5 Ways The World Will Change As Renewable Energy Gains Share

5 Ways The World Will Change As Renewable Energy Gains Share

Sometimes, it’s good to see a little further into the future than just the next few months, or even a year. At SaurEnergy, with the privilege we have in terms of access to and feedback from so many experts, it is clear that change is afoot. While those impatient for much more will probably disagree, the important trend we see is that the wheel has turned for good in terms of the direction towards renewables. Yes, there are contra signals in terms of the temporary ascendance of coal, and thermal power yet again in India and even China, but we remain optimistic that better sense will prevail, and an even stronger renewable push will be coming soon.

Keep in mind that fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions.

According to reports from the IEA, fossil fuels still account for more than 80 percent of global energy production, even as 29 percent of electricity currently comes from renewable sources.

In the best case scenarios, cheap electricity from renewable sources could provide 65 percent of the world’s total electricity supply by 2030. It could decarbonize 90 percent of the power sector by 2050, massively cutting carbon emissions and helping to mitigate climate change. As the share of renewables goes up in the grid, it will throw up its own challenges, many of which will have to be confronted head on, rather than taking the easy way out of going slow, as we seem to be doing right now. So here are the changes you are likely to see over the next decade, after some consideration.

1.Office Hours. A small change in office hours offers perhaps one of the easiest work arounds to a huge challenge of renewables. Managing the ‘excess’ solar power that will be generated during daylight hours with more and more solar capacity. It’s a problem that is already plaguing regions as far apart as Australia, part of Europe, and soon, even India. As Renewable power generation from solar plants peaks during the day, there is literally too much power for the grid to use to stay stable. A simple solution might be to shift office timings, to align them better with sunrise and sunset. It’s a common sense solution that has unfortunately evaded policy planners for a while, but will be considered, sooner than later. Reducing load on the grid during the evening peak hours, from commercial office establishments is worth the effort. Many parts of North East India already practice different work timings, it’s time the rest of the country also made an effort. Blessed with abundant daylight hours, we have been wasting this resource so far, even as other not so privileged regions across North America and Europe and others in the Northern Hemisphere  make an easy transition to daylight saving time each year to make the best use of sunlight until now, and soon, solar energy.

2. EVs to balance the grid- As the share of EVs goes up, in public as well as private transportation, EVs will not just electrify transportation, but also offer a way to balance the grid. An obvious hack is incentivising EVs to get charged during solar hours. A second, even more important option that has only been tried as a pilot so far- Using EV’s as a power source. Imagine a thousand EV’s plugged into the grid supplying power to it from their battery packs.  As issues around battery life from repeated charging are resolved, and more efficient battery packs emerge, this is a very real and viable alternative that will be available for local grids during emergencies, or even normal peak fluctuations. Many experts predict that this will be a viable option when EVs total share of vehicle networks crosses 25%. That is not too far away, as early as 2027-28 in possibly half the world!

3. Storage Independents-  As energy storage costs fall further, expect storage independents,  or consumers who produce their own energy from solar or wind or other renewables, store it for later use in the new, cheaper batteries, and effectively say goodbye to the grid. For these consumers, the grid, if at all, will become the back up battery for when their own production and storage falls short. For discoms, managing the loss of these high value consumers will be a key challenge, with one option being to coopt them for grid support, much like EVs above.

4.Super Grids– The term we would use loosely for cross country, or even trans continental  grids. While Europe remains the best example of these cross country grids, expect the idea to spread further to newer regions, and to increase further in areas like North America, in the power trade between Canada and the US for example. Thus, solar energy exports from North Africa to Europe, or even the more ambitious plans to export from Australia to South East Asia, these ambitious projects are moving slowly today only due to cost issues, but those issues are increasingly looking surmountable, sooner than later. Be it due to dropping solar prices, or rising electrification of the economy creating strong demand in richer countries willing to pay the higher price.

5. Oil Producers Powered By Green Energy:  Perhaps the most probable, if ironic change. Many of the world’s largest oil producing countries, particularly in the middle east, are likely to shift to more and more green energy, as they play catch up and more with the rest of the world. They will do it because as oil demand peaks and starts dropping, sometime over this decade by all accounts, the countries with easier to extract oil will realise it makes sense to focus on exporting as much as possible, especially as oil prices are unlikely to plummet to the levels of $30-45 as happened in the past. These countries will want oil prices to move in a range between $75 to $100, to balance their own books and where they know that when needed, they can undercut offshore exploration oil, or even shale oil extraction, which are or will be unprofitable at levels below $65/barrel. So a UAE powered with 60% green energy, or even a Saudi Arabia powered by green power is not as unlikely as it sounds. A decade from now, expect many of the tougher exploration blocks in many regions to be shut, or oil to be allowed to stay below sea levels, as countries balance out the investments required versus the same outcomes from cheaper green energy. The impact of nuclear energy from small modular reactors, or major jumps in energy efficiency cannot be overstated enough for this scenario.

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