The European Union's targets to increase the share of renewable energy to 20% by 2020, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, pose a major challenge to the power grid throughout Europe. The existing electricity grid is mostly based on technology which was developed more than 30 years ago, for one-way energy flows from large production plants to the consumer.
Unlike the conventional power plants, which enable full control of the production of energy, the sources of renewable energy have natural variability, particularly wind and solar energy, but also hydraulic energy, which are all dependent upon weather conditions. Additionally, there is also a major paradigm shift as we move from a highly centralized network to decentralized production, where the consumption points can also inject electricity into the power grid, through micro and mini-production of electricity.
To accommodate the massive deployment of renewable and decentralized energy sources, a stronger and smarter electricity grid is required, with significant benefits deriving from the creation of a single interconnected grid throughout Europe in terms of energy security and affordably.
On the supply side, the wide geographic integration cancels-out part of the local variability of renewable energy sources and reduces the need and level of curtailment of the conventional power plants to avoid temporary surplus in electricity production. “The increase in transmission capacity and crossborder coordination of market operations will also allow sharing of reserve capacity between regions reducing total reserve requirements by approximately 40%, avoiding significant redundant investment.” (ROADMAP 2050 - Practical guide to a prosperous, low carbon Europe). On the demand-side, the demand curves are also softened.
Changes in the European electrical network infrastructure and operation are critical to the delivery of the decarbonization of the power sector and of the economy.
Considering the importance of the electricity networks to a low-carbon Europe, the Strategic Energy Technology Plan includes the European Electricity Grid Initiative (EEGI) in coordination and cooperation with other initiatives, namely photovoltaics, concentrated solar power, and wind energy.
The EEGI is based on a 9-year European research program for development and demonstration, with focus on system innovation rather than on technology innovation. It addresses the challenge of integrating new technologies under real life working conditions, including new intermittent renewable resources at the different voltage levels, recharging infrastructure for electric vehicles and active demand from end users. The initiative includes the smart grid model (functionalities necessary), transmission, distribution and the coordination of the different networks.
Besides contributing to the future coordinated planning and operation of the European Electricity Network, EEGI will also contribute to the study of new market rules.
- ROADMAP 2050 - Practical guide to a prosperous, low carbon Europe, European Climate Foundation;
- The European Electricity Grid Initiative (EEGI) Roadmap 2010-18 and Implementation Plan 2010-12