This chapter is based upon work undertaken by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) and reported in The Costs and Impacts of Intermittency: An Assessment of the Evidence on the Costs and Impacts of Intermittent Generation on the British Electricity Network (Gross et al, 2006). The study sought to provide a detailed review of the current state of understanding of the engineering and economic aspects of intermittent/variable generation.1 The approach adopted was inspired by a range of techniques referred to as evidence-based policy and practice, including the practice of systematic review, common in policy areas such as healthcare and education. These seek to inform policy by examining the research data in a transparent and replicable way. There are limitations on the application of such techniques to the energy policy arena (Sorrell, 2007), but a systematized and transparent approach to evidence-gathering offers considerable benefits, particularly where the topic is controversial.
A systematic search for every report and paper related to the costs and impacts of intermittent generation was undertaken. This revealed over 200 reports and papers on the subject, each of which was categorized and assessed, to draw out the methodologies and data employed, and the relevance to the UK situation. UKERC also sought consensus through the convening of an expert group with diverse views and consultation with stakeholders.
A degree of confusion appears to surround the use of terminology, and a number of misconceptions are regularly aired in the mainstream media. The UKERC report therefore also explains the principles that underpin the integration of intermittent renewables and aims to explore and explain popular misconceptions.
This chapter first provides an overview of the key concepts of relevance to power system reliability and operation, and explains what changes when intermittent generation is introduced. Some popular misconceptions are revisited. The final section presents and discusses the quantitative findings of the UKERC review.
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