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Renewable integration

Integrating higher shares of VRE is essential for decarbonising power

The increasing prominence of variable renewable energy technologies (VRE) enabled by sharply falling costs and supportive policies, alongside other advances, are among the most important drivers of power system transformation globally. The impact of, and issues associated with, VRE depend largely on its level of deployment and the context of the power system. IEA analysis of these challenges covers global and country level dimension as well as technology aspects.

Introduction

Annual variable renewable energy share and corresponding system integration phase in selected countries/regions, 2018

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Six phases of system integration

The integration of VRE can be categorised into a framework made of six different phases, which can be used to prioritise different measures to support system flexibility, identify relevant challenges and implement appropriate measures to support the system integration of VRE.

Power system flexibility refers to the capability of a power system to maintain continuous service in the face of rapid and large swings in supply or demand, whatever the cause. Flexibility has always been an important requirement for power systems due to the need to plan for unexpected contingencies such as plant and transmission outages. However system flexibility has become increasingly important for policy makers as the share of VRE generation increases and needs to be addressed in all time domains from real-time operations to long-term system planning.

Phase 1 captures very early stages where VRE deployment has no immediate impact on power system operation. Phase 2 flexibility issues emerge but the system is able to cope with them through minor operational modifications. Phases 3 through 6 indicate the increasing influence of VRE in determining system operations.