Grid studies and the power sector transformation
Grid studies support planning for the power sector transformation. Results of grid studies allow the evaluation of costs and other efforts required to deploy a flexible power system with the capacity to host the planned shares of variable renewable energy (VRE). On islands, grid studies strengthen the coordination between long-term, policy-driven renewable energy integration targets and their actual deployment in power systems. This means policy makers can plan more accurately for resources required to attain envisioned targets. They also allow power utilities to identify the most suitable technical measures to host the planned VRE shares, without affecting the system’s stability and reliability.
Grid integration studies: supporting the power sector transformation on islands
The power sector transformation to support higher shares of renewable energy deployment is one of the most effective strategies in global endeavors to mitigate climate change. It can be fostered by technical developments and significant cost reductions in variable renewable energy (VRE) technologies. By transforming their power sectors in this way, islands can access affordable, secure and clean electricity.
Due to economies of scale and the technical characteristics of the power networks, this power sector transformation can occur more rapidly in islands than in larger, more populated areas . Some of the technical challenges met by several islands in transforming their power sector have not been encountered yet in larger interconnected networks. The implementation of new technologies and modern operational practices to ensure the reliable and affordable supply of electricity while integrating high shares of VRE can position islands as lighthouses for innovative solutions involving renewable energy.
In preparation for a grid study, a scope of work is defined in consultation with the designated focal points, local stakeholders, external experts and development partners. The exact scope of work depends on the needs identified and the nature of the power sector on each island. The VRE integration targets, geographical coverage, infrastructure of the power network, generation capacity, operational practices of the system operator and the stakeholders involved are considered. Technical visits from IRENA’s experts, workshops with utility engineers and the use of simulation tools and models are also important parts of the process. Access to the power system simulation software DIgSILENT PowerFactory is available to member countries of the agency, with IRENA’s experts offering technical support for its application.
Grid integration studies must be updated based on the dynamics of the power sector over time. IRENA’s engagement includes a strong capacity-building component to allow studies to be conducted locally . A technical guide explaining the process of these technical studies are under preparation and will be available soon. The guide builds on the experience gained by IRENA after four years of engagement with member countries.