Integration of renewable energy into the grid: a key issue around the globe

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the International Energy Agency co-hosted a Global Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables at the Ministry at the start of October.

Dr. Fatih Birol and Bundesminister Altmaier during the conference.© BMWi / Andreas Mertens

A multitude of high-ranking officials including Ministers, Deputy Ministers and State Secretaries from Sweden, Thailand, Japan, Morocco, Poland and Switzerland and the USA met together with CEOs of major companies and leaders from international organisations to discuss the future of renewable energy in the global energy system.

Many countries are looking to digitalisation and to hydrogen for energy storage

As part of the Conference, the various representatives of government shared information on the current state of renewables expansion in their respective countries, and on projects planned for the future. It became clear that many countries are focusing on digitalising the power sector, having consumers take on an active role, and developing the potential of hydrogen as an energy storage medium in their efforts to integrate renewable energy into the power supply systems.

The topics addressed in the discussion rounds with company representatives included ways of using electrification to accelerate decarbonisation and improve system flexibility; innovations in policy, market design and regulation; system planning and market innovations as well as political initiatives supporting a switchover to the use of clean energy.

Quality of regulatory framework will be crucial

At the end of the Conference, many participants agreed that in the future, the quality of the regulatory framework will be crucial for ensuring that renewable energy can be successfully integrated into the grid. This must ensure that the contribution that renewables make to operating the system is appropriately remunerated. In contrast, the importance of financial support is continuing to decline. The technological solutions needed to make renewable energy ready for the market have already been developed. The challenge for the next five years will be further integrating renewables into the market.

In his opening speech, Federal Minister Peter Altmaier stressed the growing importance of renewable energy worldwide, saying: 'Our goal is to achieve a 65 per cent share of renewable energy in gross electricity consumption by 2030. The use of renewable energy is growing everywhere around the world. It will therefore become ever more important for us to engage in cross-border cooperation and discuss best practices with other countries.'

Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, sees great opportunities in the fact that the cost of wind and solar energy is falling. At the end of the conference, the expert said: 'Wind and solar energy are a key component of our global efforts to tackle climate change, reduce air pollution and provide energy for all.' However, he also warned that we need to make our energy supply systems more flexible and adjust the market design in order to avoid any unintended consequences that would undermine security of supply.

In view of the high level of interest in the conference, a follow-up conference is to be held in Paris in September 2020, to which Dr Birol invited all participants to attend.