Wärtsilä advocates for flexible power in renewable energy shift
Photo courtesy of Wärtsilä

Wärtsilä advocates for flexible power in renewable energy shift

As the world approaches a critical juncture in renewable energy adoption, technology group Wärtsilä, headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, is calling for immediate measures to enhance the flexibility of power systems globally.

The company’s appeal comes in response to projections from the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook, which anticipates a doubling of renewable energy deployment by 2030, coupled with a significant decline in inflexible generation sources, including a 20% reduction in coal and a 34% decrease in oil generation.

The urgency of this call to action was underscored at the COP28 conference, where the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to a transition away from fossil fuels and a tripling of renewable power by 2030. With renewable energy set to become the largest electricity source by 2025, Wärtsilä emphasises the importance of rapidly deploying flexible technologies to support this transition and prevent potential issues such as widespread curtailment, increased prices, and higher emissions.

Anders Lindberg, president of Wärtsilä Energy, highlighted the pivotal moment the energy sector is facing, with a significant increase in renewable energy and the impending retirement of traditional inflexible assets.

“We stand at a tipping point, with unprecedented levels of renewables being added globally over the next decade and huge volumes of traditional inflexible assets on the cusp of retirement.

“This presents us with a unique opportunity: to add more renewable energy than ever before to our grids, build the right level and right type of flexibility into our power systems and phase out inflexible assets while converting to sustainable fuels. Ultimately this will ensure a transition that fully phases out fossil fuels and is affordable, low carbon and resilient.

“The decisions that we make today in designing our power systems will echo for generations, as we aim to tackle climate change and embed the right technologies to accelerate the deployment of renewables.”

Wärtsilä is advocating for the adoption of appropriate technologies alongside renewables, such as grid-balancing engines and energy storage, to facilitate the energy transition. The company also calls for regulatory and policy changes that incentivise investments in flexible generation assets and the introduction of shorter timeframes for power trading markets to enhance market responsiveness.

The company points out that not all flexible generating assets are created equal. Engines, in particular, are identified as the optimal choice for flexible power generation in a five-minute market, outperforming gas turbines in real-time markets and offering lower greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, engines can run on sustainable fuels, ramp up quickly to support intermittent renewables, and operate efficiently across a wide range of outputs.

“Grid balancing engines will play a vital role in bridging to higher renewable systems, as they are the most efficient power generation technology to support intermittent wind and solar. In the future they can run on sustainable fuels to create 100% renewable power so there is no chance of stranded assets. Fuel flexibility is vital for ensuring a dependable source of electricity.

Lindberg concluded, “We have all the technologies required to achieve net zero. It is essential that the correct incentives and policies are put in place today to enable the deployment of flexible technologies and keep costs and emissions low while shaping the power systems of tomorrow.”

Wärtsilä’s call to action serves as a reminder of the critical role flexibility plays in the transition to a more sustainable and resilient energy future.