Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering and Public Policy


Jay Apt


Renewable energy poses a challenge to electricity grid operators due to its variability and intermittency. In this thesis I quantify the cost of variability of different renewable energy technologies and then explore the use of reconfigurable distribution grids and pumped hydro electricity storage to integrate renewable energy into the electricity grid.

Cost of Variability

I calculate the cost of variability of solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, and wind by summing the costs of ancillary services and the energy required to compensate for variability and intermittency. I also calculate the cost of variability per unit of displaced CO2 emissions. The costs of variability are dependent on technology type. Variability cost for solar PV is $8-11/MWh, for solar thermal it is $5/MWh, and for wind it is around $4/MWh. Variability adds ~$15/tonne CO2 to the cost of abatement for solar thermal power, $25 for wind, and $33-$40 for PV.

Distribution Grid Reconfiguration

A reconfigurable network can change its topology by opening and closing switches on power lines. I show that reconfiguration allows a grid operator to reduce operational losses as well as accept more intermittent renewable generation than a static configuration can. Net present value analysis of automated switch technology shows that the return on investment is negative for this test network when considering loss reduction, but that the return is positive under certain conditions when reconfiguration is used to minimize curtailment of a renewable energy resource.

Pumped Hydro Storage in Portugal

Portugal is planning to build five new pumped hydro storage facilities to balance its growing wind capacity. I calculate the arbitrage potential of the storage capacity from the perspective of an independent storage owner, a thermal fleet owner, and a consumer-oriented storage owner. This research quantifies the effect storage ownership has on CO2 emissions, consumer electricity expenditure, and thermal generator profits. I find that in the Portuguese electricity market, an independent storage owner could not recoup its investment in storage using arbitrage only, but a thermal fleet owner or consumer-oriented owner may get a positive return on investment