AS the world seeks to reduce carbon emissions in the fight against climate change, Spain is leading the way.
A recent report by Bloomberg New Energey Finance (BNEF) predicts that the country will be able to meet 68 per cent of its electricity demand with renewable energy by 2030.
By 2050 that figure is forecast to reach 88 per cent according to the report, which was co-authored with Spanish renewables and infrastructure group Acciona SA (BME:ANA).
With its windy coasts and copious sunshine it is no surprise that wind and solar are destined to be the biggest players in the energy generation business.
They are expected to account for 51 per cent of the power mix in terms of generating electricity by 2030 and 75 per cent in 2050. Hydro makes up the bulk of the rest.
Impressive as these figures sound, they still miss the Spanish government’s targets of 74 per cent renewable generation by 2030.
The report says: “The transition to an energy system built around renewable generation is gathering pace. However, questions remain as to whether a low-carbon system will have sufficient flexibility to meet future needs.
“For Spain – a large market with high renewables potential and relatively little interconnection – these questions are particularly pressing. We model a series of scenarios to explore the interplay between gas, energy storage, smart-charging electric vehicles and interconnectors, as Spain’s grid adopts increasing volumes of solar and wind.”
The main conclusions of the report are:
- The lowest-cost Spanish power system is driven mainly by wind and solar. In the base scenario, by 2030, these technologies will supply 51 per cent of generation – 33 per cent and 18 per cent of total generation supplied by wind and solar, respectively. By 2050, they generate 75 per cent of electricity.
- New forms of flexibility are key to an affordable, renewables-led power system. Without energy storage, smart-charging electric vehicles and interconnectors, the Spanish energy transition risks proceeding on a suboptimal path, with a power system reliant on fossil backup and oversized renewables capacity. This will come at a greater cost, with higher emissions.
- There are two types of benefit provided by these flexible technologies:
Integrating larger volumes of renewable generation. This is done either by shifting excess demand to periods of high renewable generation, or by storing the excess renewable generation for periods of high demand.
Displacing (fossil) backup capacity that would otherwise be needed for extended periods with little wind or solar generation.
- Across all scenarios, low-carbon technologies drive Spain’s power sector. The scenario outcomes differ in system cost and emissions, but in all cases, renewable energy achieves over 80 per cent of the electricity mix by 2030, and at least 90 per cent by 2050.
- The system will be more expensive without ‘new’ sources of flexibility. A greater reliance on gas for flexibility leads to higher system costs, more emissions and a greater level of back-up capacity. Under our low-flex scenario, power sector emissions are 6 per cent higher over 2030-40, and 20 per cent higher over 2040-50.
- EV flexible charging is key to electrify transport at the lowest cost. The added costs of electrifying road transport, in terms of generating capacity and electricity production, can be halved if vehicles charge more flexibly – from 15 per cent to 7 per cent in 2050, on a per-MWh basis. Emission reductions from gasoline and diesel savings more than compensate for increases in power sector emissions, which, again, are lower with increased charging flexibility
- Battery storage developments could lead to a cheaper, cleaner system, but fossil capacity is still needed. If storage costs fall more rapidly than in the base scenario, the system could see 13 per cent less gas back-up capacity, leading to 12 per cent fewer emissions by 2050. The penetration of zero-carbon generation could reach 95 per cent, but, in the absence of technologies like hydrogen or carbon capture and storage (CCS), significant firm gas capacity is needed to meet peak demand during the weeks of low renewables production.
- Interconnectors help reduce emissions but their flexibility can be undermined by renewables. Increasing interconnection to France helps reduce emissions, with little impact on costs. However, as the French and Spanish systems see greater volumes of cheap wind and solar capacity installed, the utilization of the interconnector falls. This is because there are times when France does not need imports from Spain, or vice versa, since wind and solar over-generation increasingly occurs in both countries simultaneously, limiting the flexibility of the interconnection.
- Relying on wind and solar generation reduces energy imports and price exposure. Across scenarios, the degree of dependence on gas and electricity imports varies. More storage capacity reduces the need for gas and power imports, limiting exposure to international commodity prices and the risks associated with energy imports.