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Berkeley Lab Releases New Analysis of the Potential Renewable Energy Supply and Transmission Needed to Provide a Hypothetical 33% of the West’s Electricity Needs

Feb 25, 2010 - Energy Central

An analysis of the potential renewable resources and transmission that would be required to provide a hypothetical 33 percent of the West’s annual electricity from areas identified as being suitable for large-scale renewable energy development was released today by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

Berkeley Lab and Black & Veatch developed a new analytical tool to compare the economics of renewable resource areas for different load areas in the Western Interconnection and how different policies and uncertainties may affect resource selection and transmission expansion. The Lab’s findings build upon the stakeholder-based Western Renewable Energy Zones (WREZ) initiative, which was jointly managed by the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

“We need better analytical tools like the WREZ model to enable private and public sector decision-makers to develop timely policies and make investment decisions that will prepare the region for a clean energy future,” said WGA’s Chairman, Gov. Brian Schweitzer (Mont.).

The new report demonstrates how a screening tool can be used to identify important factors that need to be considered in more detailed transmission modeling studies.

“As a screening tool, we are not able to identify specific transmission lines or renewable projects that should be developed to meet a 33 percent renewable energy target, but we are able to identify important questions that need to be considered in more detailed models,” said Berkeley Lab’s Andrew Mills, one of the report’s authors.

As examples, the study found that least-cost transmission investment decisions were very sensitive to the availability of high-voltage direct current lines, and that free trade in renewable energy credits, on a West-wide basis, might reduce the average cost of renewable energy supply by as much as 0.6 cents/kWh.

Across all of the analyses included in the report, transmission costs made up 10-19 percent of the total cost to build new renewable resources and deliver renewable power to load centers throughout the West. In aggregate, the estimated investment in new transmission needed to meet the hypothetical 33 percent renewable energy target from WREZ resource areas was $17 to $34 billion. Wind and solar resources were found to represent the bulk of the estimated new renewable additions, with the mix between wind and solar greatly affected by policy and economic assumptions.

About WGA and Berkeley Lab:

The Western Governors’ Association is an independent, nonpartisan organization of governors representing 19 states and three U.S.-flag Pacific islands. The governors identify and address diverse policy and governance issues important to the region. Additional information is available on the Web at www.westgov.org.

Berkeley Lab is a DOE national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research for DOE’s Office of Science and is managed by the University of California. Visit our Website at www.lbl.gov/.