Renewables challenges for a DSO

Jorge Tello Guijarro

Interview with Jorge Tello Guijarro, Head of Active Networks and Distributed Energy Resources Integration, Gas Natural Fenosa, Spain

Do you think that a 45% renewable energy share target for 2030 is feasible and if so how does the energy industry need to prepare for this?

To predict the renewable energy share in 2030 is really challenging, but it may be not as important as being clear that whatever the share, the electrical system should be prepared for a large penetration. How to be prepared? As most of the new renewables capacity will be connected at distribution networks, from a DSO point of view this preparation is related to the way it plans, give access to and operates its network. This is what is known as active distribution system management; old schemes are not valid anymore as flows are no longer unidirectional, so observability and manageability need to be reinforced.

What are your biggest challenges related to renewable energy integration and what needs to be done to overcome them?

Following my previous answer, flows are not unidirectional anymore and distributed generation may not inject at the same time as the local demand takes place, it may not be in the same area, or maybe the generation is higher that the demand in an specific zone. In this situation some operational problems may arise, and the ‘fit and forget’ approach (networks are designed for the worst condition during the planning phase) may not be the most efficient solution. To prevent them, an evolution of the roles and responsibilities of DSOs has to occur, truly becoming real system operators.

Will we need to keep conventional power plants as backup for periods with almost no renewable electricity generation?

At present, state of the art technology does not allow us not to use conventional back-up generation. In addition, it seems sensible to use assets that have been built not so long ago with high costs and that still could serve society for more years. We should keep on track with innovation and technology development and once a technology is mature enough, let it interact in a level playing field so Europeans get the most efficient electricity prices. Only technology development and competition can let us know what will be the future of conventional power plants.

What role do you foresee energy storage playing the near future?

Large scale hydro storage already plays a very important role in helping the balancing in many European areas. If you refer to other technologies, energy storage has a very important role to play in the European energy sector, with an special mention to electric vehicles which could also help to solve some other related issues (such as pollution in cities). This technology could help not only the balancing of the system but also consumers to manage their energy usage, retailers and other market players (such as aggregators) to offer innovative products and services, and DSOs to ensure their responsibilities (i.e. to tackle congestion). When it will happen is unknown. Technology maturation curves are not linear so we can expect acceleration in the development as we keep on track. Even so, I think we still have to wait few years to see small scale storage contributions to the electrical system.

Jorge Tello Guijarro will be presenting on Thursday 17 October at World Café Session on Integration & Business Models: "Renewable and Integration" at European Utility Week 2013.

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