Sector Coupling

Together with assessing a power system’s flexibility level by looking into traditional supply-side flexibility sources, the Agency’s approach integrates equally demand-side flexibility, grid reinforcements, storage and sector coupling as additional flexibility sources and potential game changers. Furthermore, heat and hydrogen production from renewables can boost system flexibility and help with energy decarbonisation.

The idea is based on the fact that when coupled into a power grid, technologies at this interface effectively also become a component of the power system and thus can be modelled as such. That way electric vehicles (EVs), electric boilers, heat pumps and electrolysers for hydrogen production provide flexibility to the power system by 1) adjusting their demand profile based on price signals, and 2) making any integrated electricity, gas or heat storage a source of energy storage for the power system, to decouple the timing of demand for final energy from electricity demand.

At high shares of VRE, the production of carbon-free electrofuels such as hydrogen from renewable electricity could have a significant role in the context of decarbonisation of the energy sector, beyond electricity. The production of hydrogen can provide significant flexibility for the power system (depending on the type of electrolyser), as well as, most importantly, seasonal storage of renewable electricity by blending hydrogen into natural gas grids.

IRENA is actively working in this field and past work on sector coupling includes the following:

 The Agency is currently working on further briefs on the topic and upcoming work includes the following:

  • Innovation Outlook on smart charging
  • Analytical brief on demand side flexibility