Demand-side flexibility needed to enable a greener, renewable future: IRENA


As the global pivot toward renewable sources of energy becomes a growing reality, many countries and service providers are seeing the impetus to transform and modernise their energy systems. This energy transition is also in line with longer-term plans to decarbonise the global energy sector.

At present, Variable Renewable Energy (VRE) sources are increasingly being applied to realise a greener energy mix. Yet, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) also notes, in its Demand-side flexibility for power sector transformation analytical brief, that taking a measured approach to balancing VRE with existing sources of energy is ideal.

If not well-planned, the use of large shares of VRE along with rapid expansion in electrification may affect the reliability of the power system. To this end, an increase in grid flexibility is necessary to mitigate potential mismatch in supply and demand induced by such changes.

More critically, such flexibility must be harnessed on both thse supply and demand sides — an approach commonly referred to as ‘demand-side flexibility’.

Under this approach, a portion of demand-side energy will comae from the electrification of other energy sectors. This demand can also be reduced, increased or shifted to facilitate VRE integration by reshaping load profiles to match VRE generation or reduce peak load and seasonality, among other factors.

A variety of real use cases for such an approach can already be found today. IRENA’s analytical brief has identified six different use cases of demand-side flexibility. These cases involve different maturity levels and different timescale impacts. These six are as follows:

  1. Industrial demand response providing reserves,
  2. Electric water heaters,
  3. District heating,
  4. Aggregators providing demand-side flexibility,
  5. Smart Charging electric vehicles,
  6. Hydrogen for seasonal demand flexibility,

Even as demand-side flexibility is a reality and applied in some parts of the world, there is still a long way to go before the full potential of this approach can be unlocked, as noted also by the International Energy Agency.

The path to realising these goals necessitates innovation, which will enable the successful simplementation of each solution to demand-side flexibility in different end-use sectors.

Find out the more about these findings by reading the full report, at: IRENA: Demand-side flexibility for power sector transformation analytical brief.


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