Representation of variable renewable energy sources in TIMER, an aggregated energy system simulation model

24-12-2016 | Publication

The power system is expected to play an important role in climate change mitigation. Variable renewable energy (VRE) sources, such as wind and solar power, are currently showing rapid growth rates in power systems worldwide, and could also be important in future mitigation strategies. It is therefore important that the electricity sector and the integration of VRE are correctly represented in energy models. This paper presents an improved methodology for representing the electricity sector in the long-term energy simulation model TIMER using a heuristic approach to find cost optimal paths given system requirements and scenario assumptions.

Regional residual load duration curves have been included to simulate curtailments, storage use, backup requirements and system load factor decline as the VRE share increases.

The results show that for the USA and Western Europe at lower VRE penetration levels, backup costs form the major VRE cost markup. When solar power supplies more than 30% of the electricity demand, the costs of storage and energy curtailments become increasingly important. Storage and curtailments have less influence on wind power cost markups in these regions, as wind power supply is better correlated with electricity demand.

Mitigation scenarios show an increasing VRE share in the electricity mix implying also increasing contribution of VRE for peak and mid load capacity. In the current scenarios, this can be achieved by at the same time installing less capital intensive gas fired power plants.

Sensitivity analysis showed that greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector in the updated model are particularly sensitive to the availability of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear power and the costs of VRE.