January 06, 2021

Renewable Power - Definitive Pathways to Decarbonization

Renewable Power - Definitive Pathways to Decarbonization


Globally, interest and investments are increasing in sustainable forms of energy via commercialized large-scale renewable power technologies such as solar PV, onshore and offshore wind, solar thermal (concentrating solar power or CSP), biomass, hydropower, geothermal, and other viable sources. At center stage are wind and solar. As part of the definitive pathways towards decarbonization, investors, lenders, market players, and policymakers are increasingly becoming aware of the need for flexibility in the energy supply and down through the value chain. For duty and service, in baseload, peaking, and cycling power demand and supply, important market segments for large-scale renewable power are being addressed to capture and eventually displace conventional power generation (e.g., coal, natural gas, and commercial nuclear, etc.). This will lead to higher reliability, availability, maintainability (RAM) and overall utilization of the energy system assets and infrastructure.

Solar PV and wind being integrated with battery energy storage systems (BESS) are the most commercially advanced technologies and applications, which are being driven by declining component costs, along with economies of scale. Based on historical and current global market trends including impact of COVID-19, large-scale solar PV and wind power generation lead the annual growth as compared to hydropower, biomass, hydro, geothermal, and other sources.


Solar PV and Wind Leading the Charge

Ongoing national (federal) and state level government subsidies, fiscal and financial incentives continue to provide much needed support for renewable power generation projects, thereby providing a “level playing field” with fossil fuels (e.g., coal and natural gas) and commercial nuclear power.


A Viable Blueprint

Large-scale renewable power integrated with energy storage can effectively support both energy security and climate change goals by providing viable end-use solutions.  By reviewing and evaluating definitive pathways these are highlighted, consisting of power generation duty and service, renewable power generation and its value chain, power system requirements, integrating energy storage, “across-the-meter” end-use applications, and lessons learned.  A viable blueprint for definitive pathways is shown in the figure:

                                             Blueprint for Definitive Pathways



Typically, large-scale renewable power and end-use applications vary significantly and are highly dependent on the type of renewable sources and uses of energy (and electricity) and are strongly site- and location-specific.  For electrical energy storage, the discharge period, response time, and power rating provide a good first indicator of suitability.  The primary purpose of an integrated energy assessment is to identify, determine, and quantify the renewable power and electricity sources and to conduct a detailed analysis.  The scope may be different for various type of renewable power generation plants and facilities depending on the definitive pathways.  Typical end-use applications can include peak shifting, energy arbitrage, and similar systems.  Power system applications require fast injection and absorption of energy, but durations for such operations are usually shorter.  Specific power system applications include frequency control and ramp-rate control for intermittent renewable generation.  Primary end-use applications are understood in terms of energy versus power.  Power system applications require discharge of many minutes to several hours at or near the storage system nominal rating.  Power system applications also refer to those requiring a high power output for a relatively short period of time (e.g., seconds or minutes).

The main considerations of potential large-scale renewable power technology impacts can be broken down into specific potential technical and financial impacts.  These possible impacts are also broadly applicable to other types of large-scale renewable power, which could be simultaneously and independently integrated with energy storage.  Each potential impact conveys a different perspective or focus, although some necessarily involve overlapping issues from the prospective of either the existing owner and operator, project developer, and sponsor, or the energy utility.


Recommended Roadmap

The recommended roadmap for renewable power provides both guidance and direction in evaluating the cost-effectiveness and viability of large-scale renewable power generation and energy storage technologies for end-use applications in or behind-the-meter (BTM)/non-dispatchable with potential for front-of-the-meter (FTM)/dispatchable export scenarios.  These key steps provide insights and potential pathways that are helpful not only for assessing the overall energy performance of a renewable power generation plant or facility, but also for developing a techno-economically viable project.

This roadmap consists of three key steps and elements: overview of large-scale renewable power plant/facility, determining large-scale renewable power opportunities, and selection of most viable in technology and economic feasibility.  In addition, the three key steps and elements incorporate and include a screening, ranking, shortlisting, and selection process.

In summary, there is a very high degree of probability for rapid market penetration of large-scale solar PV and wind integrated with BESS in peaking duty and service as well as possible duty (base load, cycling, peaking, intermittent, and emergency or black start) and grid service (e.g., spinning reserves, resiliency, voltage, and frequency response).  There is great potential for other renewable power generation technologies such as CSP, biomass, hydro, geothermal, and ocean/marine.


NexantECA’s Report on Renewable Power

NexantECA’s Biorenewable Insights (BI) report analyzes the technoeconomic developments in the renewable power industry.  Relevant technology processes and construction are described, and their comparative economics are presented and analyzed.  Impacts on the conventional power industry, trends and drivers are also discussed.  The report focusses on both BTM/non-dispatchable and/or FTM/dispatchable renewable power, and includes commercialized technologies, with global perspective and coverage (not just the United States) in various end-use applications covering process plants and commercial and industrial (C&I) facilities (not just the electric grid)

The BI program provides in-depth evaluations and reliable data on the technology, cost competitiveness and business developments of biorenewable chemicals and fuels. BI was created in response to the increasing activity in this industry segment in recent years, including entrances and exits of players, emergence and commercialization of new technologies, feedstocks, product types, as well as growing interest from companies in the oil, chemical, financial and other sectors.  


The Authors

Pat Sonti, Senior Consultant

Ron Cascone, Principal



For all enquiries Contact Us