A systematic review of the evidence on the costs and impacts of intermittent electricity generation technologies

When the UKERC TPA team completed its first assessment of the evidence on the costs and impacts of intermittent generation on the British electricity system, the conclusion 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, the UK’s targets for renewable generation have been set considerably higher than this, and a number of significant new studies have been carried out into 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, reviewing the new evidence for the impacts associated with higher shares of renewable generation and assessing how projected impacts have changed. The primary research question addressed by this project 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?

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, with higher costs normally the result of inflexible or sub-optimal systems, and that 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.

The costs and impacts of intermittency – 2016 update – slides

Watch a recording of the report launch here.