Power System Transformation for Dummies
Power system transformation
understanding the challenges
Country characteristics
Each country has its own conditions. These conditions have an impact on the transformation process, its steps and their sequence. The conditions also determine how the target system will look like: how much wind and / or PV capacity and which level of flexibility is required for successful decarbonisation? These conditions are specific characteristics of each country which can be described by a set of indicators. They are the framework for renewables development and very much influence the challenges along the way. It's good to understand their impact.

Let's distinguish four sets of characteristics:

  • Where is the country located? (This has an immediate impact on the solar resource and its seasonal pattern.)
  • What is the extension of the country or the power system? (This is linked to interconnection and has an impact on the nature of the fluctuations to be expected.)
  • Is the country characterised by mountains, deserts, coasts? (This may have an impact on available renewable resources and availability of space.)
Population and Load
  • How is the population (with electricity access) developing? (This has an impact on electricity consumption.)
  • What is the population density? What are the shares of rural and urban population, respectively? What is the number and size of cities? (This is linked to geography and has an impact on network infrastructure and availability of space for vRES.)
  • What are daily and seasonal patterns of the system load?
  • What are total final electricity consumption (TFEC) and peak load per capita? (These are driven by geography / country location. Their correlation with seasonal patterns of renewable source has implications for the transformation challenge.)
  • What are vRES and dRES potentials, respectively? (This in relation to the load has an impact on the transformation challenge and affects the structure of the target, a decarbonised power system.)
  • What are the seasonal patterns of dRES and solar? Are there strong seasonal patterns of wind? (This is related to the geographical location and / or latitude of the country.)
Infrastructure and technology
  • What is the extension of the interconnected (synchronous) transmission networks (within large countries like India or cross border)? (This is linked to geography. Islands often are not interconnected. Large countries have more extended networks than small ones. This has an impact on the nature of vRES fluctuations.)
  • What is the mix of the existing dispatchable power plant technologies? (This has an impact on the challenges moving on from one phase to the next.)
In the near future, clicking on one of the for sets will guide you to short, standardised fact sheets indicating the conditions of individual countries. This will allow you to identify country specific challenges, according to the methodology presented here. The purpose is to support you in matching countries with similar conditions. However, in order to implement the databases, we need to make some arrangements with providers of data first. If we rely on publicly available data only, the picture will be incomplete and inconsistent. Please, revisit this part of the site in a couple of weeks.

A word about characteristics and indicators
Characteristics and their indicators are to describe the conditions of a country and, hence, indicators ought to be fixed.
Some of them indeed are. Orography, climate and population do not change due to power system transformation.
Some of the indicators, however, change along the transformation process. If changes happen comparably slowly and are not an immediate consequence of power system transformation, we consider these aspects as (temporary) country characteristics too. This applies, for example, to infrastructure like transmission networks and the mix of existing generation. Their shape will not change with the same pace as development of wind or solar projects (unfortunately).
For some of the characteristics publicly available information is very limited or highly uncertain. Think of, for example, hydro or geothermal potential. In this case I work with qualitative rankings or rude assumptions. (I will be transparent in that!)