Decarbonizing the Power System


Goal of decarbonizing power system

The energy industry is experiencing a worldwide change. Renewables’ costs have plummeted significantly over the last decade—solar power up to 80% and wind power by roughly 40%—making them economically competitive with traditional fuels like coal and natural gas in most global markets. As a result, renewables are rapidly expanding: in 2018, they accounted for the vast majority of new power-generation capacity. In most markets, they are now the most cost-effective way to expand marginal capacity. Furthermore, for decarbonizing the power system renewables are crucial to any country’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

However, neither the sun’s nor the wind’s direction can changed. As a result, unlike baseload power facilities powered by coal, gas, or nuclear energy, wind and solar output cannot be continuously matched to demand. That raises a problem. Municipalities, states, countries, and utility companies all need affordable, dependable power. Many people have also established objectives to decarbonizing their electricity systems. How do they manage both?

For considerable amounts of renewable energy to integrate, flexibility (the capacity to control the erratic nature of non-dispatchable electricity) such as wind and solar power is essential. The real-time synchronization of supply and demand may achieved in various ways. For instance, gas and coal power plants may shift output up or down to balance wind and solar energy output variations, and production may balance geographically via transmission lines. Demand-side management programs and well-designed incentives can persuade people to change their consumption patterns.

Image showing decarbonization

Decarbonizing the electricity system to between 50 and 60 per cent by 2040

In most markets, achieving 50 to 60 percent decarbonization with little to no additional expenditure is possible beyond what is dictated by just rational economic behaviour. Decarbonization is frequently the least expensive choice since solar, wind, and storage costs—three crucial components in all deep-decarbonization scenarios—have fallen so far and so quickly.

Midrange storage (four to eight hours) works well with the sun’s 24-hour cycle. “Solar-plus storage” refers to the ability to store energy during the day. And release it at night to ensure a consistent supply of electricity . In reality, wind and solar energy frequently work in tandem since the former is stronger at night and during the winter, when the latter is. Therefore, solar and wind resources markets are better equipped to handle intermittency.

The performance of the electricity system normally wouldn’t be significantly impact reaching this degree of decarbonization. We project that 2 to 5 percent of the electricity generated would curtailed, and almost all of it undergoes various utilizations. Individual fossil-fuel plants’ utilization levels, or the proportion of time a plant produces power, would likewise not considerably changed, remaining at 50 to 60 percent. However, some assets will decommissioned and replaced when more affordable renewables come online, and no new transmission would likely required. Simply put, few changes would need to be made to the electricity system to reach a 50–60% decarbonizing goal.

Decarbonizing the electricity system to between 80 to 90 per cent by 2040

It will often cost more, take longer, and need more market-specific initiatives to reach 80 to 90 percent decarbonization. Even if there is no need for new technologies, storage would have to utilized for longer periods, and demand may need to controlled more strictly. This may done by actively managing building heating, cooling, and industrial load shifting. Additional transmission interconnections may require for certain markets to combine renewable resources and share baseload resources over a greater geographic region.

The system would seem considerably different from how it does now at this level of decarbonization. Because so much renewable energy is producinig to fulfil demand during reduced output, we expect a 7 to 10% curtailment. Fossil-fuel plants are used less frequently (20–35%) as renewable energy sources gain popularity. However, many are maintaining on standby to supply demand when renewable energy sources cannot. The expenses of decarbonization at the 80 to 90 percent level vary greatly. There may be a slight decrease in system expenses (1 to 2 percent annually) in markets with higher than average power costs, and there may be gains in other, less expensive markets.

Decarbonizing the electricity system to between 100 per cent by 2040


 Landfill gas and biomethane are examples of net-zero-carbon renewable biofuels. However, due to their high cost and finite availability, they can often only partially contribute to the solution. 


 stands for carbon capture, usage, and storage. With CCUS, greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels have applications in various processes like better oil recovery, or safely stored in deep rock formations. Although costly, CCUS is effective. Finding and implementing technology advancements and establishing scale efficiencies will be necessary to lower the cost. Additionally, as CCUS cannot collect every carbon molecule, other technologies will still require to achieve complete decarbonization.


It stands for bioenergy carbon capture and storage. According to a method known as BECCS, carbon-neutral biomass, such as wood pellets and agricultural waste, undergo burning for fuel while the CO2 emissions that occur either captured or stored. The end outcome is negative emissions, or removing GHGs from the atmosphere. Biomass can be ramped up, but it is unclear how much because the technology is still relatively new. One benefit is the ability to convert old coal facilities into BECCS plants, which lowers capital costs and uses already-existing linkages. 


Power to gas to power. Using surplus electricity, P2G2P technology creates hydrogen that may stored in the gas network and then transformed back into power. The “clean gas” produced by P2G2P technology permits storage for weeks or even months. However, it is both costly and ineffective. The initial ten megawatts of generated power undergo tr6ansformation into usable power for consumption, roughly three megawatts remain. However, the flexibility offered by P2G2P technology might go a long way toward incorporating sporadic renewables if there is a demand for clean gas beyond the power industry.


DAC remove CO2 from air. It is another low-emission technology that might utilize to reduce the final few percentage points of electricity that is carbon-intensive. Although the technology has proven, it require enormous energy expenditures to capture, isolate, and sequester CO2. Additionally, doing so is highly costly. Our research typically indicates that it is not a component of the answer for complete decarbonization.