In-depth: The Whole System Costs of Renewables

By Simon Evans, Carbon Brief

Dramatic cost reductions mean wind and solar can now compete on price with conventional sources of energy in many parts of the world, including the UK. This turns the spotlight onto the so-called “whole system costs” of integrating renewables into the electricity system, which include backing up intermittent generation and strengthening grids. In a report published this week, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) reviews the latest evidence, finding that these costs are “modest” – probably of the order of £10 per megawatt hour (MWh), even if wind and solar double their output from today. But the UK needs to keep investing and upgrading its electricity grid, regardless of the mix of generating technologies. A more flexible grid would help secure electricity supplies and keep the integration costs of renewables to a minimum, offering savings of up to £8bn per year by 2030. Carbon Brief explores the debate and the...