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Key challenges to expanding renewable energy


The key advantage of renewables is that they are free of direct pollution and carbon emissions. Given concern over global warming caused by carbon emissions, there are substantial policy efforts to increase renewable penetrations. The purpose of this paper is to outline and evaluate the challenges presented by increasing penetrations of renewable electricity generation. These generation sources primarily include solar and wind which are growing rapidly and are new enough to the grid that the impact of high penetrations is not fully understood. The intrinsic nature of solar and wind power is very likely to present greater system challenges than “conventional” sources. Within limits, those challenges can be overcome, but at a cost. Later sections of the paper will draw on a variety of sources to identify a range of such costs, at least as they are foreseen by researchers helping prepare ambitious plans for grids to obtain high shares (30–50%) of their megawatt hours from primarily solar and wind generation. Energy poverty issues are outlined and related to renewable costs issues.