Electricity generation from renewable sources will need to increase significantly to achieve the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) objective of doubling the share of renewable energy (RE) in the global energy mix by 2030. Fortunately, there is growing evidence in many countries that high levels of renewable energy penetration in the grid are technically and economically feasible, particularly as solar and wind technologies increasingly reach grid parity in economic terms.
However, continuous and expanded growth of the share of renewables in centralised and decentralised grids requires an effective new approach to grid management, making full use of “smart grids” and “smart grid technologies”. Existing grid systems already incorporate elements of smart functionality, but this is mostly used to balance supply and demand. Smart grids incorporate information and communications technology into every aspect of electricity generation, delivery and consumption in order to minimise environmental impact, enhance markets, improve reliability and service, and reduce costs and improve efficiency (EPRI 2013).
These technologies can be implemented at every level, from generation technologies to consumer appliances. As a result, smart grids can play a crucial role in the transition to a sustainable energy future in several ways: facilitating smooth integration of high shares of variable renewables; supporting the decentralised production of power; creating new business models through enhanced information flows, consumer engagement and improved system control; and providing flexibility on the demand side.
This report is intended as a pragmatic user’s guide on how to make optimal use of smart grid technologies for the integration of renewables into the grid. It outlines the systemic approach that is required to address both the technical and non-technical issues associated with the implementation of smart grids for renewables.