Grid can be 70 percent renewable as soon as 2030

How can the integration of renewables into the global energy grid move forward to ensure the future of electricity? This is the question answered in DNV GL’s most recent report — the result of interviews with more than 1,600 energy sector participants in 70 countries.

Credit: NREL/Wikimedia Commons

The interviews suggest a broad global consensus that a renewables-based electricity system can be achieved, with eight out of 10 (82 percent) respondents reporting that they believe the electricity system can be 70 percent renewable by 2050. Nearly half of respondents say this can be achieved even faster — by 2030.

The report looks at three factors — metrics convergence, rebalancing of rules, and expanding horizons — which DNV GL believes will reshape not only electricity but the entire energy sector.

“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. We need to adopt more collaborative approaches and go beyond old metrics, beyond old rules and beyond old silos,” David Walker, CEO, DNV GL-Energy, said. “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’.”

To the first factor, DNV GL explains that new economic metrics must converge the needs of policymakers and system operators who place diverging demands on renewable developers. 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.

Second, new rules are needed to rebalance the opportunities and challenges for developers and system operators. DNV GL explains that utilities remain challenged, if not threatened, by the transition, while independent power producers welcome the opportunities inherent in the shift to a highly renewable system.

Finally, the electricity sector is becoming more interconnected with the wider energy system, as well as with newer sectors such as IT. Entrepreneurial solutions will expand the electricity business into a true ‘internet of energy,’ according to the report, which found that high interest in energy storage, which 66 percent of respondents select as a top three factor 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 of IT in helping manage the variability of renewables.

The 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, the report concludes.

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