Harris notes, “In its latest Renewable Energy Progress Report, the European Commission sees a current surplus in photovoltaic electricity production over planned levels: 35 TWh were forecast compared to the current 46 TWh. In one hour on in April this year, Germany already had a record 22,400 Megawatts – the equivalent of about 20 nuclear power plants – of solar power being blasted into the grid. That record is expected to be broken this summer with a projected 27,000 MW. While those numbers may make some people happy, [the generation of renewable energy is] wreaking havoc on the electricity exchanges as wholesale electricity prices are sent tumbling, even into negative numbers, and generation companies are taking conventional capacity off-line—capacity that may be sorely needed later on.”
Harris believes, “The best way to make the most efficient use of this influx of renewable energy, for society, the environment, and the market, is to have an energy infrastructure that can manage the integration of distributed generation (DG), whether that be through Virtual Power Plants (VPP) or active distribution system management.”
On cloudless or windy days, solar and wind distributed generation tends to produce more power than a utility’s consumers use. As a result, says Harris, “When consumption and production are out of synch, network limits will be exceeded and it will need to be re-enforced. This can be done one of two ways: conventionally with more copper and steel or through adding more intelligence to the system.”
But as of now, Harris states, Europe is lagging behind in implementing technologies such as smart meters that could enable utilities to handle the large increase in distributed generation. Likewise, he calls investment in smart grids is woefully inadequate pointing out it represents just 10 percent of the smart grids investment worldwide.
Harris concludes: “If Europe does not get moving with smart metering, the foundation for a robust smart grid will not be laid, and all that time, effort and money in trying to achieve the renewables target could be wasted.