Full Title: Solar Futures Study
Author(s): U.S. Department of Energy
Publisher(s): U.S. Department of Energy
Publication Date: September 8, 2021
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Dramatic improvements to solar technologies and other clean energy technologies have enabled recent rapid growth in deployment and are providing cost-effective options for decarbonizing the U.S. electric grid. The Solar Futures Study explores the role of solar in decarbonizing the grid. Through state-of-the-art modeling, the study envisions deep grid decarbonization by 2035, as driven by a required emissions-reduction target. It also explores how electrification could enable a low-carbon grid to extend decarbonization to the broader energy system (the electric grid plus all direct fuel use in buildings, transportation, and industry) through 2050.
The Solar Futures Study uses a suite of detailed power-sector models to develop and evaluate three core scenarios. The “Reference” scenario outlines a business-as-usual future, which includes existing state and federal clean energy policies but lacks a comprehensive effort to decarbonize the grid. The “Decarbonization (Decarb)” scenario assumes policies drive a 95% reduction (from 2005 levels) in the grid’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2035 and a 100% reduction by 2050. This scenario assumes more aggressive cost-reduction projections than the Reference scenario for solar as well as other renewable and energy storage technologies, but it uses standard future projections for electricity demand. The “Decarbonization with Electrification (Decarb+E)” scenario goes further by including large-scale electrification of end uses. The study also analyzes the potential for solar to contribute to a future with more complete decarbonization of the U.S. energy system by 2050, although this analysis is simplified in comparison to the grid-decarbonization analysis and thus entails greater uncertainty.