The Role of Firm
Low-Carbon Electricity Resources in Deep Decarbonization of Power Generation

Date Published: November 2018

Authors: Nestor A. Sepulveda, Jesse D. Jenkins, Fernando J. de Sisternes, Richard K. Lester

This study models the cost of electric power system decarbonization based on generation technologies, emissions limits and grid services technologies. It proposes a new taxonomy for generation resources: “Fuel-Saving Variable Renewables,” “Firm Low-Carbon Resources” and “Fast-Burst Balancing Resources.” The results of the modeling show that Firm Low-Carbon Resources reduce both the cost (10-62% reduction) and risk (or range of possible costs) across scenarios. Depending on the scenario, Firm Resources may function as either “Flexible Base” (generating more often than not) or “Firm Cyclers” (rarely generating.) The carbon limits or modeled efficacy of carbon capture determine the role of the Firm Resources.

Regarding demand response, the model finds that demand flexibility improves the marginal value and optimizes utilization of Firm Resources, rather than replacing them completely. The results of the model were non-monotonically sensitive to the constraints on Firm Resources, suggesting that long-term decarbonization policy incorporates flexibility around emerging technologies.

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