Technological advances are allowing Europe to transform its power systems. What’s important now is to keep supply and demand balanced. Fabien Roques, Senior Vice President of Compass Lexicon and POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe Advisory Board member discusses how flexibility is more important than ever. Read what he has to say below.
As Aesop’s fable of the oak and the reed begins, there is a storm coming. The tall and mighty oak proudly boasts that only he will be strong enough to survive the oncoming winds and that the humble reed in his shadow will surely perish for being too weak. The reed remains quiet, but come the morning the oak has broken in two while the reed remains standing.
The moral of this story? Flexibility is vital. And today’s energy industry should take note.
The sector is undergoing a profound transformation and to weather the turbulent changes of a switch to renewables, power generators will need to bend like the apocryphal reed. As the stubborn oak discovered to its cost – resistance is futile.
What’s driving this? In a word, renewables. After years of discussion we’re finally moving into a new power paradigm, with renewable generation and active consumers – the so-called pro-summers – at its core – and at quite some speed.
Of course no paradigm shift is without its challenges, and the energy transition is no exception. While renewable power and active consumer participation bring many benefits – such as access to clean and sustainable energy – it has its drawbacks too.
As we all know, renewable sources only provide power intermittently, so in order to accommodate them into an old system designed for centralised fossil fuel generation we need to provide greater balance.
As with any issue of supply and demand, the problem should be tackled at both ends. It’s not enough for governments to tinker around the edges of supply and expect it to have the desired effect without also working to bring demand back into line.
We need to treat the issue like a dance, with supply and demand moving in harmony – not a never-ending game of catch up.
On the supply side, flexible forms of fossil fuel generation will become increasingly valuable. Instead of big plants that take time to ramp up and down, let’s consider open cycle gas turbines (OCGT) or advanced combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs). And smaller scale microgeneration, such reciprocal engines, heat pumps, or community generation support that fills in gaps at a local level.
But the real action lies on the demand side.
First, demand response measures can ensure we make the most of the electricity we’re producing. By putting the power quite literally in the hands of customers, we can flatten out spikes in demand through financial incentives. By allowing consumers to buy electricity at a cheaper rate off-peak everybody wins. It reduces the pressure on power to perform while also putting a little extra money back into customers’ pockets. We’ve got the tools to allow us to do this at the industrial users end – we now need to give it to the smaller household consumer of energy too, through tools like smart meters and smart regulation, tariffs and incentives.
And of course we have storage – which has the potential to provide control by allowing us to use all the energy we produce, rather than wasting the excess when demand is low only to be caught short when we really need it. If storage becomes a genuinely mass technology, the implications for the electricity industry will be huge. A marriage between storage and renewables could fundamentally change the economics of electricity – putting an end to the need to plug those gaps.
Yet while we’re still unsure which technologies and business models will win out, governments and regulators will be crucial to ensuring that at least some do.
And this is the crux of the issue. The power market can flex, but this ability isn’t innate as it is to the reed. The sector is more like a skyscraper. It’s a hugely impressive feat of human engineering, which serves a great number of customers but is strong and sturdy – and flexibility can only be enabled with a modern structural framework.
The state of said regulation and market design varies greatly across the continent, with different countries having put in place different market arrangements. In a study called Toward the Electricity Target Model 2.0, we mapped the key differences across Europe as well as the reforms required to establish a sound regulatory and market framework going forward.
The disparity of capacity mechanisms is highlighted as one of the key issues. Countries such as the UK, France, Poland, Italy, Ireland and Greece have implemented or are implementing a capacity market, while others such as Germany or Belgium have chosen rely on an energy only approach combined with a strategic reserve of plants to ensure security of supply.
Another area of disparity is the opening of the whole European market to demand response operators as well as storage operators. This is currently possible in some countries such as the UK and France but not yet possible in others such as Spain and Italy.
Better integration of renewables is also needed across the continent. This is underway in most countries for large scale installations, through mechanism reforms and the introduction of balance responsibility.
This structure across the continent is essential. Governments and regulators need to provide a robust framework that both levels the playing field between power producers, demand response and storage providers, and incentivises the market to deliver flexibility at the lowest possible cost for customers through a blend of supply and demand side approaches.
Of course this isn’t to say that customers shouldn’t pay for flexibility – they are, of course, its ultimate beneficiaries. But it is the responsibility of governments to look out for European citizens’ interests by helping us to keep the lights on as cost-effectively and sustainably as possible. And this requires smart regulation and a fresh look at market design.
But it doesn’t have to stop there. Europe is ready to develop an international framework too. Most of the regulatory and market design issues are still dealt with at the national level, and there would be large benefits in having a more coordinated approach.
Europe working together to ensure a flexible system that works for all? Now that’s a powerful prospect. One which learns lessons from the fates of the oak and reed, realising that to weather the winds of change the sector will need to accommodate renewable generation within a flexible approach.
Green Weddings Trend: Why 70% of Newlyweds Are Going Green
A couple of months ago, my best friend got married to her new husband. They are both very eco-conscious people, so they decided to have a unique twist on their wedding. They asked for the following:
- They arranged a carpool with their friends.
- They didn’t have any balloons. Instead they used umbrellas.
- They used plant materials instead of plastic confetti.
- My friend insisted her husband not purchase a diamond. In addition to being ecologically conscious, she didn’t like the idea of having a stone that was used in conflict zones.
My friends aren’t the only ones making these changes. In fact, nearly a quarter of all newlyweds are organizing green weddings.
Green Weddings Are Becoming the Norm
People are more concerned about green living than ever before. They are trying to incorporate environmental protectionist ideas into every facet of their lives, even the most intimate, such as marriage. A growing number of people are trying to have green weddings, which can make a big difference in reducing their carbon footprint.
How much of a difference can this make? Here are some statistics to bear in mind:
- The Center for Disease Control reports that about two million marriages are formed every year.
- Approximately 70% of all marriages have green elements today.
- This means that 1.4 million marriages are green.
There are a number ofreasons that green weddings are becoming more important. Here are a few.
People Are More Worried About Environmental Preservation than Ever Before
Green living in general is becoming a greater concern for most people. Even younger conservatives are breaking from their older counterparts by insisting on fighting climate change. According to a poll from Pew Research earlier this year, 75% of Americans say that they are very concerned about protecting the environment. Having green weddings is a good way to act on this concern.
One of the biggest changes people are making is using recycled products for their green weddings. This is explained by the research from Pew:
“Overall, 32% of U.S. adults say they are bothered a lot by people throwing away things that could be recycled. Roughly six-in-ten Americans (61%) who say they always try to live in ways that protect the environment say it bothers them “a lot” when others throw away things that could be recycled. Among those who are less focused on environmental protection, only a quarter say it bothers them a lot when others don’t recycle. People who are environmentally conscious are also twice as likely as others to say that seeing someone incorrectly putting trash in recycling bins bothers them a lot (42% vs. 21%).”
Indifferent Politicians Are Driving them to Take More Initiative
Many politicians in power have been very hesitant to take action on climate change. Many of them have openly stated that it is a hoax. These politicians are forcing people to do what they can in their own lives to make a difference. Making small changes, such as hosting green weddings, is a great way to improve the environment without waiting for political momentum.
Cost and Simplicity
A couple of the biggest reasons that people want to host green weddings have nothing to do with their concern for the environment. Running green weddings is simply cheaper and simpler than having a massive, traditional one. One of the biggest changes is that they are buying green engagement rings from the best brands.
Green Weddings Are the Future
Green weddings have become very popular over the past few years. They will probably account for close to 90% of all marriages by 2025. People that are planning to get married should look into the benefits and plan accordingly.
Green Tech Start-Ups: Are they the Future?
Endless innovations are occurring in green companies, reinventing the industries they belong to. Gradually, they are beginning to amass more success and popularity. Consequently, these factors serve as a good indicator for green technology businesses, and their development must begin somewhere.
Green tech start-ups boast a wide array of opportunities for the economy and environment, while boosting recruitment openings with valuable services. While the technology industry is littered with high revenues and competition, the green tech start-ups are the clear sign of a cleaner future.
Fulfilling a Genuine Need
Many tech companies will market themselves as the ultimate tech giants to shift stock and make profit. As they all vie for attention through warped corporate rhetoric, there is only one ethical winner; the start-up green tech company.
Some argue that mainstream tech businesses have grown far too big, branching out into other industries and standing between the consumer and practically everything they do. However, green tech start-ups go beyond the shallow ambitions of a company, answering a call to sincerely help the customer and climate in any way they can. Of course, this is an attractive business model, putting customers at ease as they contribute to a humanitarian cause that is genuine through and through.
After all, empathy is a striking trait to have in business, and green tech start-ups maintain this composure by their very nature and purpose.
Despite the pursuits for clean energy still needing more awareness, green tech is an area that is ripe for contribution and expansion. There’s no need to copy another company or be a business of cheap knockoffs; green tech start-ups can add a new voice to the economy by being fresh, fearless and entrepreneurial.
Technology is at its most useful when it breaks new ground, an awe that eco-friendly innovations have by default in their operations. Of course, green tech start-ups have the chance to build on this foundation and create harmony instead of climate crisis. Ultimately, the tech advancements are what revolutionise clean energy as more than an activist niche, putting theory into practice.
Despite the US gradually becoming more disengaged with green technology, others such as China and Canada recognise the potential in green technology for creating jobs and growth in their respective economies. The slack of others spurs them on, which creates a constant influx of prospects for the green tech sector. Put simply, their services are always required, able to thrive from country to country.
A Fundamental Foresight
Mainstream technology can seem repetitive and dull, tinkering with what has come before rather than turning tech on its head. Since 2011, technology has been accused of stagnation, something which the internet and petty app services seem to disguise in short reaching ideas of creativity.
However, green tech start-ups aren’t just winging it, and operate with a roadmap of climate change in the years ahead to strategize accordingly. In other words, they aren’t simply looking to make a quick profit by sticking to a trend, but have the long-term future in mind. Consequently, the green tech start-up will be there from the very start, building up from the foundational level to only grow as more and more people inevitably go green.
They can additionally forecast their finances too, with the ability to access online platforms despite the differing levels of experience, keeping them in the loop. Consequently, with an eye for the future, green tech startups are the ones who will eventually usher in the new era.
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