Economies depend on reliable, stable, cost-effective electricity grids and associated systems. Interruptions to supply have a direct impact on business, society and economies. This report provides an overview of electric power grids in the energy transition from system fundamentals to the complexities associated with future technical solutions, potential impact on system security, resilience and cost. It highlights the emerging risks associated with proposed and ongoing changes to current systems and the associated market environment as well as market developments which may jeopardise previously stable and secure power systems. Costs and cost analysis including the limitations of the commonly adopted levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) metrics and wider system costs, are discussed. In particular, the role, characteristics and associated value of, and need for, dispatchable power capability in the energy system are reviewed, especially in the context of the increasing share of variable renewable power generation. A role for abated fossil power is reviewed and the associated benefits that can be realised as part of the energy transition. Insight is provided into grids, associated developments and challenges being experienced across several key regions including parts of AsiaOceania Europe and the USA.
Many regions are on course for increased grid-based risks to societies and economies, the impacts of which are starting to be felt, for example in parts of Europe and several US states. Therefore, a more holistic approach to the adoption of variable renewable energy (VRE, mainly wind and solar) is needed including the provision of adequate dispatchable power capability to manage the risks associated with the increasing deployment of VRE. At the same time dispatchable power capability, currently used to backup VRE technologies, is being decommissioned with an associated risk to reliability and security of electricity supply. Regions will develop their own pathways towards decarbonisation reflecting local current and projected future demand needs, addressing opportunities, available resources, challenges and constraints. Accordingly, there is likely to be a continued important and urgent need for abated fossil power plant to help accelerate and facilitate transition as well as to manage the costs. In some regions this will include addressing and appropriately managing the issue of existing and new fossil power plants in the context of meeting future energy requirements, whilst ensuring necessary levels of resource adequacy, system stability reliability, cost and dependability. Modern grids have developed to be robust systems, tolerant to extreme events and have reliably served the needs of society in a secure and affordable manner for many decades. The major concern raised by this report is the real and emerging risk that this will be compromised by current developments, with significant associated adverse impacts on both society and the energy transition agenda.