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


  • de Boer, Harmen Sytze (H.S.)
  • van Vuuren, Detlef (D.P.)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • de Boer, Harmen Sytze (H.S.) & van Vuuren, Detlef (D.P.), 2017. "Representation of variable renewable energy sources in TIMER, an aggregated energy system simulation model," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 600-611.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eneeco:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:600-611
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eneco.2016.12.006

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pietzcker, Robert Carl & Stetter, Daniel & Manger, Susanne & Luderer, Gunnar, 2014. "Using the sun to decarbonize the power sector: The economic potential of photovoltaics and concentrating solar power," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 704-720.
    2. de Boer, Harmen Sytze & Grond, Lukas & Moll, Henk & Benders, René, 2014. "The application of power-to-gas, pumped hydro storage and compressed air energy storage in an electricity system at different wind power penetration levels," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 360-370.
    3. Hoogwijk, Monique & van Vuuren, Detlef & de Vries, Bert & Turkenburg, Wim, 2007. "Exploring the impact on cost and electricity production of high penetration levels of intermittent electricity in OECD Europe and the USA, results for wind energy," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 32(8), pages 1381-1402.
    4. Hirth, Lion & Ueckerdt, Falko & Edenhofer, Ottmar, 2015. "Integration costs revisited – An economic framework for wind and solar variability," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 925-939.
    5. Gernaat, David E.H.J. & Van Vuuren, Detlef P. & Van Vliet, Jasper & Sullivan, Patrick & Arent, Douglas J., 2014. "Global long-term cost dynamics of offshore wind electricity generation," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 663-672.
    6. Hirth, Lion, 2013. "The market value of variable renewables," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 218-236.
    7. Ueckerdt, Falko & Brecha, Robert & Luderer, Gunnar & Sullivan, Patrick & Schmid, Eva & Bauer, Nico & Böttger, Diana & Pietzcker, Robert, 2015. "Representing power sector variability and the integration of variable renewables in long-term energy-economy models using residual load duration curves," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 90(P2), pages 1799-1814.
    8. Köberle, Alexandre C. & Gernaat, David E.H.J. & van Vuuren, Detlef P., 2015. "Assessing current and future techno-economic potential of concentrated solar power and photovoltaic electricity generation," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 739-756.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pietzcker, Robert C. & Ueckerdt, Falko & Carrara, Samuel & de Boer, Harmen Sytze & Després, Jacques & Fujimori, Shinichiro & Johnson, Nils & Kitous, Alban & Scholz, Yvonne & Sullivan, Patrick & Ludere, 2017. "System integration of wind and solar power in integrated assessment models: A cross-model evaluation of new approaches," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 583-599.
    2. repec:spr:climat:v:144:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10584-017-2027-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:enepol:v:118:y:2018:i:c:p:390-403 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:eee:eneeco:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:542-551 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:eee:energy:v:155:y:2018:i:c:p:690-704 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Integrated assessment modelling; Global energy system simulation model; Electricity system modelling; Variable renewable energy; Curtailment and storage;

    JEL classification:

    • C63 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computational Techniques
    • Q40 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - General
    • Q42 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Alternative Energy Sources
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q55 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Technological Innovation


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