A 70% renewable energy grid is possible by 2050. This is according to 80% of the global energy participants who took part in a recent global research initiative carried out by DNV GL. In fact, half of the participants believe that the system could actually be renewable as early as 2030.
The research involved an online survey of over 1,600 energy sector participants across 70 countries and the findings were published in the report, “Beyond Integration: Three Dynamics Reshaping Renewables and the Grid.” The aim of the survey was to address “key questions on how to best move forward the integration of renewables into the global electricity grids to ensure the future of electricity.”
Three dynamics reshaping energy sector
One of the primary catalysts for the report was DNV GL’s concern that “Renewables are too often conceived as something to be ‘integrated’ into status quo arrangement. A smarter approach is needed.”
Report findings are organized around three dynamics, which DNV GL sees reshaping not just electricity, but the entire energy sector:
1.Convergence - New economic metrics must converge the needs of policymakers and system operators
The survey indicates that policymakers and system operators place diverging demands on renewable developers. Qualitative data stress that securing political will depends on affordability, while in a high renewables future developers must also engage with the increasing system operation challenges.
Greater reliance on whole-system assessments of power system costs will allow a more representative picture of the affordability of decisions to be taken. The metric of market value, which encompasses revenue and cost at a system level, will better converge developer incentives with the needs of system operators.
2.Rebalancing – New rules are needed to rebalance the opportunities and challenges for developers and system operators
Developers, independent power producers and original equipment manufacturers are relishing the opportunities brought about by the shift to a high renewables system, while system operators and utilities identify themselves as being challenged by the transition.
New rules will rebalance the opportunities and challenges for developers and system operators. Grid code refinement to maximize the capabilities of renewables can often deliver substantial system benefit at minimal cost. However, this should be handled carefully in which a heavy-handed regulatory approach should be avoided and market-based solutions are important as well.
3.Expansion – New entrepreneurial solutions will expand the electricity business into a true ‘internet of energy’
Current high interest in energy storage, which 66 percent of respondents select as a top 3 lever for a high renewables future, is an example of the increasingly blurry lines between power, transport and heat. Meanwhile, respondents’ emphasis on smart grids underscores the role for IT in helping to manage the variability of renewables. The electricity sector is becoming more interconnected with the wider energy system, and also with newer sectors such as IT.
Where policymakers often see energy in a holistic sense, industry thinking still can be too much focused on the electricity sector alone. Here an expansion of horizons is needed, to go beyond old silos and into the ‘internet of energy’, where smarter real-time operational controls are used to coordinate input from distributed sources of supply and demand, which span power, transport and heat.
Unlocking the true potential of renewables
“DNV GL’s analysis of these findings concludes that the solution for a high renewables future demands a dramatic change in the industry’s approach to the integration of new technology,” said David Walker, CEO DNV GL-Energy.
“We need to adopt more collaborative approaches and go beyond old metrics, beyond old rules and beyond old silos. A shift away from a paradigm in which renewables are considered a nuisance to be accommodated to one in which the true potential of renewables in balancing and securing grids is unlocked. The debate needs to move ‘beyond integration’. DNV GL is taking the broader view and opening that discussion.”
The degree of consensus among respondents about the likelihood of significant change to the power sector and the timescale on which people can believe it can happen is striking, according to the report’s authors however, it must be noted that respondents stressed that this “is contingent on political leadership and affordability.” Two thirds of respondents selected politicians and policy-makers as one of their top three most important groups to achieving a high renewable energy future.