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Flexibility: An Essential Lever for Balancing Electricity Networks


By ENGIE - 15 February 2024 - 15:48

The Group has identified flexibility as a strategic lever for a successful energy transition. The electrical system requires greater flexibility to handle more variable production and rising demand.


In the face of the increasingly visible consequences of climate change, there is an urgent need to accelerate the energy transition. The agreement reached at COP28 in Dubai calls for a “transition away from fossil fuels” and the tripling of renewable capacities worldwide. Solar and wind energies, with additional capacities increasing by 50% in 2023 compared to 2022, are radically transforming the global energy landscape. However, this transformation calls for new flexibility solutions to offset their variability.

With more renewables, electricity production will vary more significantly than in the past, not only between summer and winter but also within a single day according to weather conditions. Faced with this variable production, electrical grid operators must maintain the balance of supply and demand by adopting a variety of flexibility solutions.



Not One, but Multiple Supply Flexibilities

Currently, most of these solutions focus on production, each serving a specific function. Pumped hydro energy storage (PHES), in use for over a century, involves hydroelectric plants transferring water between two reservoirs to generate electricity. They can be activated in just a few minutes.

Thermal power plants can also engage  high electrical capacities and are essential for addressing seasonal peaks. ENGIE operates combined-cycle gas turbines to benefit from controllable plants while continuing to reduce their environmental impact (improving performance and decarbonization by introducing renewable gases).

Batteries are a crucial addition to this set of flexibility tools. Their power increases, and their cost decreases, each year, making them increasingly competitive. They can respond rapidly to grid demands, within seconds and multiple times a day, making them a preferred tool for intraday balancing.

Flexibility also comes from the Demand Side

Flexibility in production is not the only solution. Demand can also adapt to the vagaries of electricity production.

ENGIE offers industrial and tertiary consumers the opportunity to capitalize on their flexibility, whether through demand response or consumption shifting. Higher electricity prices have increased consumer interest in flexibility capitalization offers, now integrated into comprehensive energy efficiency initiatives.

For individuals, new services enable the control of household equipment to save money while contributing to grid balancing.

ENGIE's decarbonization scenario for Europe estimates that by 2050, demand flexibility will be twice as significant as that provided by production.


A Priority for ENGIE

Convinced of the strategic role of flexibility, ENGIE has 51 gigawatts (GW) of controllable thermal plants and 4 GW of PHES. On the demand side, the Group has several hundred megawatts of flexibility capacity and aims to reach the gigawatt scale in the coming years. To prepare for the future, ENGIE aims to install 10 GW of electric batteries worldwide by 2030. At ENGIE, the flexibility of tomorrow is being prepared today!


Renewable hydrogen, storage as a flexibility tool

Renewable hydrogen is a type of hydrogen produced from water and renewable energies, such as wind or solar. In addition to its key role in the decarbonisation of specific sectors (industry, heavy mobility), hydrogen is also a means of storing electricity and thus compensating for the variability of renewable energies. Its use as fuel in combined-cycle power plants, expected for the next decade, will complement current flexibility tools to cope from intra-day to seasonal demand peaks. 

Infography Flexibility

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