PARIS — Laying the costs of integrating more variable power into the grid at the feet of the renewable energy sector is an “outrage,” a Vestas executive has said.
Morten Dyrholm, senior vice president at the world's leading maker of wind turbines, was responding to claims that grid-integration costs undercut the notion that renewables can now thrive without government support in many markets.
Speaking as part of a conference session at European Utility Week, Dyrholm said the wind sector has worked hard to get to the point of subsidy-free deployment.
Fellow panelist Dominique Jamme, managing director of the French energy regulator CRE, said that as renewables grow from 30 percent of the mix to 70 percent and beyond, the system costs required to stabilize the grid aren’t being factored into claims that wind and solar are viable without government support.
“[Subsidy-free] is the case for standalone PV and wind," Jamme said. "When you are at 20, 30 or 40 percent of the mix, other sources of production do the work of providing flexibility and balancing the network."
"But at 60, 70 and 80 percent, you have the issue of sustaining stability of the system. As you put in more renewables, you are adding cost,” Jamme added, before asking, “Who is going to pay for the [energy] storage?”
Dyrholm, who leads Vestas' marketing, communications and public affairs efforts, responded strongly.
“I can't help but feel a little bit outraged when people say, ‘But system cost,'" Dyrholm said. "It should be the other guys, the fossil guys [that pay]. Their societal cost is enormous; [think about] the amount of subsidies, the socialized costs [of fossil fuels] that we've allowed to happen for generations."
“And now we have finally become unsubsidized, and we have to support system costs? In the meantime, we let the young kids do the hard work for us. They go on the streets. They go and fight for change, and we sit here as an industry and talk about ‘system cost’?”
“We should be as outraged as them, and we should be united [as an industry] in asking for change. We have a special obligation in our industry, and I am not just saying that to sell more turbines. I'm saying that on behalf of my kids. We need to be more outraged when we see examples of something not working just because of the regulations in place."
Project developers cover system costs like grid connections in many markets, and these are typically factored in when calculating the levelized cost of electricity for new projects.
In most markets, additional costs to support renewables on the network, including energy storage, are ultimately passed to consumers and generators. Any increased charges on consumer bills can become highly political.