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Integration of Renewable Energy into Electricity Grids

Jun 6, 2007 - IEA Report

PARIS, France - The International Energy Agency will table a final report to the G8 meeting in Japan next year that will establish "a degree of consensus on the priority issues" to integrate green power into electricity grids.

Many countries want to increase the role of renewables in their energy portfolios, making the efficient integration of green power into transmission and distribution systems of high priority, the IEA explains in a background paper to ‘Grid Integration of Renewable Energy: Technology Status & Priorities.’ A meeting later this month will involve experts in a ‘knowledge bank’ who have “sufficient intellectual weight and experience to establish what the key issues are, and to identify related tasks.”

Participation in the meeting is by invitation only.

In order to integrate green power into the grid, “it is likely that transmission networks, the rules by which they operate, and markets will need to be modified to take into account the specific characteristics of renewables,” the document explains. Existing power transmission systems were developed to link a relatively small number of large, centralised power stations, which will remain an essential part of energy portfolios.

“The distributed nature of renewables is not the only difference from existing norms: variable output technologies, such as solar PV and wind energy, also represent a degree of departure from traditional dispatchable technology,” it notes. “These developments, and others, call for identification of the tasks along the road to integrating renewable energy sourced electricity.”

While technological challenges may be seen as universal, they vary among countries according to a wide range of technical parameters governing the flexibility of a system, such as the amount of dispatchable capacity in the generation portfolio, storage capacity available, and the extent to which the system is interconnected to neighbouring systems. National disparities are strongly apparent in terms of strategic energy policy, and differences “are the cause of much debate and increase the difficulty in isolating the fundamental challenges from the cosmetic.”

At the Gleneagles G8 summit in 2005, the IEA was directed to collect research into the challenges of integrating electricity from renewables in an efficient manner. An inaugural workshop in November 2006 examined a scoping paper prepared by external consultants, which has been updated for technology issues to be discussed at the meeting this month. Information on policy, market and regulatory issues will be discussed in October in Berlin.

A final report of less than 80 pages “will aim to establish a degree of consensus on the priority issues and related tasks, based on the range of experiences to date,” and will make short to medium term recommendations to countries that target (or are considering targeting) an increase in the deployment of renewables. The development of a number of electricity market paradigms, based on varying degrees of penetration by renewables and overall system flexibility, will examine the associated challenges and benefits.

“Variable output technologies, such as solar photovoltaic and wind energy, are of particular relevance to this study,” it notes. Other green power technologies, some of which are dispatchable and with high capacity factors comparable to conventional sources of electricity (biomass, geothermal, hydropower and solar thermal with integrated thermal storage) will also receive attention.

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