The transition to a low carbon economy requires a transition to renewable energy sources and low-carbon sources of backup, for instance natural gas. The complementarities and interactions between renewable energy sources and natural gas are at the centre of this transition. Energy Delta Institute provides information to help people remain up to date on new regulations, new technological opportunities and the contribution of new methods of collaboration. An introduction to gas and renewables is provided below, and additional resources include:
- A selection of "Top gas and renewables Papers"
- For a more extensive list of papers, see our publication database
- A selection of "Top gas and renewables Videos"
- A Wiki on various aspects of natural gas and renewable energy
- Gas and renewables case studies.
An Introduction to Gas and Renewables
Renewable energy sources, such as energy from biomass, wind, hydro power, and solar energy, are expected to form the foundation of a future low carbon energy system. Already, the energy production from renewable sources is growing, and costs are quickly coming down. Generating energy from these sources will result in less greenhouse gas emissions and less dependency on fossil fuels, and will have a large impact on the energy system. However, there are some severe challenges with the large-scale deployment of renewables in the energy system. It is believed that natural gas will play an important role to fight these challenges and to guarantee a safe and successful deployment of renewables.
Wind and solar power have an intermittent and uncontrollable nature. It is difficult to forecast the shining of the sun or blowing of the wind, and impossible to align energy production from wind and solar with periods of high demand. Moreover, large amounts of power, including energy produced by wind and solar, cannot easily and efficiently be stored. So, wind and solar power require backup capacity to generate the electricity to match demand patterns. Natural gas-fired power plants could serve this purpose as they can be ramped up and down relatively quickly and easily. In addition gas-fired plants have a low capital cost in comparison to coal-fired power plants and gas can be stored easily and efficiently. These factors combined make it the most suitable complement to intermittent renewable energy sources.
In addition to its role as a flexible backup, natural gas is the cleanest among the fossil fuels. In comparison to coal, natural gas used for power production generates roughly 50% less CO2 per KWh of electricity produced.
Also, the gas grid can, in the future, act as a storage medium for renewable energy. Excess renewable energy can be used to produce methane, the key component of natural gas. The methane can be stored on-site for future use in power production or be delivered to the natural gas grid. This concept of ‘Power2Gas’ is currently of great interest in both Germany and Denmark. ‘Power2Gas’ ensures that there always is a demand for renewable energy and that there will be no curtailment of excess wind energy.
Finally, natural gas can also be used in decentralized systems such as micro CHPs or fuel cells when there is no renewable energy available. This may reduce network congestion and losses of electricity, and thus higher efficiencies, and allow for a more efficient use of residual heat. Also, the transport and distribution networks for gas are already available, and a generally more efficient than electricity networks. In the Netherlands natural gas can be produced at very low costs, additionally providing a large societal benefit.