Understanding the role and design space of demand sinks in low-carbon power systems

Sam van der Jagt, Neha Patankar, Jesse D. Jenkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As the availability of weather-dependent, zero marginal cost resources such as wind and solar power increases, a variety of flexible electricity loads, or ‘demand sinks’, could be deployed to use intermittently available low-cost electricity to produce valuable outputs. This study provides a general framework to evaluate any potential demand sink technology and understand its viability to be deployed cost-effectively in low-carbon power systems. We use an electricity system optimization model to assess 98 discrete combinations of capital costs and output values that collectively span the range of feasible characteristics of potential demand sink technologies. We find that candidates like hydrogen electrolysis, direct air capture, and flexible electric heating can all achieve significant installed capacity (>10% of system peak load) if lower capital costs are reached in the future. Demand sink technologies significantly increase installed wind and solar capacity while not significantly affecting battery storage, firm generating capacity, or the average cost of electricity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100132
JournalEnergy and Climate Change
StatePublished - Dec 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


  • Decarbonization
  • Demand sinks
  • Direct air capture
  • Flexible loads
  • Hydrogen
  • Macro-energy systems
  • Power systems


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