Power grid connection is one of the biggest obstacles facing the green energy transition today. Associated bottlenecks have given many countries difficulties in bringing a healthy and advantageous pipeline of renewable energy onto their national grid networks, but in this decade that matters, where we have to accelerate the deployment of renewables, every MW is necessary for a successful energy transition.

If we are to avoid grid congestion and secure the full potential of renewable energy, further innovation is needed – for example when it comes to the combination of green energy projects we are using. Fortunately, there is one promising solution in the shape of hybrid power plants.

How hybrid can change the grid status quo

Hybrid projects generate electricity through a combination of renewable energy sources and/or storage assets. For example, they could be wind and solar, wind and storage, or solar and storage. They represent a significant opportunity for the green energy transition through their unique ability to combine different renewable technologies and, crucially, to connect through a joint grid connection point.

This circumnavigates some of the biggest green energy obstacles and achieves significant cost savings through shared grid and land utilisation. Many hybrid projects even use existing grid connections, further alleviating bottlenecks and shortening grid connection waiting times.

The benefits don’t stop there though. For instance, if a PV or wind project is combined with storage capabilities, the renewable energy produced can be stored and made available when needed. This means that during periods of high energy supply, grid flexibility and stability are maintained – a considerable advantage given how volatile the energy market can be.

Hybrid project owners can also benefit from additional revenue opportunities in the energy and ancillary service markets. Revenue generated from a renewable energy plant is often a project’s primary income and adding flexibility through storage provides extra revenues and can ensure the long-term future of a project. Also, when combining solar or wind with storage, project owners gain greater freedom over when they sell surplus energy, thus avoiding selling when the price is low, helping to optimise profits.

Another notable benefit is that hybrid projects can improve acceptance from local stakeholders for renewable energy project development, since they are seen as more innovative and effective in driving the green transition forward.

Current challenges facing hybrid projects

Despite the economical, technological and logistical benefits making a compelling case, hybrid projects need further political awareness and favourable regulatory conditions to reach their potential.

Currently, policy is not keeping pace with the innovation and appetite that comes with these projects. Nor is it meeting the special conditions of hybrid projects. Favourable regulatory conditions are needed if hybrid projects are to reach their full potential, especially with regard to grid integration rules and  permitting processes. Also, more political recognition is needed; particularly from the European Commission, which has just recognised the value of battery storage, but provides no specific directions for hybrid. Associations like EASE exist to speed the deployment of energy storage to support the energy system; such an association for hybrid projects would help supercharge its momentum.

Across Europe, there are positive steps in the right direction; published frameworks that more countries and industry bodies should follow to avoid slowing down the pace. For instance, Spain’s Royal Decree Law saw the country amend its Electric Sector Law to introduce the possibility of hybridisation of installations, accelerating local innovation in hybrid development.

Germany showed similar leadership with its EEG Innovation Tender, encouraging the combination of solar and battery storage plants, yet this is only part of the puzzle as storage systems should also be able to charge from the grid, not only from the PV plant. While this is positive progress, more countries still need to publish clear frameworks on the development of hybrid to avoid slowing down any momentum.

There is also an absence of know-how in integrating hybrid projects into grids designed for fossil fuels and standalone renewables, which feeds general hesitation around connecting mixed-asset portfolios to the grid. The industry must do more to mitigate such concerns from grid operators, as this is stalling the future success of hybrid projects. One thing that can help is educating operators more on the benefits of hybrid technologies and helping cultivate a joined-up approach to connecting these technologies to the grid.

We can’t afford to regret not accelerating hybrid

The value of hybrid power projects is huge. They increase power system efficiency, ensure greater stability in energy supply and therefore can and will be an important part of renewable energy in the future. Developers recognise this and are ready to deliver on a huge scale.

In 2025, we’ll find ourselves halfway through the decade that matters most for our planet. And if we don’t want to look back on the 2020s as a missed opportunity, more action for fostering hybrids is needed.

We must therefore act quickly to take advantage of greater community acceptance for hybrid projects, educate those that are unaware of their extensive benefits and collectively drive the green transition forward.