The impact of variable renewable energy (VRE) sources on an electricity system depends on technological characteristics, demand, regulatory practices and renewable resources. The costs of integrating wind or solar power into electricity networks have been debated for decades yet remain controversial and often misunderstood. Here we undertake a systematic review of the international evidence on the cost and impact of integrating wind and solar to provide policymakers with evidence to inform strategic choices about which technologies to support. We find a wide range of costs across the literature that depend largely on the price and availability of flexible system operation. Costs are small at low penetrations of VRE and can even be negative. Data are scarce at high penetrations, but show that the range widens. Nonetheless, VRE sources can be a key part of a least-cost route to decarbonization.

Nature Vol 6 nº1
Philip J. Heptonstall & Robert J. K. Gross

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