Smart grid key to powering Europe and North Africa exclusively by renewables by 2050


Gus Schellekens,
Director, Sustainability
& Climate Change,
Potsdam, Germany — (METERING.COM) — April 1, 2010 – The opportunity exists to power Europe and North Africa exclusively by renewable electricity by 2050, if supported by single European and North African regional power markets, and these in turn are underpinned by a “super smart grid.”

This is a finding in a new study from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in collaboration with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and the European Climate Forum, which presents a policy roadmap towards a 2050 goal of achieving a 100 percent renewable power sector in Europe and North Africa.

The combination of increased demand for electricity and security of supply is a very powerful driver of major power sector in changes in Europe and worldwide, while climate change also poses a global threat, says the study. The import of renewable power from North Africa is key to the vision to ensure market competitiveness under the land constraints faced by Europe.

To achieve this vision the grids of North Africa and Europe must be strongly interconnected. This would be achieved through the reinforcement of the high voltage AC grid, a pan-European, cross Mediterranean overlay high voltage DC super grid, and the introduction of smart technologies and a smart grid, which together comprise the “SuperSmart Grid.”

Further, the electricity supply system of North Africa and Europe in 2050 would be 100 percent renewable, following a continuous and steady transformation of the power system in parallel with sustained growth in demand. This renewable power mix would be geographically optimized with production at the most suitable sites across the two regions, and also the North African and European energy policies would be aligned and cooperative and the two power markets unified and united, allowing for free trading of electricity between all countries.

Envisaged natural resources include the vast concentrating solar potential of southern Europe and the arid deserts of North Africa, the hydro capability of Scandinavia and the European alps, onshore and offshore wind farms in the Baltic and North Sea, the continent’s ocean tidal and wave power, and biomass generation across Europe.

“Europe and other parts of the world are arriving at a crossroads where we have the choice and ability to achieve renewable power at scale,” said Gus Schellekens, director, sustainability and climate change, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. “Opportunities to use clean and affordable natural sources of electricity have been flirted with over the past 150 years. This study lays out a clear framework of how this time could be different.”

Currently, the European power system is dominated by fossil fuel and nuclear, with only 15 percent of the power supply from renewable electricity dominated by old hydro power stations, with expansion of other options including onshore wind, and biomass modest at best to date. Despite this, the technological capability for developing renewable forms of power generation is already in place, or emerging and envisaged, and the economics of the key technologies is improving, albeit in a difficult financing environment.

The study says that a renewables powered Europe would change the landscape for consumers and business. Electro-mobility could be introduced on a mass scale, leading to day-to-day transport of people and goods without the CO2 penalty associated with fossil fuel. In North African countries, the provision of reliable and potentially unlimited solar electricity could provide the basis for substantial social and economic development across the region.

In addition by 2050, with renewable technologies deployed at scale across Europe and North Africa, significant cost reductions would make the renewable power sector a major employer of skilled workers in both Europe and North Africa, and cost competitive, providing affordable electricity across the region. Developing a strong cooperation for large scale renewables will also decrease dependency from energy imports and develop strong interdependencies between Europe and its neighbors.