Variable Renewable Energy in Long-Term Planning Models: A Multi-Model Perspective

Wesley Cole, Bethany Frew, Trieu Mai, Yinong Sun, John Bistline, Geoffrey Blanford, David Young, Cara Marcy, Chris Namovicz, Risa Edelman, Bill Meroney, Ryan Sims, Jeb Stenhouse, Paul Donohoo-Vallett

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Long-term capacity expansion models of the U.S. electricity sector have long been used to inform electric sector stakeholders and decision makers. With the recent surge in variable renewable energy (VRE) generators - primarily wind and solar photovoltaics - the need to appropriately represent VRE generators in these long-term models has increased. VRE generators are especially difficult to represent for a variety of reasons, including their variability, uncertainty, and spatial diversity. To assess current best practices, share methods and data, and identify future research needs for VRE representation in capacity expansion models, four capacity expansion modeling teams from the Electric Power Research Institute, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted two workshops of VRE modeling for national-scale capacity expansion models. The workshops covered a wide range of VRE topics, including transmission and VRE resource data, VRE capacity value, dispatch and operational modeling, distributed generation, and temporal and spatial resolution. The objectives of the workshops were both to better understand these topics and to improve the representation of VRE across the suite of models. Given these goals, each team incorporated model updates and performed additional analyses between the first and second workshops. This report summarizes the analyses and model 'experiments' that were conducted as part of these workshops as well as the various methods for treating VRE among the four modeling teams. The report also reviews the findings and learnings from the two workshops. We emphasize the areas where there is still need for additional research and development on analysis tools to incorporate VRE into long-term planning and decision-making.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages43
StatePublished - 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-70528


  • capacity expansion
  • IPM
  • modeling
  • NEMS
  • ReEDS


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