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Are utilities unprepared for integration of renewable energy?

Wind turbines with power lines

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Utilities face dramatic upheaval as change sweeps across the European power industry and the integration of renewables gains pace. Members of POWER-GEN Europe’s Advisory Board address some of the key questions ahead of POWER-GEN Europe 2014, being held in Cologne on June 3-5

Energy Digital will be publishing top energy executives’ answers to imperative questions throughout the week. The Roundtable participants are: Philippe Paelinck, VP portfolio and strategic positioning, Alstom; Risto Paldanius, director, business development, Wärtsilä; Dr. Franco Rosatelli, CTO, Ansaldo Energia; Dr. Tamer Turna, CEO, Yildirim Energy Holding Inc.

While uncertainty in the market is nothing new, is change being forced too quickly on a system unprepared to deal with it?

Tamer Turna: Yes, I believe this to be the case. An evolution instead of a revolution would be more appropriate – especially as we now have a much better understanding of the types of problems to be expected. Policy makers have to be more realistic with regards the technical, economic and social capacity of their market to absorb change.

Risto Paldanius: The basic structure for any market is a framework. This needs to be in place before we can expect players in the market to be able to cope with change. The market was not ready for the high penetration of renewable energy sources, because the existing framework does not support the new needs of the power system. While the rollout of renewable energy sources has been a great success, the legacy framework was not updated accordingly. There is an urgent need to build a framework to deal with the effect of RES.

Philippe Paelinck: Certainly the challenges that have to be addressed – namely competitive electricity, reduced environmental footprint and energy security – require urgent action. We don’t yet have all the tools in place to incentivise and deliver all the changes in investment needed, at the necessary pace.

Franco Rosatelli: In scenarios where renewable power has priority access to the grid, fossil fuel power plants will have to increasingly shift their role from providing base-load power to providing fluctuating back-up power to meet unpredictable and short-noticed demand peaks, in order to control and stabilise the grid. This change in requirements throws down a real challenge to fossil fuel power plants (both CCPP and CHP) and for each component of the plant (Gas Turbine, Steam Turbine, Heat Recovery Steam Generators and other pressure parts) in terms of improving their operational flexibility for cycling and fast start-up and shut-down times.

The challenges shouldn’t be underestimated, but with technology developments promising greater plant flexibility and physical interconnection of the energy systems across Europe, there is an opportunity to build on the progress so far and realise the better balance between affordable, clean and reliable electricity in Europe.

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