Sunny Outlooks for a Turbulent Expansion

Industry News – May 19, 2023

Whether it’s blizzards in the U.S. or a prolonged drought in southern Europe – the weather is not a trivial topic reserved for small talk anymore, but a significant factor in our energy supply. Both the demand and offer of electricity are increasingly weather-dependent, as the International Energy Agency (IEA) states in their Electricity Market Report 2023. “In such a world, increasing the flexibility of the power systems while ensuring security of supply and resilience will be crucial,” the agency advises.

According to the IEA, despite the persistent growth in 2022, the share of variable renewable capacity in the total generation fleet remains below 25%, whereas in Europe it its 35%. In countries with a high share of wind and solar power, such as Germany and Denmark, variable sources already make up 60% of the total generation capacity.

As the energy transition expands, challenges are increasing

The higher the share of wind and solar power, the more challenging it is to balance these variable renewables. Apart from the expansion of power grids, it also takes more storage capacities and an increase of demand-side flexibility. The demand for infrastructure forecasted by the IEA for their net zero emissions (NZE) scenario is enormous: The worldwide capacity of stationary battery storage systems is set to multiply from today’s 108 gigawatt hours (GWh) h to 3,100 GWh in 2030, spurred in particular by the increasing demand for flexibility of the power systems. The batteries of electric vehicles will represent an even larger flexibility potential of 5,500 GWh. The power grids will also need to be expanded massively by 2050: The transmission systems by 9.5 million km (+186%) and the distribution grids by 115 million km (nearly 165%). The average grid investments are projected to increase from 520 billion US dollars per year by 2030 to 1,034 billion per year between 2031–2050.

For the continued success of the energy transition, the sole amount of solar and wind turbines, number of electric vehicles and length of power lines will not be enough – it will all come down to their intelligent interaction. How to achieve this will be presented at EM-Power Europe, one of the four exhibitions of The smarter E Europe. While Intersolar Europe, ees Europe and Power2Drive Europe cover topics such as solar energy, storage systems and electromobility, the focus at EM-Power Europe is on finding answers to questions such as how power grids can be made more transparent and bottlenecks avoided, how the massive flexibility potential of prosumers, storage systems, electromobility and heat pumps can be exploited. And last but not least, what the weather will be like, as accurate supply and demand forecasts will be essential for a reliable power supply in the future.

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