U.S. Department of Energy Study Supports Feasibility of 80% Renewables

Image of the cover to the Renewable Electricity Futures Study report.

The Renewable Energy Futures Study was a U.S. Department of Energy funded study performed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and published in July of 2012.  The study answered questions surrounding the technical feasibility of utilizing massive amounts of renewable energy in the United States.  The study’s primary finding was that by 2050 the United States could utilize 80% renewable energy (biofuel, wind, solar, and hydro) with currently available technology.  Thirty five organizations contributed to the study.

The Renewable Energy Futures Study provides an excellent scientific foundation for the feasibility of Michigan utilizing 25% renewables as envisioned in Proposal 3. This study confirms proponents view that 25% renewable penetration will be a challenge, but is attainable.

The 200 page study contains sophisticated analysis and high-quality modeling.  A couple of important assumptions are worth highlighting.  First, the study used the currently available energy technology to model the 80% renewable penetration.  Second, the study identified the importance of the improving and developing the nation’s electric grid, market models, and modernizing our energy infrastructure to reach renewable energy goals.

Some other key findings from the report:

Key Findings

  • Renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country.
  • Increased electric system flexibility, needed to enable electricity supply-demand balance with high levels of renewable generation, can come from a portfolio of supply- and demand-side options, including flexible conventional generation, grid storage, new transmission, more responsive loads, and changes in power system operations.
  • The abundance and diversity of U.S. renewable energy resources can support multiple combinations of renewable technologies that result in deep reductions in electric sector greenhouse gas emissions and water use.
  • The direct incremental cost associated with high renewable generation is comparable to published cost estimates of other clean energy scenarios. Improvement in the cost and performance of renewable technologies is the most impactful lever for reducing this incremental cost.


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