Grids

Expanding the power network is today the most cost-effective way to put renewable energy to work where it is needed.

In order reach its goal of covering at least 80 percent of power needs with renewable energies by 2050, Germany must overhaul its network infrastructure. Among other things, it must expand the capacity of its distribution networks to transport electricity. At the same time, these networks are increasingly assuming a new function: They already collect around 99 percent of all solar power and around 95 percent of wind power produced on a regional basis, thus functioning as intelligent power collectors and distributors.

Most wind power production takes place on the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts, while most solar production occurs in southern Germany.

Electricity needs in Germany are not homogeneously distributed. Industrial and economic centres with large electricity needs are mainly in the Ruhr Valley, the Rhine-Main area, around Stuttgart and in the Nuremburg-Munich region.

The main challenge lies in matching where and when production and demand occur. Studies have shown that networks are much better at meeting this challenge, both technically and in terms of costs, than storage batteries. The revamping and expansion of power networks is therefore a central concern for the success of the Energiewende.

In a continuing dialogue with experts from politics, civil society, academia and business, Agora Energiewende is examining which infrastructure we will need in the future for a reliable power supply, largely comprised of renewable energies.  We are examining the power network not only in terms of transport, but also in terms of distribution. The use of intelligent information and communications technology, as well as reliable power electronics are important for maximising the stability of the system. We are also considering how storage systems could be used in an efficient network.

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Core results

  1. 1

    The Japanese power system can accommodate a larger proportion of renewables (RES) than is currently provided for in the government’s 2030 targets, while still maintaining grid stability.

    An annual share of at least 33% RES (22% variable renewables – VRES) can easily be integrated, while still maintaining grid stability within a tolerable range. A higher renewable share of 40% (30% VRES) could also be achieved with very low curtailment level.

  2. 2

    There already exist a number of technical measures to improve grid stability in situations where a high proportion of variable renewables could place a strain on grid operations.

    Indeed, VRES can contribute to maintaining grid stability by providing fast frequency response (FFR). On conservative assumptions, this study shows that such FFR services would enable the existing Japanese transmission grid to incorporate instantaneous VRES penetration levels of up to 60% in eastern Japan and around 70% in western Japan, while still maintaining frequency stability. These assessments confirm the trends observed in 2018 in regions such as Kyushu or Shikoku, where hourly VRES penetration satisfied more than 80% of demand (corresponding to more than 55% of all power generation). By 2030, these high regional infeed levels could become the norm for the Japanese system as a whole. Furthermore, implementing additional technical measures would allow even higher penetration levels to be reached.

  3. 3

    Integrated grid and resource planning can help mitigate the impact of wind and solar PV deployment on intraregional and interregional load flows.

    Increasing the proportion of VRES in the mix is expected to reduce power line loading in some regions and increase it in other parts of the system. The impact of VRES distribution on the grid must therefore be systematically taken into account in future grid development plans, in order to avoid creating line-loading hotspots.

  4. 4

    Non-discriminatory market regulations, enhanced transparency, and state-of-the-art operational and planning practices facilitate the integration of a higher proportion of variable renewables.

    In particular, renewables should be incorporated into ancillary service provision, since they can contribute to frequency stability, balancing, and voltage control in tandem with other technologies (such as demand side response, conventional generation, and storage).

  1. 1

    Increased integration between the Nordic countries and Germany will become ever more important as the share of renewables increases. The more renewables enter the system, the higher the value of additional transmission capacity between Nordic countries and Germany will become.

    In particular, additional generation from renewables in the Nordics – reflected in the Nordic electricity balance - will increase the value of transmission capacity. There is a lot of potential for trade, due to hourly differences in wholesale electricity prices throughout the year.

  2. 2

    A closer integration of the Nordic and the German power systems will reduce CO2 emissions due to better utilisation of renewable electricity.

    This is caused by reduced curtailment of renewables, improved integration of additional renewable production sites and increased competitiveness of biomass-fuelled power plants.22

  3. 3

    Higher integration will lead to the convergence of wholesale electricity prices between the Nordic countries and Germany. But even with more integration, the Nordic countries will see lower wholesale electricity prices if they deploy large shares of renewables themselves.

    In general, additional integration will lead to slightly higher wholesale electricity prices in the Nordics and to slightly lower prices in Germany. But this will be counteracted by the decreasing price effect that higher wind shares in the Nordics have on the wholesale power market.3

  4. 4

    Distributional effects from increased integration are significantly higher across stakeholder groups within countries than between countries.

    This strongly impacts the incentives of market players such as electricity producers or consumers (e.g., energy-intensive industries) for or against increased integration. Distributiona leffects need to be taken into account for creating public acceptance for new lines and for the cross-border allocation of network investments.

  1. 1

    Increased integration between the Nordic countries and Germany will become ever more important as the share of renewables increases. The more renewables enter the system, the higher the value of additional transmission capacity between Nordic countries and Germany will become.

    In particular, additional generation from renewables in the Nordics – reflected in the Nordic electricity balance - will increase the value of transmission capacity. There is a lot of potential for trade, due to hourly differences in wholesale electricity prices throughout the year.

  2. 2

    A closer integration of the Nordic and the German power systems will reduce CO2 emissions due to better utilisation of renewable electricity.

    This is caused by reduced curtailment of renewables, improved integration of additional renewable production sites and increased competitiveness of biomass-fuelled power plants.

  3. 3

    Higher integration will lead to the convergence of wholesale electricity prices between the Nordic countries and Germany. But even with more integration, the Nordic countries will see lower wholesale electricity prices if they deploy large shares of renewables themselves.

    In general, additional integration will lead to slightly higher wholesale electricity prices in the Nordics and to slightly lower prices in Germany. But this will be counteracted by the decreasing price effect that higher wind shares in the Nordics have on the wholesale power market.

  4. 4

    Distributional effects from increased integration are significantly higher across stakeholder groups within countries than between countries.

    This strongly impacts the incentives of market players such as electricity producers or consumers (e.g., energy-intensive industries) for or against increased integration. Distributiona leffects need to be taken into account for creating public acceptance for new lines and for the cross-border allocation of network investments.

Projects

Latest News

    Japan’s Grid Can Handle More Wind and Solar Power than Currently Envisioned by Its Government

    Although Japan has experienced a solar boom in the past five years, ongoing concerns about the stability of its power grid have slowed the expansion of wind and solar, leaving the country with renewable energy targets below the global average. But an independent study has shown that technical solutions exist that can help Japan meet the challenges of transitioning to clean energy.
     

    Reducing Electricity Waste with Smart Markets

    Agora Energiewende presents market solutions for reducing the costs of redispatch – Smart markets at the regional level can help to balance supply and demand while eliminating grid bottlenecks
     

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