The International Energy Agency’s new report says global integration of variable renewable energies (VRE) like solar and wind into our obsolete power systems is just a matter of time. It also reminds us we’re wasting much time, and money, by not doing it now.
“These surmountable challenges should not let us lose sight of the benefits renewables can bring for energy security and fighting dangerous climate change,” executive director Maria van der Hoeven said in a press release for IEA’s The Power of Transformation: Wind, Sun and the Economics of Flexible Power Systems, which claims any country can inexpensively increase its solar and wind profile. “If OECD countries want to maintain their position as front runners in this industry, they will need to tackle these questions head-on.”
Head-on is not “just about 3 percent of world electricity generation” for wind and solar, the IEA said, reminding us that Europe currently generates 10 to 30 percent of its energy from renewables. But that lead isn’t large enough to separate what the IEA calls the “stable” power systems of Italy, Germany and Ireland from the “dynamic” power systems of upcoming players like India, China and Brazil, who can take the green lead if they integrate clean energy instead of dirty fuels.
“Emerging economies really have an opportunity here,” said van der Hoeven. “They can leap-frog to a 21st-century power system — and they should reap the benefits.”
Investment will be the determining factor for the resilience of both systems. The good news is that setting an unambitious goal of 30 percent or more of annual electricity production from solar and wind “can come at little additional cost in the long term,” the IEA claimed. That depends on “how flexible the system currently is and what strategy is adopted to develop system flexibility,” it added, but if the long-term integration strategy for global energy policymakers and industries is mutual, then Earthlings will get the infrastructure they deserve.
It’s a rosy future, but we need solar and wind deployment to move past being “one of the few bright spots in an otherwise-bleak picture of clean energy progress” to business as usual, the IEA concluded. “We need to transform the system as a whole to do this cost-effectively,” said van der Hoeven.
This article appeared at Solar Energy