More co-ordinated and harmonized approach to grid planning needed in Europe


Volker ter Meulen,
London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — June 15, 2009 – A more co-ordinated and harmonized approach to grid planning is needed in Europe, based on common grid planning principles, practices and scenarios, according to a new study from the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC).

Aimed at identifying how the European electricity transmission grid needs to be developed if it is to enable the achievement of energy policy goals – i.e. the creation of a pan-European competitive electricity market and increasing substantially the generation of electricity from renewable resources – the study finds that the operation of the European grid also will need to be on a more co-ordinated approach with substantially enhanced levels of data sharing. Moreover, effective market mechanisms must be developed to produce the correct pricing signals to ensure effective grid development and operation.

The EASAC says that European energy policy goals will require significantly increased transfer of large amounts of electrical energy across long distances and national borders in Europe. However, the existing European electricity grid infrastructure, and generally low levels of integration and co-ordination in the planning and operation of the grid, will not support such transfers of electricity, and consequently the achievement of the energy policy goals.

“Developments are required in planning a European grid to ensure that investments are made in the right places, in the way the grid is operated so that maximum benefit is extracted from a given infrastructure, and in transmission technologies so that effective options are available for environmental, operational, energy efficiency and investment considerations,” says EASAC chairman Volker ter Meulen in the foreword to the study.

Specific recommendations include the development of common European models of the grid and the electricity market, and the definition of a set of common, and mandatory, grid planning principles for short- and long-term planning. Given the scale of the European grid, there will inevitably need to be a combination of top-down and bottom-up planning processes, and increased use should be made of revenues generated through congestion management to fund investment projects to strengthen transmission capacity.

Congestion needs to be managed in a co-ordinated manner on a European Union (EU) system basis. As the system becomes more integrated, there will be an increasing need for EU-wide control systems based on real time information from advanced telemetry and the use of activating controls in real time.

Issues of demand side participation also will need to be addressed, and a better understanding needs to be developed of the implications for electricity transmission of developments in load diversity, for example caused by the large-scale introduction of heat pumps or electric cars.

The study also notes that while the transmission capacity of existing networks should be improved through the application of appropriate control technologies, in all scenarios extensions to the grid are required. Although the choice of transmission technology will depend on the particular circumstances, high voltage direct current transmission technology is developing rapidly and should be considered as an appropriate method of bulk power transmission from point to point.

Transmission cable technology, both alternating current and direct current, also is improving, allowing higher voltage operation and greater power transmission capacities, and consequently reducing the cost differential compared with overhead lines. However, it is not anticipated that it will be technically and economically feasible to replace all existing overhead line transmission circuits with buried cables.

Future European research and development on transmission technologies should ensure continuing progress in reducing investments costs, environmental impacts and energy losses, says the study.