The finiteness of fossil fuels implies that future electric power systems may predominantly source energy from fuel-free renewable resources like wind and solar. Evidently, these power systems without fuel will be environmentally benign, sustainable, and subject to milder failure scenarios. Many of these advantages were projected decades ago with the definition of the soft energy path, which describes a future where all energy is provided by numerous small, simple, and diverse renewable sources. Here we provide a thorough investigation of power systems without any fuel-based generation from technical and economic standpoints. The paper is organized by timescale and covers issues like the irrelevance of unit commitment in networks without large, fuel-based generators, the dubiousness of nodal pricing without fuel costs, and the need for new system-level models and control methods for semiconductor-based energy-conversion interfaces.
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- Power electronics
- Power system operation
- Renewable energy
- Soft energy path