Renewable Technology Innovations in Focus at IRENAs Innovation Day in Bangkok
Artificial intelligence and big data, the Internet of Things and batteries are innovative solutions that will enable massive solar and wind use and amplify the transformation of the power sector based on renewables. By 2050, over 60 per cent of total power generation could come from wind and solar renewables globally, driven by the imperative to decarbonise and electrify, IRENA finds.
New “Innovation Briefs” on enabling technologies have now been released during the Agency’s Innovation Day in Bangkok which was co-hosted by the Energy Ministry of Thailand and took place jointly with 2019 ASEAN Energy Business Forum. The event was the second in a series of Innovation Days that IRENA is organizing around the world with the goal of connecting policy makers with innovators to inform and inspire the uptake of renewable energy. It showcased emerging innovations from across the ASEAN region and offered a series of session on solutions to decarbonise road transport, digital solutions for renewable power and solutions for energy storage.
Opening the Innovation Day, IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera underlined the importance of a systemic approach to innovation. “An approach is required that combines technology with novel business models, supportive market design and efficient system operation to create solutions”, he said. “Those solutions must be implemented in a coherent way through careful planning and smart policy-making. Only the combination of innovations and actions across all these dimensions will bring real progress. The good news is that we already have many of the tools we need to decarbonise the economy.”
While IRENA’s recent report on the “Innovation Landscape for a Renewable Powered Future” provides a toolbox of solutions for policy makers, and guidance on how to apply them system-wide in a coherent and mutually-reinforcing way, the five new “Innovation Briefs” give an overview on how digital technologies increase flexibility in the system for a larger integration of renewables.
Internet of Things Digitalisation is a key amplifier of the power sector transformation, enabling the management of large amounts of data and optimising increasingly complex systems. This brief provides an overview of the Internet of Things and its applicability in the energy sector, with a focus on how this technology can contribute to increasing shares of VRE in the power system.
Artificial Intelligence and Big Data From mobile virtual assistants to image recognition and translation to a myriad of other uses, artificial intelligence (AI) is playing an increasingly important role in our modern lives. This brief provides an overview of artificial intelligence and big data, along with their applicability in the energy sector.
Utility-scale batteries This brief provides an overview of utility-scale stationary battery storage systems -also referred to as front-of-the-meter, large-scale or grid-scale battery storage- and their role in integrating a greater share of VRE in the system by providing the flexibility needed. Battery storage systems are emerging as one of the potential solutions to increase system flexibility, due to their unique capability to quickly absorb, hold and then reinject electricity.
Behind-the-meter batteries This brief provides an overview of behind-the-meter (BTM) battery storage, also referred to as small-scale battery storage, and its role in supporting the integration of VRE in the grid. The brief explains the benefits that BTM batteries can bring both to the power system and to consumers, as well as the role of BTM battery storage in microgrid and mini-grid settings.
Electric vehicle smart charging EVs represent a paradigm shift for both the transport and power sectors, with the potential to advance the decarbonisation of both sectors by coupling them. Although the transport sector currently has a very low share of renewable energy, it is undergoing a fundamental change, particularly in the passenger road vehicle segment where EVs are emerging. This brief provides an overview of the services that electric vehicles (EVs) can provide to the power system through smart charging, and of the importance of such charging schemes for the smooth integration of EVs in the grid.
Qatari LNG shipments to Europe will drop
Qatar is sending less of its liquefied natural gas to Europe, where slumping prices have reduced its attractiveness as a destination for the super-chilled fuel, informs Bloomberg.
Less than 18% of Qatar’s LNG output has sailed to Europe so far this year, down from 25% in 2022, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. It marks a change from last year, when gas prices soared and sent European leaders on a worldwide search to replace supplies from Russia.
At the time, Energy Minister and CEO of QatarEnergy Saad Al-Kaabi said the company would keep supplying buyers in Europe, even though its long-term contracts had the option to divert as much as 15% of its cargoes to destinations with better prices.
European gas prices have since tumbled to less than €25 ($27) a megawatt hour, a fraction of last year’s record, and the self-imposed ban on diversions from Europe no longer stands, Kaabi said at a press conference in Doha.
“The data that made us make certain promises or direct certain quantities to specific markets no longer exist,” said Kaabi. “Prices have dropped and quantities are available. There is no problem in the market that existed previously.”
Congo oil auction: Perenco is interested, local communities want it out
The Anglo-French oil company Perenco has filed expressions of interest in two of the Coastal Basin blocks on offer in the giant oil auction the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) launched last July. Oil Minister Didier Budimbu visited the zone last Saturday to inaugurate new Perenco installations. A recent Greenpeace Africa field mission to the Coastal Basin, where the company has been present for nearly a quarter of a century, reveals strong opposition by local communities to any further fossil fuel activity, after years of pollution and abuse.
“No political elite in Kinshasa would accept to live in the oil-drenched ecosystems where Perenco drills, or accept the poverty and intimidation that constitute its legacy,” said Patient Muamba, Greenpeace Africa forest campaigner. “The DRC government must listen to its people and block Perenco from bidding to expand its toxic enterprise in the country.”
DRC’s only operating oil company, Perenco, is currently being sued in France by Friends of the Earth France and Sherpa in order to repair environmental damage. The firm is also being investigated by France’s National Financial Prosecutor’s office for “corruption of foreign public officials” in Africa. The multinational has a dark record in Gabon, Peru, and Guatemala, and is recently responsible for an oil spill in the UK.
The Congo oil auction has faced a barrage of criticism from Congolese and international scientists and NGOs as a potential cataclysm for human rights, the rule of law, biodiversity and the climate. Although deadlines for submitting expressions of interest have been extended twice, without explanation, it appears to have been shunned by Big Oil so far. Exploration contracts, most of which are to be signed during an election year in DRC, require the immediate payment of juicy signature bonuses.
Last month, just before the announcement of Perenco’s expressions of interest, Greenpeace Africa visited the three blocks of the Coastal Basin, a zone rich in mangroves located in the territories of Muanda and Lukula (Kongo-Central province), to talk with fishermen and fisherwomen, farmers, traditional leaders, young people, and local NGOs.
The pernicious impact of the oil industry is felt across the area and opposition among local communities is palpable. It echoes that of communities visited by Greenpeace Africa during three previous field trips since last July to six designated oil blocks in Equateur, Tshuapa, Haut Lomami, and Tanganyika provinces.
Only two days before our arrival, a huge fire broke out in Mangroves National Park, in a storage area for fuel imported from Angola. The Park is an internationally-recognized biodiversity hotspot, home to sea turtles, manatees and hippos. The oil explosion reduced approximately 500 m² of mangroves to ashes and caused significant water pollution. While Perenco wasn’t involved in the incident, it demonstrates the risks of expanding the oil industry in this ecosystem.
The company is infamous among locals. On 19 April Muanda was paralyzed by city-wide protests on various issues, some avenues barricaded with burning tires. Similar protests have been going on for years, often met by violent repression. Recently, residents have been demanding that a USD 10 million payment by Perenco be invested in the electrification of the city.
The villages lie within the Matamba-Makanzi II block, for which the Nigerian firm Century Energy Services and a certain “Kebo Energy” have filed expressions of interest. Perenco has filed expressions of interest for the Nganzi and Yema II blocks.
In Malela, a resident says no one there is aware of the existence of the oil auction: “We don’t understand why the government has to treat us as if we don’t exist and have no right to know what is planned for our lands.”
Already, restrictions imposed by the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) for protecting the area’s biodiversity, are making life difficult for fishermen and fisherwomen. Some fear oil exploration would impose further restrictions.
In Kimbanza and Malemba, residents complained that no one from the Oil Ministry had come to consult them. They knew their area might be at risk – about a decade ago the oil company Surestream had carried out unsuccessful seismic studies in the area. Now they reject any new oil development.
One resident, who worked for Perenco for decades, wonders: “How can the government approve this kind of project without telling us anything?”
Malemba residents are working on a management plan for their community forest concession, awarded in January, which they hope will block any land grabbing by a government-backed Perenco: “No one will come and take our land away from us, we already have legal rights!” says one community member.
Inhabitants of Matamba-Makanzi, which lies within the Yema II block, say they received a visit from individuals presenting themselves as Oil Ministry officials, but the latter told them absolutely nothing about any oil tender. They were only looking for guides to accompany them to the boundary between the Yema II and Matamba-Makanzi II blocks.
Neither villagers nor local civil society groups are aware of any environmental impact assessment done in the past 25 years
Activists in the area listed the complaints that Friends of the Earth France and Sherpa have brought before the French courts. Several scientific studies, investigations from Congolese and international civil society organisations and the Congolese Senate have revealed the installation of wells and flares near homes and fields, oil spills, waste incineration, the dumping of sludge and toxic waste in rivers, and land erosion.
One of the local activists says: “The exploitation of oil impoverishes us and makes us suffer. Young people are being used for useless work. I’d never work for Perenco – even if it were the only employer in Kongo Central!”.
Perenco did not respond to the issues raised by local communities when contacted by Greenpeace Africa.
Australia has raised its climate targets and now needs to accelerate its clean energy transition
Australia is taking positive steps to increase its climate and clean energy ambitions. The International Energy Agency has reviewed Australia’s progress and recommends that it continues to strengthen its policies and long-term plans to ensure it meets its targets.
Today, Australia is a major exporter of both fossil fuels and the critical minerals used in many clean energy technologies. A successful clean energy transition would support the country’s economic diversification and industrial growth while providing long-term resilience against global energy market shocks, according to the new IEA report.
Since the IEA’s last review in 2018, Australia has passed the Climate Change Act in 2022, which doubles the target for emissions reductions by 2030 and sets the goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. The Australian government also signed up to the Global Methane Pledge in 2022, joining 130 governments who are collectively targeting a reduction in methane emissions of at least 30% by 2030.
In recent months, the Australian government has presented a host of policy strategies to fast-track the country’s energy transition. The IEA review welcomes these strategies, including the Rewiring the Nation Plan, the National Energy Transformation Partnership, and National Energy Performance Strategy.
“Australia is an important player in global energy markets that is helping to meet today’s needs while advancing the transition to clean energy,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “I welcome Australia’s efforts to drive progress on low-emissions hydrogen and supplies of critical minerals – and its leadership on working with partners, including through the IEA, to strengthen the diversity and resilience of clean energy supply chains. Our new report sets out the steps Australia can take to accelerate its own clean energy transition securely and affordably.”
The report finds that Australia can make sufficient progress on emissions reductions by 2030 to align with the goal of net zero by 2050. However, stronger efforts are needed to improve energy efficiency and boost clean energy investment. A whole-of-government approach is needed to end the country’s high reliance on fossil fuels. The IEA review calls for an updated net zero emissions reduction plan for 2050 to guide implementation across all parts of government. A national energy and climate information system is also needed to track progress towards reaching these targets.
Greater energy efficiency efforts in transport and residential buildings can help bring forward Australia’s peak in emissions and mitigate rising energy bills. The IEA review estimates that a 60% productivity improvement would be needed for a net zero aligned trajectory. The new National Building Code and the Electric Vehicle Strategy are critical steps forward in this regard.
Australia’s renewables deployment has a positive outlook thanks to the success of rooftop solar, ambitious targets, and increased funding at federal and state levels. Three million Australian households, the equivalent of one in three, have solar PV installations, together accounting for 17 gigawatts of capacity.
Power sector decarbonisation efforts need to be stepped up considerably, as Australia aims to increase the share of low-carbon power generation by 2030 – with 82% to come from renewable energy, up from 27% today. This will require an accelerated implementation of renewable energy zones, faster permitting of grid related projects, and additional coal retirements.
The Covid-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created a new set of energy security challenges for all IEA members, including Australia. In 2022, Australia’s domestic gas and electricity markets experienced supply disruptions and rising prices. The Australian government has enacted laws and programmes aimed at boosting fuel security at home. Based on lessons learned from recent energy crises, investment in clean energy infrastructure, grids, energy system flexibility, and fuel availability should be key priorities for Australia’s orderly transition.
One of Australia’s security challenges is its exposure to frequent and extreme weather events. The energy sector – from production and generation to transport and distribution – will need to be more resilient to better cope with ever more disruptive storms, flooding, wildfires, and heat waves. Australia has yet to complete a comprehensive assessment of climate change impacts on the energy sector outside of electricity. A national-level energy sector plan that lays out future steps for climate resilience is needed.
Australia also has the potential to play a key role in providing critical minerals and new technologies for clean energy transitions globally. It produces cobalt, rare-earth elements, and lithium, of which it is the single largest producer. In 2022, Australia’s Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project produced and transported liquified hydrogen to Japan, the world’s first such shipment. Australia has a broad range of demonstration projects for low-emission hydrogen and carbon capture and storage development, which are also critical for the decarbonisation of industrial sectors where emissions are hardest to reduce.
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