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Clean Dispatchable Power Sources

When Virginia signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), the state committed to achieving a 100% carbon-free electricity system by 2050. Recent research suggests that combinations of commercially available tools and technologies (wind, solar, lithium-ion batteries, energy efficiency, demand flexibility, etc.) could allow Virginia to reach 80-90% carbon-free grids cost-competitively, but reaching 100% is significantly more costly.

To achieve a 100% carbon-free grid, additional technologies will be needed to provide more cost-effective and efficient generation and storage and more efficient delivery options. In this report, we review a set of technologies at advanced stages of development that could meet these needs, including various forms of “clean” natural gas and synthetic fuels, advanced nuclear, biomass, numerous battery technologies, gravity- and compressed air-based storage, and hydrogen, among others.

Graphic of Generation and Storage

The report assesses and compares each technology along six qualitative criteria: technical readiness, scalability, reliability, flexibility, environmental attributes, and applicability to Virginia. Economic viability based on current and future projected levelized costs is considered for a variety of use cases, including maximum utilization (baseload), low utilization (peaking), and long-duration storage (up to weeks or months of discharge capability). The report concludes that: 1) existing renewable energy and short-term storage technologies are ready for deployment at scale to meet mid-term goals; and 2) technologies are in development that could provide cost-effective clean, dispatchable power in the long-term. The authors recommend that Virginia cultivate a policy environment that supports private investment and enables broad innovation. Specifically, Virginia should support the development of promising technologies that would make Virginia a national leader in the clean energy transition. 


Clean Sources of Dispatchable Electric Power