How do we enable renewables to scale up to that degree without causing havoc to the existing, outdated electricity grids that have been around for generations? At Wärtsilä, we drilled into the data in our Atlas of 100% Renewable Energy – which shows the cost-optimal capacity mix for 100% renewable electricity systems in 145 countries and regions around the world – to look for an answer. What we found is that we must build in flexibility as the enabler of the renewable energy transition, in the shape of future-proof gas engines, energy storage and optimisation. To help illustrate the scale of the challenge at hand we looked at the energy systems of G20 countries and found that it would require 12,364GW of power capacity by 2030 to enable a 100% renewable energy grid. That’s 11 times the total generation of the United States today. This would primarily be generated via wind and solar power, which would need to be supported by a total 3,408GW of flexible power capacity, in the shape of energy storage and balancer engines, for renewables to become our baseload energy source. Not only would this flexibility enable the massive expansion of renewables we need, but it would also be the lowest cost route to decarbonisation – as the addition of balancer engines alongside energy storage would save almost 40% compared to the cost of achieving the transition with storage alone. While battery storage has earned its reputation as the work horse of energy systems, our modelling and lived experiences in countries around the world shows that a combination of assets, including engines, is needed to reliably balance the grid. It is only by developing a healthy eco system of technologies that we can empower renewables to become baseload.
Current 16th April 2021 read more »
Dave Elliott: The battle over energy options continues, with one issue being the scale, pace and focus of the technological innovation needed to cut emissions. The International Energy Agency says that: ‘Almost half of the emissions reductions needed to reach net zero by 2050 will need to come from technologies that have not reached the market today.’ So, there is a need to push new technology and support technology innovation. That certainly is the line adopted by Bill Gates. That of course is also the message coming from parts of the nuclear lobby- we need new technology. While some hope that existing large scale updated PWR technology will suffice, others look to new nuclear technologies and to diversification away from just supplying power, with hydrogen production being one option. the idea that new technology of some sort will be needed is quite widespread- and it is often used to undermine the case for renewables. However, in his new book ‘The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet’, Michael Mann, one of the USA’s leading climate scientist, claims that many zero-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels are now cost-competitive with fossil fuels. He even suggests that, far from needing a miracle, we could achieve 100% clean electricity with current renewable technologies alone. Jonathon Neale takes a somewhat similar stance in his new book ‘Fight the Fire’. He avoids the new, as yet not fully deployed, technologies that are used in 100% renewables scenarios like those developed by Jacobson and LUT, but he says that we can get to 100% with existing renewables technologies. But to provide balancing and avoid occasional shortfalls we would need surplus ‘headroom’ overcapacity, which he says may add more cost. That view may be unduly cautious and pessimistic- the costs of most renewables are falling fast, and look set to continue to do so. While electrification is clearly sensible in many cases, there are also non-electrical renewable supply options for heating (solar, biomass) and ways to make green fuel for transport (biogas and green synfuel). In some cases, these may be preferable technically and environmentally to using electricity.
Renew Extra Weekly 17th April 2021 read more »