The integration of increasing shares of renewable energy into electricity grids is getting easier and cheaper, says WindEurope. Smart grids, demand response, flexible wind turbines and storage are helping to do this. If renewables are to meet 35% of Europe’s energy needs by 2030, then investments in electricity grids need to be more strategic.
To deliver an adequate grid in Europe and further reduce system costs, the extension of electricity infrastructure needs to be done in a smarter way. Three things are needed in order to do this.
First, renewable energy producers and grid operators need to work together more closely. Defining the future energy landscape requires joint planning on the development of new transmission lines. This should take into consideration the expansion of renewables and the electrification of other sectors, as well as environmental and social impacts. Countries can help facilitate this by detailing the volumes of renewable energy they will deploy post-2020 as part of their National Energy & Climate Plans.
Second, to accommodate for increasing electrification in other sectors the EU needs to prioritise electricity grids over gas grids when it’s allocating funds under the Connecting Europe Facility. The electrification of heating, transport and industrial processes is essential for the transition to a low-carbon economy. This needs to come with an extension and upgrade of electricity grids across Europe.
Third, the software of power markets also needs to be fixed. ‘Grid support services’ – whereby renewable generators can ramp up and down supply according to demand - should be increasingly commoditised. New wind power plants are technically able to provide these services and many countries already impose these responsibilities on wind farms. But many markets still do not allow wind power plants to provide and be compensated for these services.