Massive increases in renewable energy generation mean that we must start planning now for how to manage seasonal gaps with economic, low carbon solutions when there is not enough wind and solar power to meet peak demand.
This change in how we generate the bulk of electricity from fossil fuel to renewable sources will create significant economic, technological and policy challenges for the energy industry and European governments.
This economic study models how fast this change is set to occur and the impact of short- and long-term seasonal generation gaps on today's grid in the UK, Germany and Nordics and in the high renewable futures predicted in 2030 and 2040 by Bloomberg New Energy Finance's (BNEF) New Energy Outlook data.
- Economic tipping points mean renewable energy will account for over half of electricity generation by the mid-2020s in the UK and Germany
- Renewable energy will meet more demand, more often – driving opportunities for flexibility including storage and increased usage of interconnectors
- System volatility will increase markedly in the UK and Germany – providing opportunities for fast-ramping resources, but creating a challenging environment for non-variable baseload technologies such as nuclear
- Due to lengthy seasonally induced renewable generation gaps, the total back-up capacity needed in 2040 is much the same as in 2017. The ongoing need for this capacity, combined with significant drops in its utilisation, harms the economics of non-renewable generation plants such as coal and gas
- A future energy system in the UK and Germany dominated by variable renewable generation must be complemented by flexible resources – in particular storage. The Nordics’ spare flexibility presents opportunities via interconnectors to plug the potential flexibility gaps in the UK and Germany