The 21st Century Power Partnership publications provide information about and analysis of market design and regulatory issues for clean energy and 21st century power systems. Published work appears in scientific journals and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory publications database.
Thought Leadership Publications
Performance-based regulation (PBR) has established a pathway for reforming hundred-year-old regulatory structures to unleash innovations within 21st century power systems. The old regulatory paradigm, built to ensure safe and reliable electricity at reasonable prices from capital-intensive electricity monopolies, is adjusting to disruptive technological advances that are transforming the way electricity is generated, delivered, and consumed. PBR enables regulators to recognize the value electric utilities bring to customers by enabling advanced energy technologies and integrating smart solutions into the utility grid and utility operations. These changes in the electric energy system and customer capacities have catalyzed increased interest in motivating regulated entities to move beyond traditional cost-of-service performance regulation. This report addresses best practices and lessons gleaned from more than two decades of PBR in practice, and analyzes how those can be applied to design innovative PBR programs.
This Fellowship is a follow-up to the “Technical Audit of Eskom’s Medium- and Long-term Modelling Capabilities,” conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in April 2016. The prospect and role of variable renewable energy (vRE) in South Africa poses new modelling-related challenges that Eskom is actively working to address by improving the fidelity of PLEXOS LT and ST models.
The use of renewable energy (RE) sources, primarily wind and solar generation, is poised to grow significantly within the Indian power system. The Government of India has established an installed capacity target of 175 gigawatts (GW) of RE by 2022 that includes 60 GW of wind and 100 GW of solar, up from current capacities of 29 GW wind and 9 GW solar. Using advanced weather and power system modeling designed specifically for this project, the multi-institutional study team explored operational impacts of meeting India’s RE targets and identified actions that are favorable for integration. The study team’s primary tool was a detailed production cost model, which simulates optimal scheduling and dispatch of available power generation in a future year (2022) by minimizing total production costs subject to physical, operational, and market constraints. Read the overview to learn more.
Power sectors around the world are undergoing significant change due to the rapid uptake of new supply- and demand-side technologies. Large-scale wind and solar power as well as distributed energy resources are influencing the planning, operation, and profitability of power systems. Policymakers, utilities, and other stakeholders need to apply innovative approaches to transform the power system, with the objective to achieve sustainable, affordable and reliable electricity. This report provides an overview of current trends across the globe, with a focus on the integration of renewables and local grid development. A framework for assessing the status of power system transformation is also introduced and applied to Indonesia, South Africa, Mexico, and Australia.
Interest in renewable energy (RE) procurement in new markets is on the rise. Corporations are increasing their commitments to procuring RE, motivated by an interest in using clean energy sources and reducing their energy expenses. Many large companies have facilities and supply chains in multiple countries, and are interested in procuring renewable energy in the grids where they use energy. The policy environment around the world plays a key role in shaping where and how corporations will invest in renewables. This report explores the policy and regulatory enabling environment for corporate sourcing of renewables.
Past distributed generation policies and market developments in the United States provide lessons learned. Additional case studies illustrate how several countries are pivoting away from historical forms of support for distributed PV toward more market-based schemes.
Over the past ten years, China has seen tremendous growth in renewable energy development, accompanied by high levels of curtailment. This report details U.S. experiences in transmission scheduling, pricing, access, and allocation to illustrate implications for consideration in China.
Mexico's transition to a modern wholesale power market will place new demands on how regulators evaluate and approve transmission expansion projects. Transmission projects in a modern wholesale market fulfill one of several needs, and utilities, regional transmission organizations (RTOs), and regulatory authorities in the United States have encountered comparable challenges in their market transitions to ensure projects meeting each type of need can be built. The purpose of this report is to open a window to view that experience. The report examines key practices of different U.S. jurisdictions that have moved from transmission planning to transmission approval, and it focuses on the role of the regulator in supporting a planning process that equitably meets identified needs.
Countries around the world are in various stages of reforming and restructuring their power systems to better meet development needs. Changes in technology, business models, societal needs, and environmental goals are increasing pressure for countries to consider improvements to their power systems. This report addresses key issues associated clean restructuring—the transition from traditional, vertically integrated utilities to competitive wholesale markets that rely on variable renewable electricity sources, demand response, and other clean energy options.
Power system transformation is a complex, active process that is taking place at different rates and in different forms around the world. This transformation has multiple drivers, including technological advances, policy goals, and social change, and multiple enablers, especially policy, financial, and business model innovation. This report aims to bring the power system transformation picture into sharper focus, bolstering the evidence base for power system transformation by providing a collection of empirical examples of the types of innovations that are emerging around the world.
Published with participation from 21CPP by the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) with support of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, and the Regulatory Assistance Project, this report outlines key recommendations and a framework for integrated policy strategy for rapid renewable electricity implementation that complements both existing and planned conventional power projects. The full report is available from the Confederation of Indian Industry.
This report summarizes key forces driving transformation in the power sector around the world, presents a framework for evaluating decisions regarding extent and pace of change, and defines pathways for transformation. Powerful trends in technology, policy environments, financing, and business models are driving change in power sectors globally. In light of these trends, the question is no longer whether power systems will be transformed, but rather how these transformations will occur. Three approaches to policy and technology decision-making can guide these transformations: adaptive, reconstructive, and evolutionary. Within these approaches, the report explores the five pathways that have emerged as viable models for power system transformation.
Power systems in the 21st century—with higher penetration of low-carbon energy, smart grids, and other emerging technologies—will favor resources that have low marginal costs and provide system flexibility. Such flexibility includes the ability to cycle on and off as well as run at low minimum loads to complement variations in output from high penetration of renewable energy. Can coal-fired power plants continue to operate cost-effectively if they cycle routinely? Yes, according to experiences from an actual multi-unit North American coal generating station. This flexibility requires limited modifications to hardware, but extensive modifications to operational practice.
This CERI report surveys key regulatory issues associated with the deployment of renewable energy, particularly variable renewable energy (VRE) sources such wind and solar power. The report draws upon the research and experiences from various international contexts, and identifies key ideas that have emerged from the growing body of VRE deployment experience and regulatory knowledge.
In March 2014, the Power Partnership and the Regulatory Assistance Project - India hosted two peer-to-peer exchanges among experts from India, South Africa, Europe, and the United States to discuss the provision of ancillary services, particularly in the context of added variability and uncertainty from renewable energy. This fact sheet summarizes the consultation.
Flexibility of operation—the ability of a power system to respond to change in demand and supply—is a characteristic of all power systems. Flexibility is especially prized in twenty-first century power systems, with higher levels of grid-connected variable renewable energy (primarily, wind and solar).
This report seeks to briefly characterize the evolving role of the power sector regulator. It describes seven existing objectives of power sector regulators and nine emerging objectives, highlighting key challenges and outlining interdependencies. As the preliminary installment in a series, it aims to lay the groundwork for subsequent reports and case studies that will explore these topics in depth.
Demand management and distributed generation could transform how consumers interact with the electricity grid and manage energy. Energy consumers may be shifting to view themselves as both consumers and increasingly as suppliers - with renewable energy generation on-site and demand response capability. This new consumer model and the concept of a distributed energy system may be disruptive to the traditional utility model. It also changes the operation and management of the U.S. electricity grid. The Institute for Building Efficiency and the 21st Century Power Partnership hosted a Roundtable Dialogue on how utilities of the future can adapt to capture the greatest benefits for consumers and utilities without adversely impacting reliability, price, and power availability.
Twenty-first century power systems, with higher penetration levels of low-carbon energy, smart grids, and other emerging technologies, will favor resources that have low marginal costs and provide system flexibility (e.g., the ability to cycle on and off to follow changes in variable renewable energy plant output). Questions remain about both the fate of coal plants in this scenario and whether they can cost-effectively continue to operate if they cycle routinely. The experience from the CGS plant demonstrates that coal plants can become flexible resources.
This report reviews the suite of wholesale power market designs in use and under consideration to ensure adequacy, security, and flexibility in a landscape of significant variable renewable energy. It also examines considerations needed to ensure that wholesale market designs are inclusive of emerging technologies, such as demand response, distributed generation, and storage.
This report explains that nations and regions need to share lessons about the best ways to create enabling policies, regulations, and markets that get the most social benefit out of power systems and incent the necessary investments.
This fact sheet highlights a 2012 report on best practices to enable variable renewable energy grid integration. The report studies cases from Australia (South Australia), Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Spain, and the United States (Colorado and Texas), which have effectively integrated variable RE utilizing diverse approaches.