3,000 GW of renewables are waiting for a grid connection globally

Image Author

Georg Rute, CEO

Image Blog

Currently, there are over 3,000 GW of renewable projects globally that are waiting for a grid connection according to the International Energy Agency (source). For comparison, global installed renewable capacity in 2022 was 3,300 GW. If connecting to the grid happened as fast it did in the 2000s, then we would already have twice as much renewable capacity as we do.

Grid connections take increasingly more time

It takes increasingly longer to connect new projects, because renewables are already stretching the grid to its limits. In the US, in the early 2000s, a power plant was connected to the grid in less than two years' time. Nowadays, the connection times are longer than five years (source).

Generally speaking, today's power grid was built decades ago and has not evolved much since physically. It was not configured for renewable power, which is often located in far-away places.  Each new project may require time consuming grid reinforcements.

Yet, the existing grid today is not being used to its maximum potential. There is a lot of potential for optimising the grid in the near-term, without requiring time-consuming refurbishments.

Grid Enhancing Technologies unlock grid capacity

The Rocky Mountain Institute recently published a report into Grid Enhancing Technologies (GETs) (source). The three GETs are Dynamic Line Ratings, Advanced Power Flow Controls and Topology Optimization. They analyzed the PJM region in North-Eastern United States and found that deploying thethree GETs would together enable the connection of an additional 6.6GW of clean power to the regional grid, at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional grid upgrades. This additional clean power would save consumers $1 billion per year in generation costs. For context, PJM has 183GW of generation capacity today and spends around $30 billion on generation (assuming $40/MWh generation cost).

"There is no shortage of interest in developing and accessing the increasingly low-cost, carbon-free generation that characterizes the vast majority of projects seeking connection to the grid today. There is, however, a shortage of grid capacity to accommodate this expansion of both generation and load." - quote from the RMI report.

The opportunity to accelerate clean power with Grid Enhancing Technologies is global. For example, Finland has seen high electricity prices in recent years, despite being right next door to Scandinavia's cheap, clean hydro. There is an opportunity to employ Grid Enhancing Technologies to bring more clean power from Scandinavia. Further, there is around 1 GW of solar power that is awaiting a grid connection in Finland. Dynamic Line Ratings could alleviate both of these constraints and thus lower the price of energy.

Solar array photo by Mark Stebnicki.

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