The costs and impacts of intermittent renewable generation

In 2006, an assessment of the evidence on the costs and impacts of intermittent generation on the electricity system was undertaken. The conclusion of this report was that the additional costs would be relatively low, adding around £5-£8 per MWh to the cost of the renewable electricity generated. This was based on a review of the available evidence, most of which did not envisage more than 20% of electricity to be sourced from intermittent renewables.

Since then, UK renewable generation targets have been set considerably higher, and a number of significant studies have investigated the likely effects of a much higher proportion of renewable electricity in the UK mix.

This project provides an update to the original 2006 UKERC report. It reviews the new evidence for the impacts associated with higher shares of renewable generation, and assesses how projected impacts have changed. The primary research question is:

What new evidence has come to light since UKERC reviewed the costs and impacts of intermittency in 2006, and what does the available evidence suggest about the costs and impacts of very high penetrations (20% and above) of intermittent generation?

Key findings

The report finds that the additional costs of adding variable renewable generation to an electricity system can vary quite dramatically, but they are usually modest – higher costs are costs normally the result of inflexible or sub-optimal systems. Electricity systems and markets must adapt and be re-optimised to incorporate large proportions of variable renewable generation. Furthermore, a ‘whole system’ analytical approach – rather than seeking to quantify individual impacts – is essential to determine the optimal mix of technologies in substantially transformed systems.

The full report of project findings was launched in February 2017, access Rob Gross’ presentation, along with the slides and project scoping note below.

Watch Rob Gross’ presentation on the report here.

The costs and impacts of intermittency – 2016 update (presentation slides)

Intermittency II Project: Scoping note and review protocol

Read the associated Nature Energy paper, published in October 2020 here.