Reduced cost of energy. Improved reliability. Diminished carbon emissions. Better supply quality. If all of that sounds good to you, then key for you is to know a recent surge in Renewable power sector.
The advent of renewable energy resources, especially Solar PV technology is revolutionizing conventional practices of power sector industry including generation, transmission and distribution.
Renewable energy has reached grid parity in almost all parts of the word and it is expected to meet 80% of the growth in global electricity demand by 2030. As depicted in figure 1, the price of electricity from solar has declined by 89% in last decade and price of on-shore wind has reduced by 70% in these 10 years.
Fig1:Levelized cost of electricity (Lazard Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis) Fig 2: World electricity generation mix by fuel – 2000 – 2018 (IEA)
In the latest annual World Energy Outlook 2020 report, the IEA states “Renewables grow rapidly in all our scenarios, with solar at the centre of this new constellation of electricity generation technologies”. It can be analysed in Figure 2 that from year 2000 there is gradual increase in percentage share of renewable energy and on the other hand there is reduction in share of conventional carbon-based fuels in electricity production. To sum up, reduction in cost, supportive policies and evolving technologies; large scale centralized solar and wind project has now become cheapest source of electricity compare to coal- or gas fired power plants in most of the countries.
Renewable energy is helping us to achieve an economical energy transition for greener sustainable and carbon neutral future and is evident from the analysis (fig 3) which shows an uptick in electric generation through renewable resources, however the benefits are accompanied with equal challenges due to its intermittency and distributed nature.
Fig 3: Change in global electricity generation by source and scenario 2020 – 2040 (IEA)
Large utility scale solar PV and wind project rely on scale of economics; larger the size of project there will be lower cost of energy and better returns for the project. However, there are few constraints that need to be evaluated
- Infrastructure: it will be difficult to have larger projects at all the location due to constrains in evacuation infrastructure, access to grid and land availability.
- Capital Requirements: large projects demand complex and huge capital funding
- Grid Operation: It will also bring in additional challenges for grid operation due to its intermittent in nature and mismatch in energy supply available and load demand requirements. Addressing power regulatory requirement also becomes challenging in terms of voltage, frequency and power quality.
Moreover, there will be more capital requirement for setting up adequate transmission and distribution network and that will also add to more losses; reduce efficiency of system and will affect overall viability and economics.
To talk further on this topic there are some opportunities to explore and benefit from.
Decentralised / distributed system and hybrid system (Standalone energy system, microgrid, co-generation) can be an alternative where we can mix various renewable energy technology like wind, solar PV and solar thermal along with storage system and for minimum back up generator are included. Energy storage plays a progressive vital role in ensuring the flexible and stable operation of power systems, with increase in percentage share of wind and solar energy.
It can help in efficient use of energy and better power quality. Infrastructure cost and energy loss due to transmission and distribution system can be avoided. Further, we can have more systematic supply and load planning. During peak power demands, mostly in morning and evening hours, energy requirements can be met though storage batteries and when there is surplus renewable energy, batteries can be charged back.
Fig 4: Energy curve for distributed renewable energy and storage system
Along with advantages of decentralized / distributed generation comes with some challenges due to their operation and maintenance requirements. Compare to large utility scale centralized grid connect Solar/ Wind generation project, cost of distributed system is at higher end. Further, Storage of energy is also required to overcome intermittent and vulnerable nature of solar and wind energy; which affects overall financials of the project.
To overcome power supply uncertainty from renewable energy; a larger grid-based interconnection across geographies and connecting supply across borders arrangement can also be a promising alternative and can play important part. Considering its importance and economic prospect for the World; International Solar Alliance (#IEA) has come up with mantra of “ One Sun One World One Grid” (OSOWOG), a trans-national electric grid supply solar power across globe to leverage multiple benefits. The vision behind OSOWOG The Sun Never Sets and is a constant at some geographical location, globally, at any given point of time. This initiative can help in building a global ecosystem of interconnected renewable energy resources that are seamlessly shared for mutual benefits and global sustainability.
To summarize we can state that advancement in renewable energy technology, along with policies has given hope for economical and sustainable energy transition but the picture is not always bright, and there are headwinds. As per IEA “To achieve net zero by 2050 goal, would involve a significant further acceleration in the deployment of clean energy technologies together with wide ranging behavioural changes”.
Big-data will play a significant part in comprehensive flow of information and parameters among stake holders and facilitating dynamic adjustments to real-time market and operational conditions, and promoting efficiencies in generation, transmission and distribution networks.
Government agencies and Utilities companies should also look at ways to capture those opportunities with their own products and services; wider deployment of cross border grid connection and distributed electricity generation technologies. Coming century is for fulfilment to eradicating darkness, reaching electricity to each and every home through green renewable energy.
Vice President- IBD / Engineering – ACME