Analysis Group Economists’ Electricity Journal Article Assesses New England’s Ability to Harness and Store Sufficient Electricity from Intermittent Resources to Meet Decarbonization Requirements

November 13, 2020

In the article “When the wind doesn’t blow: The limits of intermittent resources and battery storage in the decarbonization of New England’s power system under increased electrification,” published in The Electricity Journal, Vice President Joseph Cavicchi and Associate Phillip H. Ross analyze the impact of substantial additions of intermittent renewable electric generation resources and large-scale battery storage necessary to support New England’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction objectives through increased electrification of transportation and home heating. Under this future scenario, Mr. Cavicchi and Dr. Ross evaluate the operational impact of these resource additions on New England’s electricity system, and estimate the marginal cost of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reductions attributable to additional battery storage resources. They also assess costs and environmental impacts of continuing to generate some power with natural gas generation resources until technological breakthroughs allow for sufficient longer-duration energy storage resources.

To meet GHG reduction targets, New England states aim to lower and nearly eliminate reliance on fossil fuels. Two key decarbonization strategies are increasing electrification of transportation and residential heating, and expanding intermittent wind and solar electric generation and energy storage. However, these efforts face limitations, as current large-scale battery storage capability does not span multiple days, and thus cannot meet the need for consistently reliable energy supply levels because renewable resources can experience multiple days of severely reduced electrical generation. This is especially of concern during New England’s winter months, when there are extended periods of low intermittent resource production, and future growth in electricity demand will be most pronounced due to electrification.

New England is poised to significantly increase off-shore wind electric generation supplies and expand the use of solar photovoltaic supplies. Mr. Cavicchi and Dr. Ross discuss to what extent and for how long the region should plan to rely on existing gas-fired generation resources to supplement zero-carbon-based power sources. They also consider what role technological breakthroughs in intermittent energy storage must play to achieve goals while providing consumers with reliable power.

Read an abstract of the article here