The Role of Firm Low-Carbon Electricity Resources in Deep Decarbonization of Power Generation

Nestor A. Sepulveda, Jesse D. Jenkins, Fernando J. de Sisternes, Richard K. Lester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

321 Scopus citations


We investigate the role of firm low-carbon resources in decarbonizing power generation in combination with variable renewable resources, battery energy storage, demand flexibility, and long-distance transmission. We evaluate nearly 1,000 cases covering varying CO2 limits, technological uncertainties, and geographic differences in demand and renewable resource potential. Availability of firm low-carbon technologies, including nuclear, natural gas with carbon capture and sequestration, and bioenergy, reduces electricity costs by 10%–62% across fully decarbonized cases. Below 50 gCO2/kWh, these resources lower costs in the vast majority of cases. Additionally, as emissions limits decrease, installed capacity of several resources changes non-monotonically. This underscores the need to evaluate near-term policy and investment decisions based on contributions to long-term decarbonization rather than interim goals. Installed capacity for all resources is also strongly affected by uncertain technology parameters. This emphasizes the importance of a broad research portfolio and flexible policy support that expands rather than constrains future options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2403-2420
Number of pages18
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 21 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Energy


  • climate change mitigation
  • decarbonization
  • electric power systems
  • energy and climate policy
  • energy systems engineering
  • low-carbon firm resources
  • power systems planning


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