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How Sensitive are Optimal Fully Renewable Power Systems to Technology Cost Uncertainty?

Many studies have demonstrated the feasibility of fully renewable power systems. Yet the future costs of key technologies are highly uncertain, and little is known about the robustness of a renewable power system to these uncertainties. To analyze it, we build 315 cost scenarios by varying the costs of key technologies and we model the optimal renewable power system for France, simultaneously optimizing investment and dispatch. We add to the literature by studying a consecutive 18-years weather period; by testing all combinations of technology costs rather than changing them one-at-a-time; and by calculating the regret from optimizing the energy mix on the basis of cost assumptions that do not materialize. Our results indicate that the cost of a 100% system is not that sensitive to uncertainty. Admittedly, the optimal energy mix is highly sensitive to cost assumptions: across our scenarios, the installed capacity in PV, onshore wind and power-to-gas varies by a factor of 5, batteries and offshore wind even more. However, in every scenario the total production and storage cost is similar to, or lower than the current cost. This indicates that renewable technologies will become by and large substitutable. Moreover, even if the energy mix is optimized based on cost assumptions which turn out to be wrong, the extra cost is low: 4% in average and less than 9% in 95% of the scenarios.

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Keywords: Power system modelling, Variable renewables, Electricity storage, Robust decision making

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.43.1.bshi

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Published in Volume 43, Number 1 of the bi-monthly journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.


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