WECC 2040 Clean Energy Sensitivities Study

by Richard Schulte, NERC Reliability Specialist

Concerns about climate change have countries looking for alternatives to using fossil fuels for our energy needs. President Biden has announced a goal for the US to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. To achieve this goal, the US will need to move from coal and gas for electricity production to Renewable Energy Resources like wind, solar, and battery storage. To do this will be a major change to the way we generate electricity. Currently, 61% of the electricity generated in the US is achieved using fossil fuels.

The Western Electric Coordinating Council (WECC) has completed phase 1 of a study which assessed how we can achieve 100% renewable energy in the electric sector, along with the challenges and uncertainties of renewable energy resources for our electrical grid. This study looked at accomplishing 80%, 90%, and 100% use of renewable energy sources in the WECC region by the year 2040 using wind, solar and battery storage for our electricity supply for the WECC region only. However, the findings, recommendations, and conclusions of this study can be used by other regions in the country for planning their move to 100% renewable energy.

From the study, WECC has several recommendations for further studies that include:

  • Further study of emerging clean technologies and strategies that provide flexibility and performance characteristics of as-fired generation resources
  • Optimal placement of new candidate generation resources to minimize transmission congestion
  • BPS and DPS planning and operations will need to be more closely integrated
  • Better tools and study methods are needed to bridge the gap between capital expansion tools and PCM tools

WECC and the Scenarios Work Group will apply the knowledge learned from this phase 1 study to their phase 2 study. Phase 2 will examine policies, markets, technology advancements, and consumer adoption in greater detail.

To read the study in full, use the following link to the WECC 2040 Clean Energy Sensitivities Study: 2040 Clean Energy Sensitivities Study