The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a report concluding that integration of large amounts of renewable energy can be achieved by any country at only a small increase on whole-system costs, compared with the current fossil-fuel-heavy electricity systems.
Making the conclusion even more startling is the fact that the IEA used present-day costs for solar PV and wind, with the two most widely deployed renewable energy technologies set to provide the bulk of the generating capacity in these transformed electricity systems.
While renewable energy is often blamed for driving electricity prices up and having a costly destabilizing affect on electricity grids, the IEA says that integration of renewables into electricity grids and markets can be done so at little cost.
For the first 5 percent to 10 percent of what it calls variable renewable energy (VRE, essentially wind and solar), the IEA says this poses no technical or economic challenges at all. Even for higher levels of up to 45 percent penetration, the reports says it would cost only 10 percent to 15 percent more than the status quo.
"Based on a thorough assessment of flexibility options currently available for renewable energy integration, a major finding of this publication is that large shares of variable renewable energy (up to 45% in annual generation) can be integrated without significantly increasing power system costs in the long run." [IEA]