Capacity Investment in Renewable and Conventional Energy Sources

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Yucel, Safak


Shang, Kevin

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This dissertation studies capacity investments in energy sources, with a focus on renewable technologies, such as solar and wind energy. We develop analytical models to provide insights for policymakers and use real data from the state of Texas to corroborate our findings.

We first take a strategic perspective and focus on electricity pricing policies. Specifically, we investigate the capacity investments of a utility firm in renewable and conventional energy sources under flat and peak pricing policies. We consider generation patterns and intermittency of solar and wind energy in relation to the electricity demand throughout a day. We find that flat pricing leads to a higher investment level for solar energy and it can still lead to more investments in wind energy if considerable amount of wind energy is generated throughout the day.

In the second essay, we complement the first one by focusing on the problem of matching supply with demand in every operating period (e.g., every five minutes) from the perspective of a utility firm. We study the interaction between renewable and conventional sources with different levels of operational flexibility, i.e., the possibility

of quickly ramping energy output up or down. We show that operational flexibility determines these interactions: renewable and inflexible sources (e.g., nuclear energy) are substitutes, whereas renewable and flexible sources (e.g., natural gas) are complements.

In the final essay, rather than the capacity investments of the utility firms, we focus on the capacity investments of households in rooftop solar panels. We investigate whether or not these investments may cause a utility death spiral effect, which is a vicious circle of increased solar adoption and higher electricity prices. We observe that the current rate-of-return regulation may lead to a death spiral for utility firms. We show that one way to reverse the spiral effect is to allow the utility firms to maximize their profits by determining electricity prices.





Yucel, Safak (2016). Capacity Investment in Renewable and Conventional Energy Sources. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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