Counting the hidden costs of energy

• By Prof. Barry W. Brook, University of Adelaide (Australia) • A recent Bloomberg press release got wide coverage with its claim that wind power is now cheaper than coal. But a new report from the OECD shows that when you cover the full cost to the grid, variable renewables like wind don’t add up as favourably. It is often claimed that introducing variable renewable energy resources such as solar and wind into the electricity network comes with some extra cost penalties, due to “system effects”. These system effects include intermittent electricity access, network congestion, instability, environmental impacts, and security of supply. Now a new report from the OECD titled System Effects of Low-Carbon Electricity Systems gives some hard dollar values for these additional imposts. The OECD work focuses on nuclear power, coal, gas, and renewables such as wind and solar. Their conclusion is that grid-level system costs can have significant impacts on the total cost of delivered electricity for some power-generation technologies. All generation technologies cause system effects to some degree. They are all connected to the same transmission and distribution grid structure and deliver electricity into the same market. They also exert impacts on each other, on the total load available to satisfy demand, and the stability of the grid’s frequency control. These dependencies are heightened by the fact that only small amounts of cost-efficient electricity storage are available. Any electricity generation technology can cause grid instability and price fluctuations if it goes offline unexpectedly. But a key finding of the OECD report is that renewables that are particularly variable, such as wind and solar, generate system effects that are at least an order of magnitude greater than for “dispatchable” technologies such as coal, gas, and nuclear. These renewable sources require no fuel, and so have very low operating costs ...Zum vollständigen Artikel

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