Power System Flexibility

IRENA’s REmap analysis suggests that by 2050, globally around 61% of electricity could be supplied by variable renewable energy (VRE) sources like solar and wind power. Transforming our energy system towards one dominated by renewable energy comes with challenges, particularly the system requirements needed for balancing energy supply and demand as shares of VRE increase. To effectively manage large-scale VRE, sources of flexibility need to be planned for, and fully exploited, across all sectors of the energy system – from power generation to transmission and distribution systems, storage (both electrical and thermal) and demand (demand-side flexibility).

IRENA works with its Members to assess possible flexibility shortages in their long-term renewable energy plans and identify least-cost-mix solutions to address them. IRENA’s latest report on power system flexibility informs policy makers regarding the options available to scale up power system flexibility. In addition, IRENA has developed an open source tool to support flexibility analysis, the IRENA FlexTool. The FlexTool has been designed to assess power system flexibility for Members and identify least-cost solutions to effectively increase the share of VRE in their electricity mixes whilst also achieving the necessary flexibility for cost-effective and reliable operations. The methodology behind the FlexTool is aimed at a technical audience.

Electricity storage could be a crucial factor in the world’s transition to sustainable energy systems based on renewable sources. Storage services help to manage the variability and uncertainty that solar and wind use introduce to the power system. They also provide multiple services simultaneously that permit revenue stacking for greater profitability and can accelerate off-grid electrification. IRENA’s Electricity Storage Valuation Framework (ESVF) aims to guide storage deployment for the effective integration of solar and wind power, properly assessing the value of electricity storage to the power system.


Learning section

Using the IRENA FlexTool, a set of case studies has been developed to assess the flexibility of Members’ power systems (see the flexibility assessments of Colombia, Panama, Thailand and Uruguay) and identify least-cost-mix solutions to further increase flexibility. These case studies aim to: (1) assess the flexibility of a future year with high VRE penetration; (2) evaluate cost-efficient additional investments in the power system; and (3) apply a sensitivity analysis to determine the effect of additional VRE deployment on flexibility.