The myth of the completely unpredictable energy.
After a tough work year, many of us have been looking forward to a summer of relaxation and sunshine. With the opportunity for some reflection, I thought I would share some thoughts for whats potentially coming.
Speaking of the sun we have longed for, it is also a source of energy that, along with wind power, is expected to increase the most. In Sweden, according to the Swedish Energy Agency's forecast, solar power production is expected to account for between 5-10 percent of Sweden's total electricity consumption by 2040. The percentage, of course, depends on how today's challenges regarding long permit processes can be handled. According to the UN's energy organization IEA, one-third of the world's electricity production will be renewable by 2024. That is truly fantastic news!
When it comes to renewable energy sources, there are many myths circulating in the Swedish energy debate. The most widespread is perhaps the belief that there are energy sources that are entirely unpredictable due to their dependence on weather. It has almost become a truth in the debate, and there are many examples, including this motion from the Swedish Parliament by Lars Beckman in 2021:
"The Swedish energy system is currently undergoing a major transformation, with weather-dependent production such as wind power being increasingly phased into the system, while predictable energy such as nuclear power is being phased out."
It is true, that both wind power and solar power, and to some extent hydro power, are weather-dependent. But to, as most people do in the debate, differentiate between what is called "predictable energy" (e.g. nuclear power) and "unpredictable weather-dependent energy" (e.g. solar and wind) is doing a disservice to the debate and is misleading. Pitting these energy sources against each other is losing sight of the bigger picture.
If managed correctly, even what we call unpredictable energy can become much more predictable. This, does not apply to the actual production of energy, but we can store energy in different ways to increase predictability and smooth out the effects over time. With battery systems, we create opportunities for short-term storage, and with, for example, hydrogen, we can build infrastructure for seasonal storage. Therefore, we increase the predictability of the important energy sources of solar and wind, allowing them to reach their full potential.
Something that has not been talked about much in this polarized debate is that battery storage facilities are also excellent for managing the volatility that otherwise leads to frequency instability in a grid with an increased share of solar and wind.
Thus, batteries and long-term storage contribute in multiple ways to the possibilities of safely expanding Sweden's energy infrastructure with more solar and wind.
In the short term, we are now expanding both solar and wind power, which is good and necessary, as a renewable decentralized power generation, combined with larger centralized facilities (hydro and nuclear power), will be the most cost-effective when looking at how electricity consumption patterns will evolve in the coming years.
If we want to fully capture the effect, we also need to accelerate the expansion of modular energy storage solutions (battery systems). This way, the unpredictable electricity production can become much more predictable. So, we must combine an increase in renewable electricity production with energy storage solutions.
Sweden needs a strategy to develop a functional decentralized energy infrastructure with batteries as a key component. One challenge, of course, is how to finance this, and I will come back to that in my next summer thoughts.
CEO, Stella Futura AB