New EWEA report sets out vision for a renewable-powered grid for Europe

During the GRIDS 2010 conference in Berlin (Germany), the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has presented a new report setting out how improvements to the European electricity grid can be made to integrate ever increasing amounts of wind and other renewable energy.

Last week the European Commission said: “The EU pays the price for its outdated and poorly interconnected energy infrastructure”, and today EWEA has responded with the publication of a new report with a vision for a modern renewable energy power system.

The report entitled “Powering Europe” was launched at the GRIDS 2010 conference and exhibition in Berlin (Germany) organised by EWEA, and argues there are no major technical barriers – but there are major economic benefits - to integrating large amounts of fuel- and pollution-free wind energy into Europe’s electricity grid.

“This report is a very welcome publication with a clear view towards 2020, 2030 and 2050. Together with our Ten Year Network Development Plan, it helps building a common understanding on the major issues surrounding the integration of wind energy in the European grids. The report also provides arguments that will certainly be in the centre of policy debate as we can presently observe from the publication of the Commission’s blueprint for an integrated European energy network,” comments Daniel Dobbeni, President of ENTSO-E (European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity).

The new report identifies infrastructure and markets as the two key barriers to hugely increasing the amount of wind power in Europe’s electricity supply. In order to deliver the onshore and offshore wind energy from where it is produced to where it will be consumed, EWEA highlights that Europe needs “extended, upgraded and better connected grids” and “fair and effective competition in a truly internal European market in electricity”.

“The economic benefits of creating a single market in electricity and improving the infrastructure are substantial”, says EWEA. “The benefits of a better interconnected grid include a €1,500 million yearly reduction in total operational costs of power generation due to increased availability of all generation capacity”.

Over €41 billion in savings

The benefit of integrating 265 Gigawatt (GW) of wind into Europe’s grids by 2020 – compared to no further growth in wind power capacity - would be a saving of €41.7 billion per year in the cost of electricity. This is a ‘merit order’ effect of €11 for every MWh produced not just those MWh produced by wind turbines. And if our electricity markets are functioning that is a saving that could be passed on to consumers.

The electricity grid infrastructure needed to accommodate increasingly large amounts of renewable energy and create effective competition in a single market in electricity includes a new offshore grid in Europe’s northern seas (North Sea, Irish Sea and Baltic Sea), as well as a number of improved interconnections across continental Europe (especially between Spain and France, but also between Germany and its neighbours across the Alps and in eastern and south eastern Europe).

HVDC cables are an attractive new technological option for long-distance electricity superhighways such as the offshore grid that is required in the near future, says the new report, which also reveals that flexibility will need to be a key feature of European power systems in the future. This means power generation will have to be more flexible to take into account variable sources of power such as wind and solar. Smart grids will be needed to allow management of demand as well as improved management of supply, and largely national grids will have to be better interconnected. EWEA’s new report shows how Denmark, Germany, Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands have managed their power systems much more flexibly than in the past.

“The European Commission recently presented an ambitious and far-sighted vision for a European grid,” says Christian Kjaer, Chief executive of EWEA. “This new EWEA report shows a vision for a future European power infrastructure to complement the EU governments’ and European Parliament’s ambition to increase renewable electricity’s share from 15% in 2005 to 34% in 2020. It shows how we can continue to expand beyond that short timeframe”.

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