Clean energy needs to include reliability requirement as new technology advances
Transformation of the energy mix used in electricity generation globally has been focused on development of renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar, but the major stumbling block has remained reliability. Grid reliability means that electricity will be available when needed. For example, solar generation facilities produce electricity only 20% of the day and wind has a higher capacity capability but is intermittent. Without grid reliability, electricity deliverability, public safety and economic growth are jeopardized.
Intermittency of generation and the unavailability of electricity during much of the day using only these power resources continues to be misunderstood. Many policymakers, without understanding the reliability requirement, hear the desire of citizens to have clean energy, and are advocating 100% renewable energy. But it is not possible for policymakers to guarantee certainty of reliability and they fail to explain the issues involved.
There is no question that the shift to renewable resources is a positive development, as decarbonization of the fuel mix using renewable sources of energy is essential to slow climate change. Another benefit is the reduction of water usage by the major traditional fuels if they are fully displaced. To address the intermittency concerns, numerous industry efforts are taking place, such as development of energy storage scalable enough to store energy for parts of the day when wind and solar facilities are not operating. As an example, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) approved a purchased power contract in 2019 for 400MW of solar capacity paired with battery storage at the Eland Solar and Storage Center. This is expected to reduce natural gas use by LADWP, contributing to the lowering of carbon exposure.
While there is progress being made on such facilities, much more is needed.