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Programmes Renewable Energy

Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy

The Challenge

Mitigating climate change is a major challenge for the 21st Century and requires a transition to low carbon energy systems. Energy supply is responsible for 65% of greenhouse gas emissions, so transition to a low carbon energy system is critical to mitigating climate change. Intermittent renewable energy sources will play a key role, mainly through a large contribution to electricity generation. Integrating them effectively into electricity systems is therefore a critical challenge.

Retaining a secure electricity system, rather than resource availability or generation cost, is increasingly seen to be the major, long-term constraint to the adoption of high shares of intermittent renewables. Supply and demand need to be balanced and there are potential imbalances on time scales from seconds to seasons, as well as other technical issues for system and grid operation.

Technical approaches to accommodating intermittency in power systems are excess generation capacity, demand flexibility, energy storage and grid inter-connection. However, the best way to deploy these in combination is not agreed. Moreover, electricity markets currently provide insufficient incentives for capacity, flexibility and innovation; and the scale at which action is required ranges from the individual household to international agreements. A fundamental re-think of regulatory, market and institutional arrangements is required. Any changes will need to ensure continuing high levels of electricity system security on which modern societies depend.


Our Approach

This programme aims to deliver a framework for understanding technical, market and policy requirements for integrating renewables across a wide range of scales, resource types and contexts. We will develop the conceptual tools needed to understand the role and combination of different approaches in different scenarios, how these might be adopted in electricity markets and how such innovation might be stimulated and governed. We will investigate how this is beginning to play out and what further change is needed at a number of scales, ranging from new mini-grids to continental systems.

The programme brings together an interdisciplinary team of eight experts on energy issues, from five Oxford University departments. It has practical support from key industrial and government organisations and with that support aims to deliver early results relevant to technical, commercial and policy problems.


 

Ambition

Our ambition with this four year programme is to provide frameworks for both governments and industries to integrate renewable energy sources into the mainstream, in order to help them achieve targets on carbon emissions.

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Watch a short introduction to the programme, with Malcolm and Nick:

The Challenge of Integrating Renewable Energy