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On Our Way To Renewable Grids

By Diane Moss

Last year marked an international sea change in advocacy for 100% renewable energy. The irrational question of whether this transition must happen – non-renewable energy sources deplete and are causing massive global crises along the way – and the outdated question of whether it technically can happen gave way increasingly to the critical question of how we make it happen in ways that maximize reliability, cost-effectiveness and public acceptance. From the Pope to Paris, calls for 100% renewable energy became ever more ubiquitous and mainstream, while those responsible for implementing high renewable energy goals in frontrunner regions voiced ever greater optimism that it’s not just doable, but exciting. As one European grid operator summed up, the path to a renewable electricity system used to seem full of challenges, but now seems full of opportunity.

This positive outlook was captured in a report recently released by The Renewables 100 Policy Institute that offers an in depth look at how more than a dozen grid operators, regulators, researchers and policymakers from Europe and California are tackling the transition to renewable electricity in their regions. The report is based on a tour to California last fall by a top level delegation of European energy experts, during which they met with a broad range of leaders in government, academia, and industry to forge collaboration and best practices.

The top ten takeaways from the intense visit were:

1. California and European countries are facing many common challenges in their efforts to decarbonize the grids and share growing and widespread optimism about identifying and implementing solutions.
2. Expanding a regional approach to grid operation is strongly needed to successfully decarbonize the transmission grid.
3. Upgrades must be made to grid infrastructure to ensure maximum efficiency.
4. Deeper inter-regional and international collaboration is needed on specific best practices for technically integrating renewable energy sources and complementary new market players onto the grid.
5. Further collaboration is also needed to identify, track, and strengthen business models of the future, which will require greater horizontally and vertically integrated planning.
6. Regulators and policymakers around the world must strengthen their capacity to respond to rapidly developing clean electricity technologies and consumer demand.
7. The energy transition specifically requires two sets of policy and regulatory mechanisms: one to transform the energy system, and the other to ensure efficient and reliable running of the energy system.
8. Stakeholders must be engaged in transparent transmission grid planning from the start.
9. The energy transition is cross-sectorial, and further collaboration and exchange among frontrunners is needed to better understand, navigate, and indeed create this new energy playbook.
10. The international multi-stakeholder dialogue needs to be institutionalized into a long-term, regular exchange.

Read about the tour and download the full report and view video highlights and interviews.

Diane Moss is Founding Director of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and an independent energy strategy consultant.

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