100 innovations for smart electrification – IRENA

100 innovations for smart electrification – IRENA
Image: IRENA

A new report from IRENA identifies 100 innovations that can be implemented to decarbonise the three key sectors of transport, buildings and industry.

IRENA’s 1.5oC scenario, in which the global average temperature increase is limited to 1.5oC per the Paris Agreement, has the share of direct electricity in total final energy consumption globally rising over 50% by 2050, up from less than 25% currently – and as high as 73% in the buildings sector – indicating the huge growth in electric technologies that are required to achieve widespread decarbonisation.

This massive growth, with a tripling of global electricity demand by 2050 in the 1.5oC scenario, both highlights the importance of energy efficiency measures but also brings with it with large scale renewable integration the need for flexibility for power system management – or what IRENA terms ‘smart electrification’ interconnecting the power sector with others previously largely disparate such as heat and mobility.

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And it is such interconnections that form the basis of what is intended as a toolbox of 100 proven solutions, drawn from many hundreds more globally, for countries to draw on for their individual electrification strategies.

In particular the two main challenges are how to accelerate the pace of their energy transition and how to manage the new energy system in a way that maximises the benefits while minimising the costs.

The report is divided into three sections, broadly one for each sector, i.e. ‘Power to mobility’ for the transport sector, ‘Power to heat or cold’ for heating and cooling in buildings as well as industry and district heating and cooling, and ‘Power to hydrogen’ for hydrogen production for indirect electrification in hard to abate sectors, primarily heavy industry and heavy transport.

Each section in turn is divided into four sets of innovations intended to enable a systemic approach to implementation combining the technology and infrastructure with market design and regulation, system planning and operation and business models.

The innovations also are intended to be grouped in ‘kits’ that can complement one another.

Essential smart electrification kits

As part of the toolbox, IRENA recommends sets of essential kits for each of the power to x.

The essential kit for smart electrification for e-mobility focusses on the necessary infrastructure for the deployment of EVs and the digital infrastructure that enables data exchange between the assets connected to the grid. It also includes key regulations to ensure the accessibility, interoperability and deployment of the charging infrastructure.

The essential kit for heat and cool includes innovations, such as heat pumps and thermal storage, along with others in market design, system planning and business models, such as smart tariffs and aggregation.

The essential kit for hydrogen production is designed to lay the groundwork for a hydrogen economy, with a focus on technological innovations such as electrolyser technologies and regulations supporting hydrogen uptake.

Speaking at the launch of the Innovation Landscape for Smart Electrification report, European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson highlighted Europe’s increased renewable ambitions of 42.5% by 2030 – and aspirations of 45% – saying that to achieve this the grids have been made a top political priority underpinned by the digitalisation of the sector.

“The launch of the report featuring many of the best practices taking place in Europe comes at the right time.”

Francesco La Camera, IRENA’s Director-General, commented that the energy transition is here and it is unstoppable.

“Smart electrification is the driver of the energy transition and innovation is the key to accelerating it forward,” he said, promising that IRENA stands ready to support countries to implement the toolbox.