Is renewable energy free or very low cost?
The cost of renewable energy sources has certainly come down over the past several years. It may seem that these resources are less expensive than fossil fueled resources, however, it’s extremely important to understand that the electric system must also be upgraded and modified to ensure these intermittent resources can provide the same reliability that we all have come to expect. When all of these system costs are included, it actually makes a transition to all renewable energy very expensive. An important note – a MW of installed solar/wind is not equal to a MW of installed gas or coal generation because renewable sources are intermittent and, therefore, cannot be dispatched on demand at the request of power grid operators, according to market needs. To maintain reliability, a significant “over-build” of solar/wind installations would be necessary. At this time, the best total solution would include renewables along with dispatchable gas and/or coal generation to achieve a balance of reducing carbon emissions, while also keeping reliability high and overall costs low.