Effective energy system integration is pivotal to meeting global climate goals. By Boo Yi Lin.
The ability to integrate renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar into energy systems will be key to battling climate change in the long run. The challenges of achieving this outcome were discussed during a panel session at the Singapore Energy Summit, which touched on the various aspects of integration in the energy sector.
Latest figures by the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed that global energy demand growth was largely met by oil, natural gas, and coal, while renewables accounted for less than 30 percent of the energy mix. This has resulted in the rise of the global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017, after three years of flat growth, according to the IEA.
The panel’s moderator, Datuk Ir. Ahmad Fauzi bin Hasan, Chairman of the Energy Commission of Malaysia, said that having high levels of renewables in an energy system will be important in keeping the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels this century, a goal set out by the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“Although it is a big challenge to surmount, it has been proven that it can be done,” he said, citing the examples of countries such as Denmark and Ireland who have integrated a high percentage of renewables into their systems.
Panellists discussed what energy systems of the future will look like and how we can better integrate energy sources, systems, and policies to facilitate our energy transformation.
A balancing act
The great challenge in energy system integration is in designing solutions that will balance optimisation, energy security and reliability. This challenge can be overcome by taking into account the points of view of various players, like power plant operators and network operators, when it comes to designing energy systems, shared Ms Marianne Laigneau, Group Senior Executive Vice-President at utility company EDF. This will help in developing new and effective solutions for the sector, she added.
Mr Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary, Sustainable Development at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, noted that the design of energy solutions cannot be done without factoring in three megatrends in Asia Pacific: climate change, the effect of air pollution, and the rise in income inequality in region that affects energy access.
The benefits of nuclear
Innovative renewable energy solutions can help address the problem of energy access in isolated communities as well as developing countries. In particular, small nuclear modular reactors have helped to supply heat and electricity to the Arctic community as well as rural areas in Africa, said Ms Agneta Rising, Director General at World Nuclear Association.
Ms Rising also highlighted the ways that nuclear energy can contribute to a clean energy system. She cited the example of Germany, which would have succeeded in reducing its emissions levels if more of its investments in renewables had been channelled into nuclear.
While the integration of energy systems is complex, Professor Masakazu Toyoda, Chairman and CEO of The Institute of Energy Economics Japan (IEEJ), said that technologies like hydrogen gas as a source of fuel could help assist in this transformation.
Mr Zahedi agreed that technology would play an important role in achieving integration. He said: “We tend to always underestimate what technology can do, but we can be more ambitious on where renewables can be with the right policy environment.”