The United States is “back at the table” when it comes to the global effort to fight climate change, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm declared one day ahead of Earth Day, while announcing a collective commitment to what she called “humanity’s most pressing challenge.”
Her remarks came in announcing the launch of the Global Power System Transformation (G-PST) Consortium, a new undertaking meant to contribute to slashing emissions from the power sector by at least 50% over the next 10 years. Members of the G-PST Consortium will work to enable high levels of renewable energy grid integration while improving grid reliability, resiliency, and security — and share lessons learned with others not already involved.
“While of course we each stand to gain from competing to develop the latest and greatest in clean energy technologies, we have a greater interest in shared progress,” Granholm said, “and this consortium is about ensuring that all of us have the knowledge and the support necessary to reach our mutual decarbonization goals.”
She was joined in announcing the public-private partnership with the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, as well as executives of organizations from India, Peru, Australia, Denmark, Indonesia, South Africa, the United States, and the United Kingdom, all echoing the importance of the G-PST Consortium’s mission.
Members of the consortium include operators of electrical systems, research institutions, government agencies, and international groups.
Martin Keller, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and a member of the G-PST Consortium core technical team, announced the release of the consortium’s global research agenda. The agenda “identifies the most pressing important research areas that will allow system operators and utilities to decarbonize power systems and prepare our grids for 100% — or near-100% — renewable energy integration,” he said.
The G-PST Consortium grew out of a conversation held about 18 months ago among CEOs of electricity system operators from around the world about how to integrate large amounts of renewable energy onto their respective grids, said Fintan Slye, chairman of the board of National Grid Electricity System Operator in the United Kingdom and chairman of the G-PST Consortium’s founding system operators.
“As a group, we share a common view that climate change is an imperative that must be addressed and urgent action is required,” he said. Slye added, the CEOs of electricity system operators saw an opportunity to accelerate the transition to renewable sources of energy. “But with that opportunity comes an obligation and indeed for us a desire to act, to step up, to do the right thing and provide leadership and make a difference—not just for the customers we serve, but for society and communities everywhere.”
The G-PST Consortium already has a relationship in place with Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), Indonesia’s systems operator, to help increase the percentage of renewable energy on its grid. During the event, the company’s deputy president director, Darmawan Prasodjo, formally announced PLN will phase out and retire its natural-gas-fired and coal-fired power plants in the next couple of decades in favor of generating the dominant share of Indonesia’s electricity from renewable sources.
“Of course, PLN cannot do this alone,” Prasodjo said. “We need to collaborate. We have a dream in the next eight years that fossil fuel is going to be beaten by renewable energy as a baseload.”
Cesar Butron Fernandez, president of COES Peru, said his country relies on natural gas and hydropower for its electricity, which is cheaper than renewable resources there. However, adding hydropower facilities has become more difficult, and natural gas is not inexhaustible, he said. What Peru needs is to adopt a regulatory framework to attract private investment in renewable energy and to address the challenges that come with adding renewables to the grid. “In these last two issues is where G-PST help is very important. All the members have enough experience and knowledge to help us to build up this regulatory framework and to address, one by one, all the technical issues that maybe you have solved before, so we have a lot to learn.”
André de Ruyter, group chief executive of Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which provides the vast majority of electricity across South Africa, also identified a need where the G-PST Consortium can help.
“Africa’s power system is predominantly coal-based,” he said. “In fact, we’ve got the dubious distinction of being the biggest carbon emitter on the African continent, and we would like to change that. So, we have embarked on an intentional policy shift to move, increasingly, to renewable energy.”
Renewable energy, such as from wind and solar, are classified as variable, meaning there are periods where those sources are unavailable. De Ruyter said the use of renewable energy adds “the new dimension of uncertainty” in which the “well-defined lines between planning and operations become quite blurred.” He said the expertise provided by the G-PST Consortium should allow Eskom Holdings to learn how to handle the transition toward renewable energy.
“We look forward to collaborating and sharing this learning experience as we all embark on this journey of decarbonization,” de Ruyter said.
“We’ll learn from each other, so nobody gets left in the dark,” Granholm said. “In fact, G-PST is going to ensure that when countries onboard larger shares of renewables to their grids, when that happens, their lights stay on.”
Article courtesy of the NREL.