Modeling Variable Renewable Energy and Storage in the Power Sector

John Bistline, Geoffrey Blanford, Trieu Mai, James Merrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus Citations


The emergence of variable renewable energy and battery storage technologies have fundamentally transformed the electric power sector and generated demand for analysis to understand their roles in future energy systems. Although unique characteristics of these resources are well-recognized and require more sophisticated methodologies to capture effectively, guidance is limited on best practices and research gaps. This paper selectively reviews recent literature and draws upon our collective modeling experience to offer recommendations to analysts and consumers of model outputs on approaches for modeling variable renewable energy and storage in long-term electric sector models. We focus on regional- and national-scale models with technological, temporal, and spatial detail given their prevalence in planning and policy analysis, though insights are applicable in other settings. The review highlights how the research frontier has advanced in representing renewables and energy storage over the past decade; however, given the many considerations involved with appropriately capturing salient economic and operational characteristics of renewables, there is a gap between commonly used models and state-of-the-art methods. Model simplifications can materially impact policy analysis associated with power sector decarbonization and high renewables deployment, and improving model representations of variable renewables can enhance insights for policymakers and other stakeholders. This review can point the way for improved methods for established models and designs for emerging ones.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number112424
Number of pages11
JournalEnergy Policy
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5C00-78435


  • Energy and environmental policy
  • Energy storage
  • Energy systems modeling
  • Power sector economics
  • Renewable energy


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