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Tag Archives: grid links

China – even more renewables

By Dave Elliott

China continues to be a global leader in renewables. The nation has more wind power (now at 169 GW) and solar PV (over 100 GW) than any other country and, on 2016 data, a world-beating 554GW of renewables in all, including hydro. There is more to come. The 13th Five Year Plan (2015-2020) proposed targets for energy efficiency, the reduction of carbon intensity and diversification away from fossil fuels, with non-fossil fuels providing 15% of primary energy consumption by 2020, up from 7.4% in 2005.  But China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) is also considering raising the 2020 solar target to 150 GW, which would lead to about 21 GW of annual installation between 2016 and 2020. The Five Year Plan also proposed to increase the installed capacity of wind to 250 GW by 2020.

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The last word on the cost of balancing renewables

By Dave Elliott

The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) has produced an update to its 2006 report that had looked at the costs and impacts of using ‘intermittent’ electricity from renewables such as wind and solar. The 2006 study had only examined impacts with up to a 20% input, but the UKERC researchers now say that, even at the higher levels we are now expecting, it was still the case that the costs of balancing renewables could be low. However, they warned that, unless ‘urgent’ action was taken by the government to boost grid flexibility, the costs of adding renewables in future will be ‘much higher than they need to be’.

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German energy balancing

By Dave Elliott

Germany is in the lead globally with its ambitious renewable energy programme, already supplying over 32% of its electricity and aiming for 80% by 2050.  At present, Germany’s 1.5 million photovoltaic solar installations have a generation capacity of over 40GW, four times the remaining 10.8 GW base-load nuclear fleet that is being decommissioned in stages between the end of 2017 and 2022. PV can be well matched to day-time peak demand in Germany, which is why it has challenged gas peaking plant in this market.  However, due to its low load factor (10-15%, compared to 70-80% or more for nuclear), solar PV generation only delivers around 940 equivalent full-load hours of electricity per year, so in 2015 its high capacity only met around 7.5% of German electricity demand, compared to 14% for nuclear generation. That’s why some think it is not the best option to expand for the future – it’s expensive for relatively low levels of actual output. (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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What sort of green grid system?

By Dave Elliott

It’s clear that we will need energy transmission grids and networks to help balance variable renewables and link up locations where there is excess to areas where there are temporary lulls, but what sort of energy is best for transmission? And for storage? Both are important and can interact: in some cases storage may be better as a local option than long distance transmission, while in other cases, long distance transmission may allow access to areas where storage (e.g. pumped hydro reservoirs) is easier.  However, electricity isn’t necessarily always the best option for either: for example, gas can be transmitted long distances with low losses and, once installed, gas pipelines are less invasive than power grid tower links. Gas can also be stored in bulk in underground caverns and the gas grid itself is a store. So as we move to a new energy system, we need to think about all the possible energy vectors – and that also includes heat.

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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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Energy storage – new ideas Part 1

By Dave Elliott

Energy storage is usually seen as a very good idea – it would help cope with variable renewables. Indeed some enthusiasts now even say that cheap battery storage will make PV solar so viable at the domestic level we may not need grid power!  Or even grids!  That seems unlikely – they help to balance variable demand  with  supply  from a range of sources near and far. But one thing is clear – energy storage, large and small scale, is becoming a big issue, with many new ideas emerging.    (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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PV solar – is that all we need?

By Dave Elliott

PV solar is booming, as I noted in my last post, with over 130 GW in place globally and some see it as overtaking all other renewables, with prices falling dramatically. Indeed a new study “The Economics of Grid Defection” by the US Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) says that PV solar and new cheap battery technology will soon mean that we won’t need power grids. (more…)

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Smart meters and smart grids

By Dave Elliott

The newly emerging energy system will need new grids of various types. In my previous two posts I looked at international low-loss High Voltage Direct Current supergrids, and suggested that though they may well be developed in the years ahead, the process could be uneven and incremental, starting with local/national smart grids designed to aid local balancing of variable supply and demand. (more…)

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