To be clear, the world is more than ready to receive more renewable energy. But substantial expansion and strengthening of the grid are urgently needed to make it happen.
Why more renewable energy is a mustIf the world is to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to a maximum of 1.5 °C, we absolutely have to act faster.
As the latest IPCC report Climate Change 2023 makes clear, every incremental rise in temperature increases the risk of catastrophic events. And every region in the world is behind schedule on decarbonization, as revealed by the recent Global Energy Transition Readiness Index report produced by Siemens Energy in association with Roland Berger.
Renewable electricity is a big part of the solution, and the good news is that generation is being stepped up substantially. In 2020, renewables accounted for 82% of global generation capacity expansion. And global investment in renewable energy reached a record high of 500 billion USD in 2022.
However, simply adding renewable energy to the grid won’t solve the climate crisis on its own. There is a fundamental issue which needs to be addressed here – and it concerns the grid itself.
We need to get electricity to the people who don't have it, and we need to do it in a way that is clean and reliable and affordable.Erin Baker, Distinguished Professor of Industrial Engineering & Operations Research, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Much needs to be done to make the grid ready for the new energy future. The fact is that the current infrastructure is simply not equipped to handle a substantial rise in renewables.
On top of the need to enlarge the grid, the fluctuating nature of renewables requires a mix of new technologies to balance supply and demand.
And according to IRENA, the shift from the regular grid to a renewables grid will demand at least a threefold increase in energy storage capacity by 2030.
The infrastructure is simply not being updated at the rate of progress required. There’s an urgent need for more investment – and for a clear plan of action.
Greater investment in infrastructure is indispensable.Tim Holt, Member of the Siemens Energy Executive Board
Updating and expanding the grid is no simple challenge. Indeed, this is a three-part challenge: as well as being sustainable, the grid needs to be reliable and affordable (the ‘energy trilemma’).
Further facts on the energy trilemma, renewables, and the grid
If you'd like to dig deeper into any aspect of the energy trilemma, we've produced a number of whitepapers on each.
On topics related to sustainability, you can read more on how increased storage will enable us to deliver more renewable energy, on the use of alternative fluids, and on the importance of eliminating F-gases from high-voltage electrical equipment.
While on reliability, you can find out more about grid stabilization – achieved through solutions such as UPFC Plus which controls load flow – and about enhanced fire safety for substations delivered by Pretact EcoSafeTTM. Our partner company Siemens Gamesa has also produced a paper on how the wind industry can contribute to the energy security of Europe.
Of course, we cannot tackle the trilemma alone. To make the energy transition work, it’s essential that we work together in partnership.