Flexible Energy Solution Key Towards Decarbonization: EEA

The European Environment Agency (EEA) recently published a report titled ‘Flexibility Solutions for Decarbonization: Securing the EU Electricity System.’ This report highlights a significant surge in renewable energy capacity, specifically in solar and wind energy, which is expected to increase from 24% to 60% of the total renewable energy capacity. The report indicates that this development will increase the corresponding energy capacity by more than a threefold increase, further strengthening the renewable energy mix.

The report emphasizes that integrating electrical systems with wind and solar technologies can enhance renewable energy deployment by up to 20% compared to deploying these technologies separately. This approach can reportedly contribute towards bringing significantly the share of Variable Renewable Energy (VRE). In 2022, VRE contributed approximately 22% of the entire European Union (EU) electricity supply and represented 35% of the total installed capacity. This clearly indicates a growing trend in the VRE generation, driven in part by the widespread adoption of distributed energy resources, often found at lower voltage levels, such as rooftop solar panels and behind-the-meter electricity storage.

The report underscores that increasing variable energy requires sourcing energy through solar and wind generation across the EU. The report notes an estimated increase in generation capacity to 230 TWh between 2021 and 2023, which is partially influenced by measures taken by the EU countries in response to various factors, including the situation in war-affected Ukraine.

The report suggests the implementation of technology that combines localized solar and wind generation profiles with varying peak and valley times. This integration is anticipated to yield a more stable and less variable generation compared to individual technology profiles. Additionally, the combination of wind and solar electricity supply can potentially reduce short-term generation variability by approximately 30%, the report finds.

In the context of Europe, the report highlights the complementary nature of solar and wind generation patterns during different seasons. It provides an example of a continental climate where the combined monthly generation from wind and photovoltaic sources never falls below 85% of its peak. Therefore, the report recommends leveraging the integrated technology between the European grid by combining wind and solar resources to reduce the system’s flexibility requirements. It also suggests using interconnectors to enhance the efficiency of distributing electrical energy from various sources, including storage and demand response. Subsequent sections of the report delve into these key flexibility resources.

The report further advocates for increased electrification to create opportunities on the demand side. This is crucial due to indications of insufficient demand-side flexibility and instances of massively negative electricity prices in certain EU regions. Consequently, the report proposes that enhancing flexibility at interconnection points can serve as a catalyst for cross-border flexibility.

Ultimately, the report emphasizes deploying and sharing the right mix of variable solar and wind resources, both within individual member states and across the EU as a whole. This approach is expected to reduce the overall system flexibility requirements by utilizing technological and geographical complementarity. Using interconnectors will play a crucial role in enabling flexible resources to be shared across borders, spanning all timeframes. Beyond the daily timeframe, the report projects that one-third of the annual flexibility could be sourced from cross-border cooperation by 2030.