23 March 2012
"We need Smart Grids to integrate renewables in the electricity system"

'In Germany, we are shifting to a new energy system. We will end up with a system based completely and only on renewables. That’s the political intention, the decision is made, and there is no way around it. That means we will end up with an electricity system in which the generation is way more flexible.  It cannot be planned as it is at the moment.  The generation side is going to fluctuate much more, depending on wind and sun. Since we need to balance generation and consumption of electricity at all times, we know that the demand side has to get more flexible too.  That means we have to work towards a Smart Grid.’

‘At the moment we operate the electricity grid not really knowing what is going on,  what options we have in the generation and  on the demand side. Planning and reaction in the grid could be far more advanced if we had more communication and information technology.

In an intelligent grid, knowing in advance that -for example -the production from the wind turbines will be low, you can reschedule parts of the consumption to prevent imbalance.  That is a more intelligent and more flexible way of using electricity: taking it when there is enough, and not taking it when there is a shortage. ‘

‘We now have in Germany about 45 GW of installed capacity from renewable sources. The Bundesverband Erneuerbare Energie (the German organisation of renewable energy providers) projects it will rise to around 110 GW installed capacity in 2020, more than 45 percent of total electricity generation. It might take 5 years more, to 2025. Even then, we are confronted with a challenge. ‘

‘The fact that the share of renewables is – for example – 47 % over a year does not mean it is 47 % at any hour in the year. There will be hours when we have no idea where to put the electricity, and other hours when we don’t know where to get it from, because the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. We desperately need more flexibility both on the production and on the consumption side.  And this flexibility is available. We have a lot of devices running, taking up electricity, that we do not need exactly at this moment. We could postpone using them, or instead switch them on one hour earlier. This can compensate for the variations that we get from the production side.’

‘Flexibility already has an economic  value.  In Germany there are now five markets where you can sell flexibility in the production or the consumption of electricity. What we expect is that  flexibility gets a higher valuation, since the fluctuations on the generation side will grow. This problem will get quite drastic in the upcoming 10 to 15 years. ‘

‘What we need to do is first find the flexibility on the demand side. Secondly (or parallel to it) put up the Smart Grid, and then develop the right markets. That is quite a lot to do in a relatively short period of time. But we know what to do. We will change the electricity system. The only question is, how much time do we allow for this change? ‘

Read the full interview at the e-harbours website;

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