Why Advocates of 100% Clean Energy Must Overcome the ‘Resource Adequacy’ Challenge

At-a-Glance:

Transitioning to 100 percent clean power is more complicated than just adding renewables and storage. Adding variable, fuel-free resources to the grid requires major changes in power system planning to ensure reliability — what grid operators call “resource adequacy.” Failing to address outdated resource-adequacy models puts the clean-energy transformation at risk. To learn more, read “Why Advocates of 100% Clean Energy Must Overcome the ‘Resource Adequacy’ Challenge.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Grid reliability is a main concern for operators, who must match electricity supply with demand by managing generation resources they can dispatch.
    • To avoid outages, operators must have enough resources at their disposal to match demand, especially when demand peaks unexpectedly due to weather extremes.
  • Traditional resource-adequacy planning has been based on two ideas:
    • One: power plants can be called on at will, provided they are ready in advance to provide electricity.
    • Two: real-time fuel costs dominate calculations of the most cost-effective resources to run at any given time and which new resources to plan for.
  • An over-reliance on the traditional planning mindset can lead to a failure to plan holistically for a least-cost solution using a broader portfolio of resources.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Decarbonization requires building a larger, cleaner electricity grid without sacrificing reliability. Resource-adequacy concerns threaten to slow the transition. The clean energy industry must prioritize changing policymakers’ perceptions of resource adequacy and the development of new planning models that allow all technologies capable of providing reliable service to compete on equal footing. Ignoring the resource-adequacy problem by expecting falling solar and wind prices to simply displace fossil fuel power sources will unnecessarily delay the path to 100% renewable energy.