Transformative innovations will help solar and wind dominate electricity generation by 2050: IRENA

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Solar PV and onshore wind need to generate at least 60 per cent of total power by 2050 in order to achieve the Paris Agreement climate objectives, says IRENA in their publication, Innovation Landscapes for a Renewable-Powered Future.

The integration of such a high share of renewable energy into power systems will require substantial innovation. These innovations would need to overcome the inherent challenges posed by solar and wind energy, such as the potential for rapid changes in electricity output. 

The publication identifies and analyses 30 types of transformative innovations across four dimensions: enabling technologies, business models, market design and system operation. Here are four of them:

  1. Electric-vehicle smart charging. As the number of electric vehicles (EVs) grow, smart charging will enable these vehicles to determine the best times to charge. For example, EVs could charge more during the day when solar power is more abundant. Furthermore, with vehicle-to-grid technology, EVs could even act as storage, supplying power back to the grid when needed.
  2. Aggregators. As power systems become digitalised, companies known as “aggregators” can connect and optimise multiple renewable energy sources, operating as “virtual power plants”. This provides the wholesale market with more choices and empowers the consumer to opt for more sustainable energy sources.
  3. Net billing schemes. With schemes that allow consumers to offset retail electricity purchases by selling excess energy back to the grid, individuals who have their own renewable energy sources, such as solar PVs on their properties, can maximise this. By setting a value based on when they choose to sell this back to the grid, they can also respond to price signals and help in grid balancing.
  4. Virtual power lines. Reducing the need to transport electricity across long distances using grid lines can help to avoid costly investments in network infrastructure. This can be achieved through virtual power lines, such as in the case of China’s energy storage, where large-scale battery storage systems are built along the grid to store excess power during non-peak hours, discharging them during peak hours. Another example is converting wind energy generated in rural areas into hydrogen, transporting it to regions with energy deficits.

Recognising that these 30 innovations can have potential synergies with each other, the publication also presents 11 solutions which bring together several innovations and demonstrates how stakeholders can work together for better results.

To learn more about these innovations and how they can complement each other, please download Innovation Landscape for a Renewable-Powered Future

         

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