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Analysis of the European energy system under the aspects of flexibility and technological progress

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - REFLEX (Analysis of the European energy system under the aspects of flexibility and technological progress)

Reporting period: 2017-11-01 to 2019-04-30

Much effort around the world to decarbonise the energy system led to the establishment of the European SET-Plan. Its aim is to accelerate the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies, improve new technologies and bring down costs. Achieving the targeted emission reductions of 80-95% until 2050 (compared to 1990) requires a fundamental transformation of the energy system. Therefore, the EU’s energy legislation as well as the EU’s energy technology and innovation strategy promote the deployment of renewable energy sources (RES) and energy efficiency in the electricity, heat and transport sector. The future energy system is thus challenged by the intermittent nature of RES and requires flexibility options. So far, the interaction between different flexibility options, the optimal portfolio and the impact on the environment and society are unknown. The objective of REFLEX is analysing and evaluating the development towards a low-carbon energy system with focus on flexibility options in the EU28, Norway, Switzerland and the Balkan countries to support the implementation of the EU SET-Plan up to the year 2050 to foster a better integration of RES. To link and apply different research fields as techno-economic learning, fundamental energy system modelling or environmental and social life cycle assessment in a compatible way, an innovative Energy Models System (EMS) is developed, which couples the models from all REFLEX partners. The competitiveness of technologies and their interrelation as well as the cost effectiveness of the whole system for future years are analysed based on a well-founded EMS. Within REFLEX this challenge is addressed by the integration of experience curves as well as socio-economic impact analyses.
Within the REFLEX project several dissemination activities were conducted to exploit the project’s results during the whole project period and beyond. The project results reached the general public, a broad scientific community as well as politicians and stakeholders from industry via several distribution channels like the REFLEX website, ResearchGate, LinkedIN, a discussion forum for energy experts ( scientific publications, policy briefs and active participations at international conferences as well as international theme-specific workshops organized at different locations in Europe.
The REFLEX project facilitates a holistic assessment of competitive low-carbon technologies and flexibility options in the European energy system considering experience curves. The consortium developed two main scenarios with regard to the total amount of renewable energy sources in the energy system: Mod-RES, a moderate amount of energy from renewable resources amounting to 1,898 TWh in the whole energy system until 2050 (corresponds to an increase of +148 % with regard to today’s system) and High-RES, a high renewable amount with approx. 3,121 TWh (+ 307%). The ambitious High-RES scenario is divided into a High-RES centralised and a High-RES decentralised scenario depending on the dominating technologies (Fig. 2) as both developments are uncertain and have a significant impact on the energy infrastructure and the necessary flexibility options. A common database and an effective model coupling were developed, which is combined in the Energy Model System (Fig. 3). Furthermore, experience curves were deduced for different technologies and flexibility options in the energy sector and implemented in the applied REFLEX models (Fig. 4). To assess the deployment and the trade-off between flexibility options and other technologies, the future annual energy demand of the industry, tertiary, residential and transport sector is established by applying demand forecasting models (results visualized in Fig. 5). Additionally, the hourly structural changes of the system load as well as the deployment of demand side management applications are assessed (Fig. 6). Moreover, the interrelation between several low-carbon technologies (incl. flexibility options) taking different market design options into account are analysed using sectoral-based energy system models. Based in the modelling results of demand side sectors (industry, tertiary, residential and transport sector) and supply side sectors (power and district heat sector), the impacts of the scenarios and identified transformation paths on the environment and society are investigated via life cycle assessments (Fig. 7). Further, the modelling results conclude in policy measures to improve the integration of low-carbon technologies and flexibility in the energy systems.
A key activity in REFLEX is to derive policy measures from the entire assessments to assist policy makers in identifying and analysing effective strategies for a transition to an efficient low-carbon energy system. Furthermore, REFLEX provides a unique compilation of sectoral bottom-up energy system models by considering technological progress that allocate robust findings regarding potential energy transformation paths, thus strengthening the knowledge base for the implementation of the SET-Plan. More than this, the project aims at a holistic assessment of flexibility options for the entire energy system of the EU, covering all relevant sectors of energy utilisation as well as interdependencies among them and impacts on environment, society and economy. Main achievements of the REFLEX project are:
• Modelling the impacts of technological development on the energy system by combining different sectoral approaches and experience curves.
• Set up a holistic scenario framework based on the SET-Plan up to the year 2050.
• Develop an Energy Models System (EMS), which links different models and approaches, including a common database and interface.
• Devise experience curves for energy technologies and incorporate them in the EMS.
• Assessment of flexibility portfolios to integrate RES-based electricity generation, considering demand side management, an interconnected European electricity system, energy storage, flexible generation capacities and alternative electricity market designs.
• Assessment of policy measures of the SET-Plan by considering techno-economic learning and socio-economic parameters from empirical data surveys.
• Simulation of the effectiveness of current energy policy legislation (e.g. of the Energy Efficiency Directive) and identification of the need for additional policies to comply with the 2050 target.
• Quantification of external costs and socio-environmental impacts of the energy system transition, considering the life cycle of new and existing energy technologies.
Beyond the end of the REFLEX project duration, the partners continue with further scientific analyses and publications based on the gathered experiences of the model coupling and the Energy Model System. Furthermore, the developed data warehouse and interface are used in future projects to enhance and harmonise the data exchange of a coupled energy models system ( Additionally, two scientific books will be published on behalf of REFLEX (in 2020). The first book focuses on “Technological Learning in the Transition to a Low-Carbon Energy System” and the second book “The Future European Energy System – Flexibility Options and Technological Progress” gives a detailed overview of the modelling results achieved within the project by providing several scientific paper in a contributed volume.
Fig. 4: Comparison of experience curve data for wind energy
Fig. 1: REFLEX Overview
Fig. 2: Scenario framework and focus of REFLEX. Reference: Herbst et al. 2017
Fig. 7: Normalised comparison of the weighted worker hours required to produce 1 kWh of electricity
Fig. 3: Models and tools applied in REFLEX, their role in the project and interlinking
Fig. 5: Electricity demand across different demand side sectors and electricity generation
Fig. 6: German average system and residual load with and without DSM in 2050