Although recent studies have shown that electricity systems with shares of wind and solar above 80% can be affordable, economists have raised concerns about market integration. Correlated generation from variable renewable sources depresses market prices, which can cause wind and solar to cannibalise their own revenues and prevent them from covering their costs from the market. This cannibalisation appears to set limits on the integration of wind and solar, and thus to contradict studies that show that high shares are cost effective. Here we show from theory and with simulation examples how market incentives interact with prices, revenue and costs for renewable electricity systems. The decline in average revenue seen in some recent literature is due to an implicit policy assumption that technologies are forced into the system, whether it be with subsidies or quotas. This decline is mathematically guaranteed regardless of whether the subsidised technology is variable or not. If instead the driving policy is a carbon dioxide cap or tax, wind and solar shares can rise without cannibalising their own market revenue, even at penetrations of wind and solar above 80%. The strong dependence of market value on the policy regime means that market value needs to be used with caution as a measure of market integration. Declining market value is not necessarily a sign of integration problems, but rather a result of policy choices.
- CO tax
- Feed-in premium
- Large-scale integration of renewable power generation
- Market value of variable renewables
- Merit order effect
- Renewable energy policy