevance of REmap findings
to climate change mitigation
and discussion
The analysis shows that renewables have a significant
potential in the US. Under the Remap Options they
would account for over a quarter of the US total final
energy consumption by 2030. This report also finds that
implementing all REmap Options is cost-effective, especially when externalities are accounted for. One of the
externalities related to fossil fuels assessed in this study
is the reduction of CO2 emissions, which is regarded as
the major driver of climate change.
Renewables have significant climate change benefits
because they emit no or very low GHG emissions compared to fossil fuels. As it was shown for the global
REmap 2030 results, renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies together could result in emission
reductions which would keep the concentration in the
atmosphere from surpassing 450 ppm of CO2, the level
at which scientists believe that global warming can be
kept within an increase of two degrees Celsius to avoid
the most catastrophic consequences.
Climate change policy has been on the US agenda for
nearly two decades. In June 2013, a new Climate Change
Action Plan was launched. The plan has three pillars
(White House, 2013a):
Cutting carbon pollution in America,
Prepare the US for the impacts of climate change,
Lead international efforts to combat climate
change and prepare for its impacts
The Climate Change Action Plan outlines different actions, some of which are related to the increased use of
renewable energy, increasing the sustainability of the
transport sector, and reducing non-CO2 GHG emissions
(White House, 2013a).
In May 2014, The United States Global Change Research
Program (US GCRP) released its third National Climate
Assessment (NCA). The report is a collaboration of
federal agencies and many US experts. It focuses on the
current and expected climate change impacts in the US,
discusses the roles of different sectors regions and provides response strategies (US GCRP, 2014). According
to the report, global warming, which is driven by human
activity, is resulting in climate change impacts today
and these impacts will continue in the future as well,
including adverse effects on economy and quality of
life. The report underlines that if the US is to avoid these
impacts, existing plans for adapting to and mitigating
climate change are currently insufficient and should
be improved. According to the report, increased use of
renewable energy is one of the different actions to available to reduce emissions.
According to Figure 31, increasing the share of renewables in TFEC of the US as detailed by REmap would
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Figure 31: Reduction in fossil fuel CO2 emissions resulting from REmap Options, 2030
Reference Case emissions 5.6 Gt
CO2 (Gt/year)
30% Reduction
1.6 Gt
REmap 2030
reduce total fossil fuel combustion related emissions
by up to 30% compared to both 2010 levels and the
business as usual in 2030. Relative to 2005 levels, this
is equivalent to a reduction of about 33%. These reductions are in line with the US commitment to reduce its
greenhouse gas emissions by 17% in 2020 compared to
2005 levels (White House, 2013a) and the new pledges
that aim to reduce US emissions by 26-28% by 2025
compared to the same base year. These emission reductions can be realized by implementing the realizable
potentials of renewables.
Reductions in the US emissions would contribute to
19% of the global CO2 emission reductions which would
be achieved if all REmap Options required for doubling
the global renewable energy share are implemented
by 2030 (a total reduction of 8.6 Gt CO2 emissions by
2030). Among the 26 REmap countries, the US has the
second largest potential in terms of the absolute emission reduction volume following China. India is third.
These three countries would account for half of the
global emission reduction potential according to REmap
2030. Deployment of renewables and realizing the
emission reductions in these countries are essential for
a transition in the global energy system and to mitigate
climate change.
These emission reduction estimates assume that all
renewable energy sources are carbon-neutral. While
this applies to most renewables, for biomass it is not the
case because of the GHG emissions during bioenergy
harvesting, processing and combustion, in particular
when land use change emissions are accounted for.
EPA has drafted a framework about the biogenic
versus geologic carbon cycles of biomass related to
their combustion in electricity generation. As of the
beginning of June 2014, the framework is now being
revised by EPA based on the feedback received from the
Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) and other stakeholders.
The framework, once finalized, will provide important
information regarding the net atmospheric contribution
of CO2 emissions of biomass-derived fuels from their
growth, harvesting and use. It may thus provide guidance
for optimal development and deployment of sustainably
sourced and truly carbon neutral biomass fuels.
In its liquid biofuel policy, the US has already responded
to concerns about sustainability of biofuels by introducing emission savings standards coupled with volumetric
targets. But more needs to be understood in the complex dynamic of bioenergy emissions accounting which
is related to both emissions from combustion and land
use change. These would also have large influence on
the total emission reduction potentials of the US given
that nearly 60% of the country’s total renewable energy
use comes from biofuels.
The third pillar of the Climate Change Action Plan
addresses the international efforts in climate change
and highlights in particular the importance of bilateral
initiatives with China and India (White House, 2013a).
Through these international efforts, the plan suggests
that greater emission reductions can be achieved worldwide beyond 2020.
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Renewables can play a key role in reducing
global CO2 emissions while avoiding gridlock
In June 2013, at the fifth round of the US-China
Strategic and Economic Dialogue, China and the US
agreed to work towards mitigating climate change
based on a number of initiatives, including reducing
vehicle emissions through improved fuel use efficiency
standards and cleaner fuels and promoting smart grid
technology. This is an important step towards the
reduction of global GHG emissions as the two countries
account for nearly half of the global GHG emissions
(Freeman and Konschnik, 2014). In November 2014,
the US together with China pledged GHG emission
reduction targets. By 2025 the US plans to reduce its
CO2 emissions by 26-28% compared to 2005 levels.
These targets are similar to what has been envisioned in
the 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act and
can be seen as an extrapolation of the reductions of 17%
planned for the year 2020.
The US and India announced in June 2013 that they
would establish a new Working Group on Climate
Change building on the 2009 US-India Memorandum
of Understanding (MoU) where the they agreed to
cooperate on R&D of various technologies including
renewable energy (Freeman and Konschnik, 2014).
As suggested by the Ad Hoc Working Group on the
Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) which
held its 4th part of its second session in March 2014 in
Bonn, IRENA’s REmap framework can be considered a
useful tool in the context of climate change mitigation
discussions, and can inform the debate about the role
renewable energy can play in various countries. The
ADP in particular highlights the importance of technology deployment, both in terms of energy efficiency and
renewable energy, which is an area where the US, given
its focus on technology, can play an important role.
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memorandum of understanding
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research and development
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Scientific Advisory Board
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operation and maintenance
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and Development
plug-in hybrid electric vehicles
SE4All Sustainable Energy for All
sulphur dioxide
trillion cubic feet
total final consumption
total final energy consumption
tonnes of coal equivalent
tonnes of oil equivalent
particulate matter
total primary energy demand
production tax credit
PURPA Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act
United Nations
United States of America
Quadrennial Energy Review
US dollars
Quadrennial Technology Review
Volumetric Excise Tax Credits
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Energy price assumptions
Local energy
prices in 2030
Crude oil (USD/GJ)
Steam coal (USD/GJ)
Electricity Household (USD/kWh)
Electricity Industry (USD/kWh)
Natural gas Household (USD/GJ)
Natural gas Industry (USD/GJ)
Petroleum products (USD/GJ)
Diesel (USD/GJ)
Gasoline (USD/GJ)
Kerosene (USD/GJ)
Biodiesel (USD/GJ)
Biofuel (USD/GJ)
First generation bioethanol (USD/GJ)
Second generation bioethanol (USD/GJ)
Biomethane (USD/GJ)
Biokerosene (USD/GJ)
Hydrogen (USD/GJ)
Primary biomass 1 (USD/GJ)
Primary biomass 2 (USD/GJ)
Primary biomass 3 (USD/GJ)
Biomass residues 1 (USD/GJ)
Biomass residues 2 (USD/GJ)
Biomass residues 3 (USD/GJ)
Traditional biomass 1 (USD/GJ)
Traditional biomass 2 (USD/GJ)
Municipal waste (USD/GJ)
Nuclear fuel (USD/GJ)
Carbon price (USD/t CO2)
Interest rates for energy sector investment (%)
Discount rate (%)
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Reference case
Renewable energy deployment in Reference Case in 2030
Total electricity production
Power sector (incl. CHP)
4 868
Solar PV
Solid biomass
Liquid & gaseous biofuels
Solar thermal
Total heat production
District Heat sector (incl. CHP)
Solid biomass
Liquid & gaseous biofuels
Solar thermal
Total consumption
Industry (PJ/year)
19 539
Electricity consumption
4 177
Solid biomass
1 962
Liquid & gaseous biofuels
Solar thermal
Total consumption
Transport (PJ/year)
Buildings (PJ/year)
Electricity consumption
Liquid & gaseous biofuels
1 546
Total consumption
21 134
Electricity consumption
11 168
Solid biomass
Liquid & gaseous biofuels
Solar thermal
26 005
R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Data for cost-supply curve, from the business perspective and the
government perspective
Business perspective
Autoproducers, CHP electricity part (solid biomass residues)
Space heating: Pellet burners, substituting oil
Landfill gas ICE
Solar PV (Utility)
Wind onshore
Solar PV (Utility), low solar irradiance
Biomass boilers, residues
Wind onshore, low wind resource
Second generation bioethanol (passenger road vehicles)
Autoproducers, CHP heat part (solid biomass residues)
Hydro, run-of-river
First generation bioethanol (passenger road vehicles)
Solar PV (Residential/Commercial)
Wind offshore
Space heating: Air-to-Air heat pumps
Solar CSP PT storage
Battery electric (passenger road vehicles)
Solar thermal, industry
Space heating: Solar (heat transfer fluid)
Biomass gasification
Water heating: Solar (heat transfer fluid)
Solar PV (Residential/Commercial), low solar irradiance
Hydrogen (passenger road vehicles)
Space heating: Geothermal heat pumps
Plug-in hybrid (passenger road vehicles)
Space Cooling: Solar
Biomass steam cycle
Plug-in hybrid (light-freight road vehicles)
Battery electric (light-freight road vehicles)
Hydrogen (freight road vehicles)
cost (USD2010/
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a
Government perspective
Autoproducers, CHP electricity part (solid biomass)
Landfill gas ICE
Solar PV (Utility)
Wind onshore
Solar PV (Utility), low solar irradiance
Biomass boilers
Second generation bioethanol (passenger road vehicles)
First generation bioethanol (passenger road vehicles)
Wind onshore, low wind resource
Space heating: Pellet burners
Autoproducers, CHP heat part (solid biomass)
Space heating: Air-to-Air heat pumps
Biomass gasification
Solar thermal
Solar PV (Residential/Commercial)
Wind offshore
Hydro, run-of-river
Solar CSP PT storage
Space heating: Solar (heat transfer fluid)
Space heating: Geothermal heat pumps
Water heating: Solar (heat transfer fluid)
Solar PV (Residential/Commercial), low solar irradiance
Space Cooling: Solar
Plug-in hybrid (passenger road vehicles)
Hydrogen (passenger road vehicles)
Battery electric (passenger road vehicles)
Biomass steam cycle
Plug-in hybrid (light-freight road vehicles)
Battery electric (light-freight road vehicles)
Hydrogen (freight road vehicles)
1 0 0 R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
cost (USD2010/
Levelized costs of renewable and conventional technologies in end-use sectors
REmap 2030
REmap 2030
Autoproducers, CHP electricity part
(solid biomass, residues)
Natural gas
Autoproducers, CHP heat part
(solid biomass, residues)
Natural gas (furnace)
Solar thermal
Natural gas (steam boiler)
Biomass boilers (residues)
Biomass gasification
Water heating: Solar (heat transfer fluid)
Space heating: natural gas
Space heating: Solar (heat transfer fluid)
Space heating: petroleum
products (boiler)
Space heating: Pellet burners
Space cooling: electricity
Space heating: Geothermal heat pumps
Space heating: Air-to-Air heat pumps
Space Cooling: Solar
First generation bioethanol
(passenger road vehicles)
Petroleum products
(passenger road vehicles)
Second generation bioethanol
(passenger road vehicles)
Petroleum products
(freight road vehicles)
Hydrogen (passenger road vehicles)
Petroleum products
(light-freight road vehicles)
Hydrogen (freight road vehicles)
Plug-in hybrid (passenger road vehicles)
Plug-in hybrid (light-freight road vehicles)
Battery electric (passenger road vehicles)
Battery electric
(light-freight road vehicles)
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a 1 0 1
Resource maps
Figure 32: Photovoltaic solar resource
Source: NREL (2012b)
Figure 33: Solar PV resource intensity
Source: IRENA Global Atlas (3TIER) (IRENA, 2013b)
1 0 2 R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Figure 34: US wind speed
Source: NREL (2012b)
Figure 35: Geothermal resource
Source: NREL (2012b)
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a 1 0 3
Figure 36: Biomass crop residue potentials
Source: NREL (2012b)
Figure 37: Biomass forest residues potential
Source: NREL (2012b)
1 0 4 R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
Detailed Roadmap Table
Total primary energy supply (PJ/year)
Reference 2030
REmap 2030
21 045
20 401
8 469
31 365
29 360
26 618
22 862
25 575
20 384
8 905
10 090
7 828
1 059
1 550
4 183
6 609
12 651
Traditional biomass
Modern bioenergy (incl. biogas, biofuels)
Solar thermal
Solar PV
4 153
1 537
2 955
90 303
95 547
86 124
1 468
1 458
1 458
30 956
29 040
26 297
14 700
16 301
11 219
Ocean / Tide / Wave / Other
Total final energy consumption (PJ/year)
Traditional biomass
Modern biomass (solid)
Modern biomass (liquid)
Solar thermal
Other renewables
2 005
2 535
5 855
1 127
1 567
3 108
13 510
15 392
16 234
64 150
66 678
65 688
1 847
1 765
1 377
1 361
District Heat
Gross electricity generation (TWh/year)
Natural gas
Solar PV
Wind onshore
Wind offshore
Ocean / Tide / Wave
4 130
4 868
5 224
Re n ewa b l e E n e rg y P ro sp e ct s: Un ite d S ta te s o f A meric a 1 0 5
Electricity capacity (GW)
Natural gas
Hydro (excl. pumped hydro)
Solar PV (utility)
Wind onshore
Wind offshore
Ocean / Tide / Wave
1 022
1 110
1 397
Solar PV (rooftop)
CO2 emissions (Mt CO2)
Total emissions from fossil fuel combustion
5 604
Renewable energy indicators (%)
5 547
3 909
Renewable energy share electricity – generation
VRE share electricity – generation
Renewable energy share electricity – capacity
VRE share electricity – capacity
District heat – generation
incl. renewable energy electricity and DH
incl. renewable energy electricity and DH
Buildings (excl. trad. biomass)
incl. renewable energy electricity and DH
Financial Indicators (in USD2010)
Substitution cost – Business Perspective (USD/GJ)
Substitution cost – Government Perspective (USD/GJ)
Incremental system cost (bln USD/year)
Reduced human health externalities (bln USD/year)
-29 to -10
Reduced CO2 externalities (bln USD/year)
-128 to -32
Incremental subsidy needs in 2030 (bln USD/year)
Incremental investment needs (bln USD/year)
Biomass Supply (PJ/year)
Total supply potential
22 725
Total demand
16 080
23 Excluding other sectors, blast furnaces, coke ovens, non-energy use and others.
1 0 6 R e newa ble Energy P ros pe c t s : U ni te d State s o f A me rica
IR E N A H ea dq u a r te rs
P. O. B ox 2 3 6 , Abu Dhabi
Un ite d A ra b Emirates
IR E N A I n n ova t io n and
Te ch n o lo gy C e ntre
Ro be r t- Schuman-Pla tz 3
5 3 17 5 Bonn
ww w.i re
Copyright©IRENA 2015

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