Dispatchable renewables: it’s time to start planning the transition

November 12, 2018

What if the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine? This is a very familiar question for those in the renewable energy industry – and the answer these days seems to be pretty obvious: you add storage. However, the right type and amount of storage required is not so obvious, according to specialist power and water consulting firm Entura. 

“As old thermal generation assets retire and as the world moves towards a lower emissions future, we need to solve the ‘energy trilemma’. In other words, we need an energy future that is affordable, sustainable and reliable,” says Dale Bryce, Customer Strategy & Market Development Director at Entura.

“The role of renewable generation in achieving affordable and sustainable energy is clear. Wind and solar PV now offer the lowest cost of new energy development, have low ongoing operational costs, and near zero emissions.”

However, replacing coal-fired power stations with wind and solar is not a like-for-like swap in terms of availability of power when it is needed by consumers because generation from renewables varies due to the availability of the natural resource.  So how can we achieve the third element of the ‘energy trilemma’: reliability, at the right cost?

Entura has launched this week – an online hub with insights and resources to help renewable energy project developers, power utilities and investors to understand and assess the different types of storage solutions, particularly mainstream contenders such as pumped hydro and large batteries. 

“We’re excited about the possibilities of combining multiple forms of renewable energy generation with storage solutions, to create sustainable and fully dispatchable power from the natural resources of water, sun and wind. We call it dispatchable renewables,” says Dale.   

Dale explains that dispatchable renewables will be an important part of the solution to the energy trilemma, but not the only solution. “Baseload fossil fuel generation can be replaced by a combination of variable renewables, dispatchable renewables, and smart network support and planning to ensure sufficient transmission capacity.”

“We know that implementing these solutions can take a long time, but if the industry is serious about solving the energy trilemma, the time to start planning for the transition is now.”