Global questions – local answers

Solar home system servicing trainee in Bangladesh – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 – Picture by ILO in Asia and the Pacific

Carbon phase-out pathways towards renewable energies must be developed together with local stakeholders.

Currently, the energy grid in most countries is centralized with relatively few and large power plants. Such a system is particularly vulnerable with few distribution points and control centers.

Energy generation from renewable sources, such as wind and sun, consists of many small plants. Instead of few individual nuclear, coal and gas-fired power plants, a large number of decentralized wind, solar and biogas-fired plants feed energy into the power grid at many points (Agora Energiewende 2017). A decentralized energy supply like that can mean more security for the power supply, for example the risk of nationwide failure, e.g. due to human error, would be lower.

Due to global warming, stronger heat waves and more floods must be expected (IPCC 2018). Coal-fired and nuclear power plants require cooling water for their operation and are therefore often located near water bodies (with exception of most lignite-fired power plants, which cool with mine water from nearby opencast mines). If heat persists, the waters warm up or the water level sinks. This results in bottlenecks in the cooling of power plants. Ultimately, these must then be throttled.

If the locally generated electricity covers local demand, grid expansions can be reduced (VDE 2015).

 

Cooling pond near Afsin-Elbistan A and B coal plants, Kahramanmaras, South East Turkey – March 2014. (Greenpeace International 2016)

 

In addition to this monetary advantage of decentralization, it can – depending on its design – offer socially and politically added value, such as acceptance through participation and independence through self-sufficiency (Agora Energiewende 2017). Participation and self-sufficiency form the basis for a flexible demand for electricity by private customers, the so called prosumers, who produce their own electricity and learn to consume it when it is being produced.

(Prosumer consists of the words producer and consumer)

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