If the world is going to transition to a sustainable energy future, then renewable energy must eventually supply more than a 20% share of the power sector. However, large utility companies are very frank about their lack of understanding of how to integrate solar and wind power at those higher levels. That is why they continue to propose large coal plants.
Utility systems can indeed have much higher shares of renewable power, as is demonstrated by HOMER users with smaller isolated utility systems all over the world. There is no question that there are incremental costs associated with higher penetrations of renewable power in an electric utility grid. There is also a lot of innovation underway to reduce those costs, from new kinds of electric storage, such as flywheels and flow batteries, to smart grid technologies that will allow more intelligent load management and plug-in vehicles.
It is natural that smaller isolated utility systems will lead the way to a renewable future because they mostly rely on petroleum, which improves the economics of renewable power. The security concerns related to petroleum gives them further incentive to make the transition. Isolated utilities also have larger capacity margins and aren’t as encumbered by regulations governing power flows with their neighbors, which complicate the integration of variable power sources.
These are the reasons why HOMER users are leading the way toward an energy future based on clean distributed power. The knowledge and experience being developed by HOMER users around the world will become invaluable to larger utilities in a few years.