Power Sector Transformation

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Supportive policies, favorable economics, and technological innovations are accelerating the United States’ transition to a clean, affordable, and reliable electricity grid. In many parts of the country, renewable energy technologies like wind and solar are cost-competitive or even cheaper than fossil fuels. Extensive modeling by government agencies and national labs shows a low-carbon electricity future can be just as reliable and affordable as our current system.

Groundbreaking research has shown the U.S. can reach 90 percent clean electricity by 2035 with existing technology – much faster than previously anticipated at no extra cost, supporting more than half a million jobs, and cutting economy-wide emissions 27 percent.

Falling costs coupled with falling emissions is the new normal. Major utilities are announcing ambitious clean energy goals with customer affordability in mind as economics and policy help wind and solar become the grid’s new backbone. States, cities, and Fortune 500 companies across the country are committing to 100 percent clean electricity.

The institutions governing and managing the grid must evolve as renewables make up a greater share of our power, given clean energy resources’ variability, land-use, capital intensiveness, and modular size. Electrifying transportation, buildings, and industry will increase demand, but can help strengthen the grid if done right. Organized wholesale markets and utility regulation must evolve to support a rapid transition away from uneconomic fossil resources and fund new investments in clean energy, storage, efficiency, and behind-the-meter resources. New models must be developed for operating an increasingly distributed and weather-dependent system, with economy-wide electrification.

Our Work

Smart policy can empower utilities, electricity markets, and consumers to more readily adapt to these new realities. Energy Innovation’s Power Sector Transformation team provides research and support to design the policies that will enable a clean, affordable, and resilient electricity future. This includes work to explore the infrastructure investments and land-use policies needed to reach our climate goals, wholesale market designs providing investment signals for a clean and reliable resource portfolio, utility regulations meeting modern needs to align utility profits with climate mitigation and customer value, and innovative models to finance the coal to clean transition.

Our work originated from the America’s Power Plan (APP) project, which started with an overview paper and seven whitepapers on the power sector transformation, and grew into a network of more than 200 electricity expert partners. APP’s work now continues through Energy Innovation. Explore our foundational APP work and our current initiatives.

If you’re a policymaker and want to talk with our experts, reach out via power@nullenergyinnovation.org.

The Power Sector Transformation Team


Power Sector Transformation Topics

Electrification

Energy Innovation helps policymakers create the regulatory, financial, and market structures necessary for America's power sector transformation.

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Financial Transition

The rapid cost decline of renewable energy means running existing coal generation now exceeds the all-in cost of replacing it with wind and solar in most of the United States. This “coal cost crossover” begs regulators and utilities to reconsider the prudency of continuing to operate existing coal plants.

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Power Market Design

Competitive wholesale electricity markets are at a turning point. Current market rules and practices were established to manage a system built around large central plant stations generating electricity to meet inflexible demand. Prices and market revenues are tied to generators’ production costs, which have historically been largely dependent on the prices of fuels burned in those plants.

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Ratemaking and Utility Business Models

The United States’ electric power industry is changing fast. For a century, vertically integrated monopoly utilities built power plants, strung transmission and distribution lines, billed customers, and were rewarded with a predictable return on investment.

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Regional Transmission and Distribution Planning

Decisions and investments made in the coming decade will shape the course of the United States’ power sector, economy, and public health for decades to come. Will this massive investment lock in an inefficient, century-old system reliant primarily on centralized fossil fuel, or will it move us toward a cleaner, more efficient, and economic energy future?

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Rewiring The U.S. For Economic Recovery

Research shows that plummeting renewable energy and storage prices mean the United States can reliably reach 90 percent clean electricity by 2035 at no extra cost to consumers, supporting 530,000 new jobs per year, and cutting economy-wide emissions 27 percent. But to realize these benefits, the United States needs a federal clean energy standard that complements state policy leadership.

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