Power System Flexibility

IRENA’s REmap analysis suggests that by 2050, globally around 60% of electricity could be supplied by variable renewable energy (VRE) sources like solar and wind power. Transforming our energy system towards one dominated by renewable energy comes with challenges, particularly the system requirements needed for balancing energy supply and demand as high shares of VRE increase. To effectively manage large-scale VRE, flexibility sources need to be exploited and planned ahead of time, across all sectors of the energy system; from power generation, to stronger transmission and distribution systems, storage (both electrical and thermal), and more flexible demand (demand-side management and sector coupling).

IRENA works with its Members to assess possible flexibility shortages in their long-term renewable energy plans and to identify least-cost-mix solutions to address those. IRENA’s latest report on power system flexibility informs policy makers on the options available to scale-up power system flexibility. In addition, IRENA has developed an open-source tool to support flexibility analysis, the IRENA FlexTool. The FlexTool has been designed to assess power system flexibility for Members and identify least-cost solutions to effectively increase the share of VRE into their electricity mix jointly with the necessary flexibility for cost-effective and reliable operations. The methodology behind the FlexTool is aimed at a technical audience.


Learning section

Using the IRENA FlexTool, a set of case studies have been developed to assess the flexibility of Members’ power systems (see Colombia, Panama, Thailand and Uruguay flexibility assessments) and identify least-cost-mix solutions to further increase flexibility.  These case studies set out: (1) to assess the flexibility of a future year with high VRE penetration; (2) to evaluate cost-efficient additional investments in the power system and; (3) to run a sensitivity analysis to see the effect of additional VRE deployment on flexibility.