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Reports model future power systems in UK and Germany

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By Nick Flaherty


These four energy types will enable the efficient integration of 80% or more renewable energy by 2040. The ‘Flexibility Solutions for High-Renewable Energy Systems’ reports model a number of alternative scenarios for future power systems in the UK and Germany.

Energy storage and smart electric vehicle charging provide flexibility by moving large volumes of renewable energy to periods of high demand, or moving demand to periods of high renewable generation. Dispatchable demand response reduces the need for fossil-fired backup plants in the power system, reducing emissions. Interconnecting to Nordic hydro can address periods of both excess supply and excess demand, providing different benefits over the decades as the needs of the system evolve.

“There is now little doubt that renewable energy will be the dominant force in the power sector for decades to come. The next challenge is to make sure these sources are complemented by clean forms of flexibility – storage, demand and interconnection – to deliver cheaper, deeper decarbonization,” said Albert Cheung, head of global analysis at BloombergNEF.

“The relentless advance of solar and wind energy technologies are driving us inexorably towards an electricity system dominated by variable renewable power generation. Combined with the expected growth in electric mobility, we are now in the midst of an energy transition which will massively lower carbon emissions and improve air quality. However, this opportunity will be limited unless energy markets are designed and regulated in a way that unlocks the full value of flexibility in the electric system. The time is already upon us to prepare and start investing in the technologies, services, and modifications that can enable our energy system to cope with the dramatic shift in how we generate and use electricity,” said Cyrille Brisson, vice president of sales and marketing at Eaton in Europe .

“For Statkraft, as the largest generator of renewable energy in Europe, it is interesting to see that Nordic hydropower reservoirs can play an important role for decarbonization of the European power systems, together with other flexibility solutions. This is consistent with our own analyses – confirming that a global renewables share of 70 percent is possible by 2040 if we let modern solutions for flexibility and market design allow cheap renewables to replace more expensive fossil solutions,” said Henrik Sætness, SVP strategy and analyses at Statkraft.

In all scenarios in the reports, the renewable share of generation in the UK exceeds 70% by 2030 as wind and solar become dominant as costs reduce. However, without flexible power management the system will be oversized and wasteful, making it 13% more expensive by 2040 and with 36% higher emissions than it needs to be.

Greater electrification of transport yields major emissions savings with little risk to the power generation system. Avoiding fuel emissions far outstrips the added power sector emissions in the UK, and the power grid will comfortably integrate all electric vehicles, especially if most EVs charge flexibly. However, local distribution networks are likely to face challenges.

Accelerated energy storage development can hasten the transition to a renewable power system in the UK, with significant benefits by 2030 including a 13% emissions reduction and 12% less fossil backup capacity needed.

In Germany, adding flexibility supports coal through 2030, even as renewables grow to dominate the market. This counterintuitive finding is not due to a problem with batteries, EVs, demand response or interconnectors but comes from cheap coal. Flexible technologies are vital to integrate inflexible generation from the coal plants. To decarbonize, Germany needs to address existing coal generation while investing in renewables, flexibility and interconnection say the reports.

By adding more batteries, flexible electric vehicles and interconnections with the Nordic countries will enable greater renewable penetration and emissions savings by 2040. More flexible demand, on the other hand, reduces the need for battery investment.

The reports are at Bloomberg NEF

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