Smart electricity grids an infrastructure priority in Europe


Brussels, Belgium — (METERING.COM) — December 3, 2010 – The upgrading and modernization of Europe’s electricity grids to meet increasing demand has been identified as a key energy infrastructure priority for 2020 and beyond.

In a Communication from the European Commission the rollout of smart grid technologies is highlighted as a priority, in order to provide the necessary framework and initial incentives for rapid investments to support a competitive retail market and well functioning energy services market, as well as the integration of renewable and distributed generation and new types of demand such as from electric vehicles.

The Communication states that the Commission will assess the need for further legislation to keep smart grid implementation on track. The Commission will also consider further measures to ensure that smart grids and meters bring the desired benefits for consumers, producers, operators, and in terms of energy efficiency, with the results of this assessment and possible further measures to be published in the course of 2011.

Further, the Commission will set up a smart grids transparency and information platform to enable dissemination of the most up-to-date experiences and good practice concerning deployment across Europe, create synergies between the different approaches and facilitate the development of an appropriate regulatory framework. The timely establishment of technical standards and adequate data protection will be key to this process.

Looking further to the future, to the 2050 timeframe, the Communication highlights the need for “electricity highways” that are capable of accommodating increasing wind surplus generation in and around the Northern and Baltic Seas and increasing renewable generation in the east and south of Europe as well as North Africa, and connecting these new generation hubs with major storage capacities in Nordic countries and the Alps and with the major consumption centers in Central Europe. In addition they must be capable of coping with increasingly flexible and decentralized electricity demand and supply.

To this end the Commission proposes to launch work to establish a modular development plan which would allow the commissioning of first highways by 2020.

The Communication estimates that €1 trillion must be invested in Europe’s energy system between today and 2020 in order to meet energy policy objectives and climate goals. About half of this would be required for networks, including electricity and gas distribution and transmission, storage, and smart grids.

The Communication also comments that the cost of not realizing these investments or not doing them under EU-wide coordination would be huge, and it cites as example offshore wind development, where national solutions could be 20 percent more expensive.

In a subsequent joint statement the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the German Engineering Federation (VDMA Power Systems) and the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) said the EU and member states need to acknowledge the urgency and importance of major grid investments.

Further, the EU, member states, and regulators must make it a priority to set appropriate regulatory and financial frameworks to facilitate cross-border interconnection capacities, key European corridors for electricity trade, offshore grids, and even a future supergrid.