Managing a Renewable Energy Transition

Everyone should seek to transform their electricity system to a renewable one, in every region of the world, but not unthinkingly – otherwise the consequent blackouts and price increases would blacken the name of renewable energy. There are a number of steps, including:

  • Identify sources and destinations of renewable energy, and upgrade the grid / build new lines and substation capacity / resilience accordingly
    • Include the electrification of heating, transportation and industry
  • Identify the longest period there will be with minimum low-carbon generation, then build storage accordingly:
    • Capacity (MW) is (max demand plus 10% capacity margin) minus (all dispatchable renewables)
    • Volume (MWh) is (total demand over this extreme weather period plus 10%) minus (all the generation we can 99% expect over the period)
    • Duration will be a mix of short (demand side, batteries), medium and long, with the long being the full duration of the weather period plus 10% margin
    • The 10% margins are to allow for any of the back-up plant to fail in some way, or demand to reach extraordinary levels
  • Don’t rely on interconnectors because your neighbours’ times of system stress (high demand and/or low generation) will mostly coincide with yours
  • Build the storage in a balanced way (balanced by building very roughly proportionate amounts of each duration)
  • Create a legal definition of storage as storage, not as generation or consumption: it generates no new electricity and is a grid service that moves electricity in time; with such a definition, contracts can be let for “storage services” of different types and groupings
  • Change the regulatory environment to encourage revenue stacking, and to favour low-carbon sources – one way of doing so is outlined in Storelectric’s proposal, A 21st Century Electricity System, in which capital investment, clean energy and the introduction of innovations are all incentivised without a penny of subsidy
  • Refuse to give in to the power of incumbents to threaten to cause blackouts by closing power stations prematurely: have contingency plans, and encourage the incumbents to invest in clean energy technologies
  • All this needs to be done with cross-party political support as it’s a 30-year program

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