Why is all energy not 100% renewable?
Have you ever wondered why, despite renewable energy technologies (such as solar, wind, marine energy) becoming more mature and competitive, we still rely on fossil fuels? Renewable sources are already providing nearly 100% of the electricity needs of entire countries, such as Iceland and Costa Rica, so why haven’t we all gone 100% renewable?!
Complex factors impact renewable energy accessibility
The answer is very complex and involves many social, political and economic factors. However, one of the main reasons is due to the intermittent and variable nature of renewable energy sources. For instance, a wind turbine relies on the wind to blow to generate electricity, solar PV panels rely on a clear sunny day, and so on. Furthermore, the energy needs to be consumed when generated! This is very tricky and you’ll see why as you read further.
The energy system needs to ensure it will produce enough energy for its country’s needs, for industries and commerce to operate, and for households to carry out their everyday activities. So, energy security is very important and renewable energy can not 100% guarantee the base amount needed. This is why countries have an energy mix where energy systems with high renewable penetration require flexible generation that can rapidly respond to demand changes. Such generation typically comes from fossil-fuel based energy sources that are damaging for the environment and/or from energy storage solutions that are expensive to deploy and still nascent.
Luckily, Demand Side Response has the potential to be a perfect companion to renewable energy to support the variable generation with resources that we already have! Such as our washing machines, fridges, freezers, electric vehicles, and so on. The key lies in synchronising energy use (demand) with times of cleaner energy generation and decreasing times of dirtier energy.
So, a smarter and more efficient way to manage the system is to move demand as much as possible to coincide with peak renewable energy (solar, wind) production, which requires a new kind of intelligence in the grid, enabled by software and technology such as Equiwatt. Equiwatt’s smart software forecasts household energy demand and provides insights to users on how to best time their energy use. The Equiwatt smart app can then convert these insights into actions by automatically turning off appliances for small periods of time when renewable energy supply is none or low and turning them back on when renewable supply is high.
Fortunately for all of us, technology and digitalisation are helping overcome the barriers that keep the world from producing more and more energy from clean sources, by enabling energy users to play a vital role in creating the sustainable energy system of the future. Exciting times!