The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is launching a two-year, economy-wide electrification futures study, covering the impact of far wider electricity use across buildings, transportation, and industry.
“While NREL has conducted extensive research on the supply-side implications of rapid deployment of renewable energy in the U.S. power system, it had not yet studied the demand side: extensive electrification of end use technologies such as light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and residential and commercial heat pumps,” reports Greentech Media, citing NREL Senior Researcher and project lead Trieu Mai.
Greentech lists five questions NREL is setting out to answer: the technologies available now and in future to meet the highest energy-consuming needs; the impact of widespread electrification on electricity demand and consumption; how the U.S. electricity system would have to transform to accommodate those changes; the role of demand-side flexibility in ensuring system reliability; and the potential costs, benefits, and impacts of mass electrification.”
NREL combined its announcement with the release of an initial, foundational report that projects the cost and performance of electricity end use technologies through 2050. “It gives the reader a sense of how far away the electric technologies are from being cost-effective today, and how far they may have to go to get—on a pure cost comparison—to reach parity with some of these incumbent technologies,” Mai told Greentech.
“Large energy footprints coupled with small electricity footprints are a first-order indication of potential for electrification,” the initial report concluded. “In other words,” Greentech explains, “energy hogs such as heavy-duty trucks and buses, industrial boilers, and process heating are prime targets for electrification. Transitioning to low-carbon electricity unlocks the potential to reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions in these hard-to-reach sectors.”
Future reports “will examine end-use technologies’ adoption scenarios; energy and electricity consumption patterns; and supply-side futures under different electrification scenarios,” Greentech notes.