Online Workshop on Identifying Challenges for Achieving 100% Renewable Power Systems by Mid-century

06 June 2019


Background

The workshop on ‘Identifying challenges for achieving 100% renewable power systems by mid-century’ was part of the experience-sharing programme on innovative solutions for very high shares of renewable power by mid-century that is taking place throughout 2019, supported by the government of Sweden and in collaboration with the government of Uruguay.

The workshop has been held online by the IRENA Innovation and Technology Center (IITC), ahead of the workshop on ‘Innovative solutions for achieving 100% renewable power systems by mid-century’, which took place as part of the regional IRENA Innovation day in Montevideo, Uruguay (17th July 2019).

The focus of this online workshop was on countries who have pledged very high (above 70-80%, and in some cases 100%) renewable power targets by mid-century, and that accepted to participate in the experience-sharing programme on innovative solutions for very high shares of renewable power by mid-century throughout 2019.

Based on the outcome of this preliminary online workshop among country representatives, the subsequent (online and in-person) workshops will explore the most relevant disruptive innovations which enable the rapid uptake of a high share of renewables in power systems. Insights gained will greatly assist participating countries in driving their energy-system transformations towards very-high or 100% renewable power systems in the coming decades.

Objective

The objective of this online workshop was to connect country representatives and foster international exchange of their national objectives in terms of renewable power in the coming decades. In this context, country representatives were given the opportunity to share and discuss current and/or foreseen challenges regarding the adoption of technology-driven innovative solutions for the accelerated deployment of very high shares of renewable power by mid-century.

Target audience

This online workshop targeted mid-level officials, as well as experts who have a role in advising officials from countries that have similar policy ambitions in terms of decarbonizing the power system in the next two or three decades. Representatives from the following countries have been invited to attend the workshop, as these countries have policy targets to achieve between 80%-100% renewable power by 2030, 2040 or 2050, in addition to Uruguay, given it is a frontrunner in the operation of a power system with very high shares of renewable power with 98% of its power generated in 2017 from renewable energy sources: Costa Rica, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay.

Outcome

Discussions provided an opportunity to evaluate barriers and missing elements required to scale-up deployment of technologies, while also looking at the strengths of the participating countries to fully harness opportunities arising from the renewable energy transformation. Gathering such relevant information and insights are valuable for IRENA and will be used when designing tools and activities to help deliver countries’ objectives.

All participating countries provided thorough an overview on the present configuration of their power systems, the past and current actions taken to enable the penetration of higher shares of renewables as well as foreseen challenges. On the one hand, there is a challenge in increasing the share of installed variable renewable capacity to reach a 100% renewable powered system, which calls for more flexible power systems, for which there is a wide variety of available technology-driven innovations (beyond innovations in power generation technologies), as well as electricity market improvements. On the other hand, there are examples of (near) 100% renewable power systems (e.g. Uruguay and Costa Rica), showing that it is feasible to reach this goal, by operating variable renewable energy sources with a large hydro-base.

However, curtailment and making use of the surplus electricity is another key challenge that some countries are already facing, and others can expect to face it in the future. To overcome this challenge, electrification and sector coupling strategies can play an important role (e.g. heating in buildings, steel industry, transport and agriculture). Interest in renewable hydrogen was also expressed by all participants but for different reasons and with different applications, ranging from seasonal storage to avoiding renewable curtailment to decarbonizing other end-use sectors. Interactions between participants also highlighted the need to adopt a forward-thinking approach and to “think even bigger”, i.e. to think about what kind of world or society we want to live in by 2050.

A systemic approach was considered throughout the presentations of the participating countries. Most of the innovations discussed referred to enabling technologies, i.e. innovations that play a key role in facilitating the integration of variable renewable energy in the power system but innovations in business models were underlined as well, which highlight that IRENA’s recently published Innovation landscape for a renewable-powered future report is relevant and timely. Innovations for generation technologies were mentioned as well, such as hybridization of power plants (i.e. combing wind, solar power plants and/or batteries).

As part of the experience-sharing programme on innovative solutions for very high shares of renewable power by mid-century, a subsequent in-person workshop on “Innovative solutions for 100% renewable power systems by mid-century” took place on 17 July 2019 in Montevideo, Uruguay, as part of the IRENA Innovation Day. More information and outcomes of the workshop can be found here.

Future workshops as part of the programme will be announced soon.

Agenda

Time Session
16:00 16:05

Welcome address and rationale behind the series of workshops on the topic of100% renewable power from Sweden’s perspective

  • Paul Durrant, Programme Officer, Renewable Energy Innovation (IRENA)
  • Truls Borgström, Deputy Director, Ministry of Infrastructure, Energy Division (Sweden)
16:05 16:10

Introductory remarks (context, objective, planned activities, participating countries)

Elena Ocenic, Programme Officer, Innovation Networks (IRENA)

16:10 16:20

Setting the scene by presenting the systemic innovation approach proposed by IRENA in the Innovation Landscape Report, i.e. combining innovations in technology with those in market design, business models and systems operation

Arina Anisie, Associate Programme Officer, Renewable Energy Innovation (IRENA)

16:20 16:30

Questions and answers on IRENA’s systemic innovation approach

Arina Anisie, Associate Programme Officer, Renewable Energy Innovation (IRENA)

16:30 17:30

Challenges in the adoption of a systemic innovation approach as a key enabler to achieve high shares of renewable power by mid-century
Representatives from countries having accepted to participate to this online workshop were invited to present their perspective on the short-, medium- and long-term challenges in achieving high shares of renewable power, by focusing on the current/expected (foreseen) technical challenges arising once a power system is entirely renewable-based (e.g. how to make use of the surplus electricity to avoid curtailment, etc.).

IRENA Member Countries:

  • Hanna Ek-Fälth, Renewable Energy Analyst, Swedish Energy Agency (Sweden)
  • Ruben García, National Director of Energy, DNE-Ministry of Industry, Energy, and Mining, MIEM (Uruguay)
  • Wilson Sierra, Manager of the Renewable Energy Department, MIEM (Uruguay)
  • Rolando Castro, Viceminister of Energy, Ministry of Environment and Energy (Costa Rica)
  • Alfonso Herrera, Ministry of Environment and Energy (Costa Rica)
  • Bilun Müller, Deputy Head of Unit International cooperation on energy, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Germany)
  • Hugo Lucas Porta, Ministry for Ecological Transition, Institute for Energy Diversification and Energy Saving (Spain)
17:30 17:45

Interactive discussion with the workshop participants to identify common challenges, which will help identify innovations and innovative solutions in subsequent workshops

All speakers/participants

17:45 18:00

Next steps (minutes of the workshop, speakers and topics of upcoming workshops, etc.)

Elena Ocenic, Programme Officer, Innovation Networks (IRENA)