Driven by favourable policy frameworks and technology advancements, variable renewables are increasingly gaining ground in power generation. According to the IEA Sustainable Development Scenario, electricity is expected to increase in its share of total final energy demand from 18% in 2018 to above 30% by 2030. Renewables are expected to make up for the largest share, with 52% of global electricity generation, notably solar PV and wind at 29%. In order to realise these projections that set the world to reach net-zero by 2070, power system flexibility will become a cornerstone of electricity security.
Moreover, reaching net-zero, according to the WEO 2020 special net-zero by 50 scenario, will require even greater shares of VRE deployment and thus flexibility.
Over the last three years, the Power System Flexibility Campaign (PSF) has engaged substantially in topics of power plant flexibility, market design, digitalisation and sector coupling. During this time, focus has been placed on solutions for short to very short-term flexibility, where the usefulness of various resources such as, flexible VRE, grids, battery storage and demand-flexibility, and policy options to activate them can be more easily conveyed to key decision makers in policy and industry.
As more countries implement long-term net-zero goals, reliant on high shares of renewables, it becomes evident that the need to address flexibility requirements in the weeks to season or annual horizons will become increasingly important. At higher shares of renewables, the production of synthetic fuels, such as hydrogen or green gas, is coming to the fore as a cost-competitive option to use surplus VRE output and serve the longer-term flexibility needs of the power system or other integrated sectors of energy demand. However, there remains a gap between the conceptual understanding of the importance of sector coupling and actual solutions that, in the foreseeable future, may contribute to power system flexibility.
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