Grid of the Future: Development of a Clean and Sustainable Electric Grid for Latin America
by Juan Paredes, Colombia (PPRE 1999/00) working at Inter American Development Bank
The recently launched IDB study Grid of the Future analyzed for the first time under a state-of-the-art methodology the vast potential for two of the most mature and competitive non-conventional renewable energy technologies in the region, solar and wind energy, and laid out a long-term vision for a more sustainable energy supply in Latin America (LA).
The main objective of the study was to identify, measure, and demonstrate the net benefits of a low-carbon interconnected electricity grid, by analytically determining cost-effective and technically feasible investment paths for LA in generation and transmission, by 2030. The net benefit includes the investment and operation cost, market efficiency and GHG emission reductions. Considering the extraordinary untapped wind and solar resources, the IDB wanted to go a step further than the traditional energy planning exercises carried out by individual governments that rely exclusively on generation and transmission candidates for their capacity expansion plans that not always consider the most economic endogenous and clean resources at hand. Under this new proactive approach using state of the art modelling techniques and having a regional perspective in mind the present study evaluates the possibility of tapping into those resources in an optimum way and developing the necessary transmission infrastructure needed to seize the temporal and geographic complementarity of those resources.
Following takeaways can be observed from the study:
· A large share of up to 80% Renewable Energy could be optimally integrated into LA’s energy matrix by 2030 (from 60% in 2015) under current trends in technology and cost development. The natural variability of the solar and wind resources can be mitigated by more electricity interconnection links among countries in the region in order to make use of the temporal (hourly and seasonal) and geographic complementarity of the wind and solar resources across neighboring countries and regions.
· Contrary to the general belief the optimum non-conventional renewable generation capacity and transmission expansion show the least generation production cost and least capacity investment cost. This is in fact one of the conditions embedded in the planning model for deciding if new solar or wind plants and the associated transmission infrastructure needs to be built.
· Carbon emission reduction targets can be achieved in the medium and long term thanks to a higher share of clean and sustainable renewable electricity, while assuring reliability in the electricity service. Tapping into endogenous and clean natural resources can contribute to avoid dependency of fossil-fuel price volatility enhancing energy security and providing stable prices to final consumers and local industry in the long term.
The complete report (in Spanish only) may be downloaded at: https://publications.iadb.org/handle/11319/8682