Renewables Integration and Balancing: The Work Ahead

My focus in the coming years is the integration of renewable energy at high shares into the provision and use of electricity. (The "power sector" but with a very broad definition.) In 2014, I started an ambitious multi-year effort to compile all of the leading examples and stories worldwide of "innovations" for the integration and balancing of renewables, which includes new electricity market designs, policy frameworks, business models, operational and planning practices for "flexible" power systems, demand flexibility (demand response), local/distribution-level innovation, micro-grids and community-scale systems, and integration with electric vehicles, heat supply, and green buildings. A common theme of the "innovation" examples is how they provide greater flexibility to manage and integrate renewables.

The idea for this collection of leading examples is to refute the myths and out-dated thinking surrounding high shares of renewable energy, by pointing to real-world examples of what is already being done today to manage and integrate high shares. There are already many effective examples to point to, and taken together, this base of knowledge can make a compelling case that high shares of renewables are possible while still "keeping the lights on."  (With thanks to Walt Patterson for that phrase.)  And especially to make the point that expensive energy storage is not necessary for balancing in the short- and medium-term.  The writing is intended to be simple, for non-technical audiences, and to provide overall "big-picture" understanding and "myth-busting" of out-dated thinking.

The first results of this work are three educational articles just posted:

This work will continue in 2015 and 2016 through a number of collaborations and publications. In particular, I am writing a series of educational plain-language books to be published by Springer starting in 2016, starting with a basic primer/tutorial for understanding renewable energy futures. I am also collaborating on this subject with a number of organizations, including the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, the China National Renewable Energy Center, the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (Potsdam, Germany), the REN21 Renewable Energy Policy Network, and the California Public Utilities Commission.

And during 2015-2016, I intend to launch an open-source and collaborative international project on the integration of renewable energy, based on the ideas contained in Chapter 2 (integration) and Chapter 4 (local/city approaches) of the REN21 Renewables Global Futures Report. The project will focus on both centralized and local/community power and will make available: (a) knowledge for strategy and planning, (b) education and "myth-busting", and (c) advisory services. The project will also develop specific milestones and benchmarks useful for 2020, 2030, and beyond. The project will aim for broad-based collaboration, so stay tuned. (Those interested in collaborating can join a forthcoming LinkedIn group to be announced.)

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