How to guarantee secure, efficient electricity supply while decarbonising

New IEA publication presents solutions for a successful transition

26 November 2013

Removing carbon dioxide from power generation is critical to limit global temperature rise to 2°C. That decarbonisation involves three major challenges: replacing ageing conventional power plants, shifting to renewable energy, and reinforcing and expanding the transmission network to adapt to new, decentralised and variable generation. But existing market designs and regulatory frameworks can make it hard to guarantee a reliable and efficient electricity supply during the massive change.

The IEA addressed those challenges in its Electricity Security Action Plan (ESAP), which member-country ministers endorsed at their 2011 Ministerial meeting. At the 2013 Ministerial, the IEA released Secure and Efficient Electricity Supply, which draws on the action plan to analyse electricity security challenges and point to the best policies for a successful transition.

The new publication’s findings cover five systems aspects: electricity generation, network operation and demand response, as well as market integration and emergency preparedness.

Secure and Efficient Electricity Supply first focuses on economic and operational recommendations for changing out older power generation while integrating larger shares of renewables like wind and solar PV. It explores solutions to operational, regulatory and investment challenges so networks can adapt to the decentralisation and variability involved in that shift, and advises on price signals that make the power sector responsive and reliable.

The book also details market dimensions that favour regional integration. It draws on IEA member countries’ experience in developing regional markets and notes the need to expand such co-ordination during power-sector decarbonisation. To better safeguard supply, Secure and Efficient Electricity Supply describes how IEA peer-reviewed security activities let member and partner countries share information to reinforce emergency preparedness.

Providing a secure electricity supply while shifting to renewables is an issue not just for IEA member countries but for the whole world as countries design policies to develop and integrate their electricity markets and deploy low-carbon energy sources. Secure and Efficient Electricity Supply provides lessons from the IEA Electricity Security Action Plan that can make implementation a success.

Next year, the IEA will publish a comprehensive and quantitative assessment of long-term integration of variable renewables in the electricity system. IEA analysts have also produced two Insight papers based on the ESAP: Securing Power during the Transition and Electricity Networks: Infrastructure and Operations.

Cover photo: © Brand X and NASA

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