Variable renewables integration in electricity systems - how to get it right

Posted on 21 September 2016

wind-variability-graphRenewables, including hydro, now account for over 30% of the total global installed power generation capacity and 23% of total global electricity production. In the past 10 years, wind and solar PV have witnessed an explosive average annual growth of 23% and 50% respectively, although their combined contribution to the global electricity supply is currently only 4%.

In 2015 a record US$286 billion was invested in 154GW of new renewables capacity (76% in wind and PV), by far overtaking the investment in conventional generation to which 97GW were added.

A new report, Variable Renewables Integration in Electricity Systems 2016 – How to get it right’, published by the World Energy Council in partnership with CESI S.p.A, draws upon 32 country case studies, representing about 90% of installed wind and solar capacity worldwide.

The report launched on 20 September, is part of the build up to the 23rd World Energy Congress being held in Istanbul next month between 10- 13 October. The topic of renewables in the global energy mix and how they will help accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy is one of the key issues on the first day of the Congress.

Christoph Frei, Secretary General, World Energy Council, said: “The success of both the development of intermittent renewables and their efficient integration in electricity systems fundamentally depends on the right market design and regulatory framework and solid regional planning to avoid bottlenecks.”

“We are beyond the tipping point of grand energy transition. Implementing technically and economically sound, stable policies supported by clear carbon price signals will enable this transition and take us a step closer to meeting the climate aspirations agreed at COP21.”

Key recommendations to address the challenge of sustainable variable renewables integration include:

  • Policymakers must define market rules to ensure a more sustainable energy system in line with the objectives of the Trilemma, including clearly defined CO2 emissions regulations.
  • Introducing capacity markets can help ensure security of supply, as energy-only based markets are often insufficient to guarantee reliable supply in systems with a large share of variable renewables.
  • Weather forecasting methodologies need further development to achieve better accuracy and to rapidly manage the changing nature of wind and sun/variability.

In the light of the growing importance of Variable Renewable Energy Sources globally, industry and policymakers need to address emerging issues to ensure their continued growth.