Integrating variable renewable electricity into the grid
Renewable energy is expected to contribute over 90% to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, both directly and indirectly, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). This means that by 2050, renewable electricity could account for 86% of global electricity consumption. Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy sources are expected to contribute 74% of this electricity consumption. To accommodate such high shares of variable renewables, the power system would require significant enhancement in grid flexibility. In this article, we will discuss five key strategies that can help integrate variable renewable electricity into the grid.
- Building Energy Storage One of the primary challenges in integrating variable renewable electricity into the grid is energy storage. Building energy storage can help stabilize the grid by storing excess electricity when production is high and releasing it when production is low. This strategy will ensure that energy supply meets demand at all times. Building energy storage can also help reduce peak demand, which is when energy usage is highest.
- Advanced Digital Technologies Advanced digital technologies can help monitor and control the flow of electricity in the grid. Smart energy management systems can instantly balance variable production with demand, ensuring that electricity supply meets demand at all times. This strategy will also help reduce the need for additional generation capacity to meet rising demand.
- Demand-Side Flexibility Demand-side flexibility refers to the ability of energy consumers to adjust their energy usage to match the available supply of electricity. By encouraging consumers to adjust their energy usage patterns to match the available supply of electricity, demand-side flexibility can help reduce peak demand and stabilize the grid.
- Sector Coupling Sector coupling refers to the integration of various sectors, such as transport, buildings, and industry, to facilitate the integration of variable renewable energy (VRE) sources such as solar PV and wind energy at the regional and national levels. Identifying and evaluating the various trade-offs presented by coupling different sectors to advance the urban energy transition towards net zero becomes crucial.
- Energy Efficiency Improvements Energy efficiency improvements in buildings can help reduce energy consumption and stabilize the grid. This strategy includes measures such as improving insulation, upgrading heating and cooling systems, and installing energy-efficient lighting. By reducing energy consumption, energy efficiency improvements can also help reduce the need for additional generation capacity to meet rising demand.
Integrating variable renewable electricity into the grid is crucial for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and achieving the Paris Agreement target of limiting global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Building energy storage, advanced digital technologies, demand-side flexibility, sector coupling, and energy efficiency improvements are key strategies that can help achieve this goal. By adopting these strategies, we can accelerate the transition to a net-zero future and benefit from the race to net zero.