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Plugging the Energy Gap

The Government recently adopted the 5th Carbon Budget and now needs to deliver it as cheaply as possible. This will require the construction of new low carbon generation capacity capable of producing over 150TWh of electricity each year by 2030 – around half of all current output. All plausible scenarios imply that this can only be achieved by deploying a significantly increased volume of renewable generation – likely to be around 50GW, predominantly from a combination of onshore and offshore wind and solar PV.

In November 2015 the previous Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change expressed concerns that variable renewable generation creates ‘hidden’ costs for the system and that the power system needs ‘baseload’ power to operate. Imperial College has undertaken a new study which sheds new light on the issue of system integration costs of renewable generation. This adds to an increasing body of evidence that the system integration costs of renewable generation are low and that the power system can operate securely and at least cost with more than 50% of electricity demand being met from variable renewable sources (See Green Alliance, Policy Exchange, Solar Trade Association, National Infrastructure Commission).

System integration costs are predicted to remain less than £10/MWh for a wide range of system characteristics at these increased levels of penetration. This means that it is not only possible to securely operate the power system with high levels of renewable generation, it represents a cheaper option than employing any alternative generation solution.

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