Retail Rate Projections for Long-Term Electricity System Models

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Electricity prices reported in most electricity-system planning studies leave out many price components and do not translate into retail rates, making it difficult to interpret how projected electricity system changes will impact costs to consumers. Full transmission costs are left out of many studies; distribution and administration costs are similarly excluded or highly simplified. Here, we present a detailed bottom-up accounting method for projecting future retail electricity rates in the United States. Making the simplifying assumption that each state is served by an investor-owned utility (IOU), we translate projected generation and transmission capacity and costs from the Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) capacity-expansion model into IOU balance sheet expenditures, accounting for depreciation, taxes, and the breakdown between operating and capitalized (rate-based) expenses. Distribution, administration, and intra-regional transmission costs are projected forward based on empirical trends over the past decade. Modeled bottom-up electricity rates are compared to historical rates from 2010-2019, and the sensitivity of modeled rates to a range of financing and modeling assumptions is explored. Distribution and administration rate components account for roughly 40% (4.4 cents/kWh) of the projected national-average retail rate over 2020-2050 under central assumptions.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages31
StatePublished - 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-78224


  • distribution system
  • electricity prices
  • electricity system
  • investor-owned utilities


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