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Tag Archives: electricity grid

Are we really all going to go off grid?

By Dave Elliott

In 2014, the US Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) released a ground-breaking analysis of the potential for ‘grid defection’, looking at when and where it might be economical for customers to disconnect from their utility in favour of using on-site solar-plus-battery systems. With PV solar and batteries getting much cheaper since then, it has become a hot issue. However, fully off-grid options still seem unlikely to be attractive or needed for most people – a grid link allows you to top up when there is a solar input lull and your battery is drained, and to sell any excess at other times. In the US this “net metering” approach is quite widespread, although there are disputes about the prices paid by utilities. In the UK the FiT system has an export tariff. Will consumers be willing to forgo that? Would that be wise? (more…)

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EU e-Highway 2050

By Dave Elliott

A recent report says that long distance transmission grids offer many advantages including enhanced cross-EU trade and grid balancing opportunities, enabling high levels of renewables to be used while reducing curtailment of occasional surpluses. The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity group had already addressed the development of the pan-EU electricity transmission network up to 2030 in a Ten-Year Network Development Plan. Starting with that, the e-Highway 2050 research and innovation project has now looked to 2050: it deals with the transition paths for the whole power system, with a focus on the transmission network, to support the European Union in reaching a low carbon economy by 2050.

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US gets to grips with renewables

By Dave Elliott

The US currently gets about 17% of its electricity from renewables, including hydro, and its potential for rapid expansion is huge. A new study from NOAA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says that a ‘US transition to a reliable, low-carbon, electrical generation and transmission system can be accomplished with commercially available technology and within 15 years’, according to Alexander MacDonald, one of the lead authors of the report, which was published in Nature Climate Change. But it would need supergrid  ‘electron superhighways’ to transmit electricity across the country.

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Grid Integration of Renewable Energy

By Dave Elliott

Eric Martinot has been one of the key people behind the indispensable annual REN21 Renewable Energy Network publications reviewing the state of play with renewables globally: see  The latest one says renewables now supply around 24% of global electricity. Martinot has also taken time out to look in detail at renewable integration issues, and this work has led to some excellent publications, including a useful non-technical overview ‘Grid Integration of Renewable Energy – Flexibility, Innovation, Experience’ for the Annual Review of Environment and Resources 2016 (February 2016). It focusses on the concept of flexibility, which it sees as vital for balancing variable renewables, including small continual changes, sudden large swings in availability, requiring rapid ramp-up of backup plants or other balancing measures, as well as for occasional longer periods of low input.

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Renewable Integration – a view from Germany

By Dave Elliott

High shares of wind and solar power transform the entire power system and can lead to additional system integration and back-up costs aside from building the power plants themselves. A new background paper from Agora Energiewende examines these dynamics and concludes that, not only are the direct integration/balancing costs low, but so are the controversial indirect costs associated with the variable utilization, in balancing mode, of conventional plant – as long as the power system becomes considerably more flexible.

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Why get rid of gas heating?

By Dave Elliott

The current decarbonisation plan in the UK is to replace the use of fossil gas for domestic heating by the use of electricity. That may have been slowed by the abolition of the Zero Carbon Homes policy for new build, with its 2016 deadline, but there is still a strong push in that direction, with a ‘Near Zero Energy in Buildings’ concept and specific programmes for roll-out of technologies like electric heat pumps, apparently one of the government’s favoured heat supply options, along of course with insulation and improved building design to reduce demand. The latter makes sense, the former, well that is debatable.

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Prosumer integration

By Dave Elliott

The German Environment Agency (UBA) has produced a comprehensive review of options for removing almost all (95%) greenhouse gas emission by 2050, based on the existing 80% renewables programme for electricity supply, but also looking at all the other sectors – including heating and transport. As I said in my coverage in an earlier post, that is pretty challenging. But it says it can be done. www.umweltbundesamt.de/publikationen/germany-2050-a-greenhouse-gas-neutral-country

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Germany stays on course

 By Dave Elliott

Germany is sticking to its ambitious plan to get at least 80% of its electricity from renewables by 2050. As part of that, it aims to support the construction and operation of 20 offshore wind farms, 7 GW in all, and that plan recently received a boost, with the European Commission agreeing that it did not conflict with EU state aid rules. The 17 wind farms in the North Sea and three in the Baltic will further EU energy and environmental objectives without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market, the EC said.

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Energy storage – new views, Part 2

By Dave Elliott

In addition to its large-scale grid balancing role, which I looked at in my last post, energy storage may also play a role at the consumer level, with batteries allowing solar PV-using ‘prosumers’ to provide their own backup. Some see this as a possible new type of distributed storage capacity and also, more radically, as further challenging the market power of the big utilities (much of the 75GW of wind and PV in Germany is now owned by local consumers and energy co-ops), even to the point when grid systems are redundant. This may be overstated, but some more movement in that direction may be occurring in Germany and the US as batteries get cheaper.   (more…)

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Balancing variable renewables

By Dave Elliott

There is now a range of books looking at the technical and policy options available for managing the use of variable energy resources such as wind and solar energy. The pioneering text in this area was Earthscan’s “Renewable Electricity and the Grid” from 2007, edited by Godfrey Boyle , with contributions from many of the UK top experts. But the field has since expanded with, for example, a lot of new work being done in the US. (more…)

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