Gas backing renewables

Natural gas-fired generation is expected to be necessary to backing up renewable power generation, according to a new study from INGAA Foundation, a gas industry association, and conducted by ICF International.

However, improved coordination and increased investment is necessary to provide natural gas as a backup, the report, Firming Renewable Electric Power Generators: Opportunities and Challenges for Natural Gas Pipelines, said.

Between $2 billion and $15 billion in investment will be needed over the next 15 years if new or existing gas-fired generation is required. Despite higher costs associated with the reduced utilization rate, natural gas still is expected to be the least costly option for firming renewable generation.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) criticized the report, calling it "meaningless" and saying that there were too many flaws in the report.

"Much of the time, downward changes in wind output are being canceled out by downward changes in electricity demand and vice versa," said Michael Goggin, manager of transmission policy for AWEA. "Attempting to 'firm' wind by holding it constant will be counterproductive in many cases by increasing the variability that grid operators have to deal with."

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