Solar energy production capacity (both microgenerators and power plants) connected to the electricity distribution system has increased approximately 9 times in three years, from 17 megawatts (MW) in 2021 to nearly 150 MW today. In addition, the electricity distribution system operator AS Sadales tīkls has solar power plants with a total capacity of about 900 MW in the process of being designed, built, or already handed over, and the transmission system operator AS Augstsprieguma tīkls has an even larger amount of reserved generation capacity. Solar energy in Latvia is rapidly developing, and current data indicate that the country will be supplied with solar energy many times over in the future. However, dealing with surpluses of produced electricity, as well as the issue of basic production capacities that would provide society with energy when the sun does not shine, will be difficult, according to energy industry experts at the AC/DC Tech 2023 forum.
Raimonds Čudars, Minister for Climate and Energy, emphasised the importance of transmission and distribution power grids in the development of renewable energy. “We must account for the volatility of renewable energy production capacities; they must be integrated into the overall balance of energy resources in such a way that the system serves the common good, the national economy and the general well-being of society. The issue of matching these capacities with other production capacities is critical, as is the question of what to do with excess electricity produced and how to use energy storage technologies. We must think in terms of sustainability, not over-investing where it is not necessary. Historically, we have already encountered such situations,” said R. Čudars, opening the third AC/DC Tech forum.
Simon Benmarraze, head of technology and infrastructure at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), explained that with the arrival of renewable energy sources (RES), electricity distribution system operators must work on transforming their business models, for example, by developing energy storage solutions, among other measures. “By ensuring the stable and safe operation of the electrical grid, electricity distribution system operators not only provide the public with the necessary electrical supply service, but also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring distributed generation and balancing supply and demand for stable grid operation,” explained the global expert.
When the first AC/DC Tech Forum was held in 2021, the total number of self-producing electricity households in Latvia was around a thousand. Three years later, the number was almost 14,000. “Simultaneously, the production capacity of solar power plants connected to the distribution system is rapidly increasing, and we must invest in a strong, stable electricity supply infrastructure, in the availability of production capacity, and here sustainable planning is critical. At the same time, it should be emphasised that, while Latvia is very much focused on solar energy, we should look more broadly at the long-term provision of total energy resources. Our task is to inform the public and decision-makers about these challenges while focusing on the ever-changing priority of electricity supply quality,” said Sandis Jansons, Chairman of the Board of Sadales tīkls.
Dzintars Jaunzems, adviser to Latvijas Banka on energy and climate policy, also raised the question of whether energy can be produced in excess, emphasising that when producing energy, the balance of supply and demand, risks of overinvestment and other factors should be considered. “Very cheap energy is a false trap because we are not motivated to consider our consumption habits and their environmental impact,” said the expert.
Furthermore, the Latvijas Banka representative emphasised that each person’s energy consumption is more than just what the energy metre shows: “That is only a small part, since a certain amount of energy is also consumed in the development process of every product and service we use on a daily basis.”
The third AC/DC Tech Forum took place on 10 May 2023, with the main topic – Sustainability in Energy.
The AC/DC Tech Forum is organised by Sadales tīkls, the Latvian electricity distribution system operator, with the aim to facilitate discussions on the transformation of the industry among decision makers, experts of the field, market participants and start-ups, as well as to inform the general public about the challenges and the upcoming changes that can be expected in the power supply industry. The Forum is an annual industry event. The first AC/DC Tech Forum took place in 2021.