Clean Power

Published on March 21st, 2014 | by Joshua S Hill


Greenpeace Pushing For Pan-European Supergrid

March 21st, 2014 by  

A report released by Greenpeace on Thursday based on analysis done by consultants Energynautics has floated the idea of a need for a pan-European supergrid to help meet the ambitious target of at least 45% renewables by 2030.

“Europe’s energy system is at a crossroads,” the authors of the report write, noting that the existing “large, polluting power plants” need to be shut down and replaced by renewable energy growth “if we are to have a truly sustainable energy system.”

Following in the wake of the European renewable energy target of 20% by 2020, Greenpeace is pushing the European Union to start thinking and planning for their 2030 goals. The report, powE[R] 2030, builds on two previous reports which were collaborations between Energynautics and Greenpeace. This third report is based on the modelling work done in 2009 and 2011 and “focuses on possible conflicts of national power supply pahtways and a new innovative “overlay-concept” or “super grid”.”

Greenpeace believe that one of the ways to solve the inherent fluctuation of renewable energy is to create a grid in which energy can be imported or exported “between European countries.”


“That means upgrading Europe’s grid with high voltage direct current cables which carry more power, take up less space and waste less electricity than the conventional, alternating current pylons we mostly use now.”

The report is based on data from the International Energy Agency and provides three potential scenarios bridging out to 2030 which examine the various levels of integration possible. The ‘Energy [R]evolution Case’ is based on the EU 27 Energy [R]evolution scenario which Greenpeace put out in October of 2012 and leads to “around 70% renewable electricity by 2030 and over 95% by 2050.”

The ‘Reference Case’ is based on the ever-present ‘business as usual’ scenario. The third scenario, the ‘Conflict Case’, “illustrates what happens if inflexible coal/lignite/nuclear power plants are kept in the system in France, Czech Republic and Poland while flexible wind and solar capacities are added in all other EU member states plus Switzerland and Norway.”

For more on each scenario, the full report is available here (PDF).

Greenpeace in the UK have also published a blog post looking into the report, including the investment increases required to hit the ambitious goals.

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  • NorskeDiv

    Great, we will clog the countryside with transmission pylons and deforest areas to run them (let’s be realistic here, people will not allow large transmission lines to be run through lightly populated areas so wherever possible this “super” grid will be built in what is currently untouched forest areas). All so that intermittent renewable energy can be dispatched to distant areas.

    Or… we could just build nuclear plants and avoid this problem entirely. This begs the question though, why does Greenpeace foresee France being attached to this super grid? This means that at periods of low production in German and Spain they will be importing French nuclear power (as indeed they already do now).

    I suppose, given the fact that Germany consistently depends on France for nuclear power, it would make sense that when other countries follow Germany’s path they will also increasingly rely on French nuclear:

    See page Page 52

    • Bob_Wallace

      Are you aware that France gets more electricity from Germany than Germany does from France? I bet not.

      France needs to attach itself the the European grid because it uses the rest of Europe as its storage system. France has boxed itself in with a non-flexible system and has to depend on surrounding countries to help it load-follow.

  • Ronald Brakels

    I suspect point of use solar and improved efficiency will decrease
    demand for grid electricity in Europe and so free up some of the existing
    transmission capacity. While Europe is already quite efficient compared
    to Australia, the US, and even Japan, there is still room for
    improvement. Solar is already taking care of the summer peak, so I guess
    efficiency improvements that help reduce winter peak demand would be
    the most useful. As the cost of renewables continues to decrease it makes more economic sense to curtail production than to build the transmission capacity to get electricity to where it might be needed. So as James suggested above I guess there will be some improvements, but nothing like the grand plan suggested in the article. I would also guess that some existing transmission lines will end up being utilised much less than their builders predicted.

    • Ross

      I don’t see an alternative to lots more wind power in Northern Europe. We don’t get enough sunlight especially during winter for it to be economic compared to wind.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Looking at retail electricity prices I see it costs over 15 euro cents or kilowatt-hour in two-thirds or more of EU countries. At German installation costs that makes point of use solar the cheapest source of electricity available to consumers despite the dismal weather that exists in many of these countries. Now just what the exact mix of low generating capacity will be in the future isn’t really worth worrying too much about just now. In three years times things will be a lot clearer. I say just keep reducing fossil fuel use in the most cost effective way for each individual situation, region, or person.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Southern Europe gets great solar. Northern Europe has great hydro and potential for pump-up storage as well as wind which can produce when the Sun is down.

        String wire.

    • eject

      you are only thinking about electricity in the conventional use scenario. We will have to electrify the heat market to rid us of heating oil and nat. gas. This includes the industry which needs to operate 24/7. We will also need to produce Hydrogen for fertilizer and Methanol production (all plastics will need to be fully synthetic from sun and wind power).
      The conventional electricity market is just the low hanging fruit but at the end of the day the electricity grid will have to replace all gas pipes, oil pipes, district fossil heating and fuel tankers on the road.
      All year round. At the moment it looks like a massive grid is cheaper then storage. (Also 100km East-West travel gives you 6 minutes offset in terms of solar, this in itself helps).

      • Ronald Brakels

        You certainly could be right, Eject. But I do think that developments such as cheaper point of use solar, cheaper wind power, electric cars and potentially home and business energy storage definitely have the potential to reduce the need for improved transmission capacity.

        • eject

          Wind Power needs Grids.
          They don’t work very well in built up areas and while there is always somewhere wind in Europe it is never everywhere.
          Solar has real limits for about 3 months of the year. Germany can see as little as 5,5h of light a day in Winter and it will be rather cloudy.

          Also I think it is good for countries like Spain and Greece to create some additional income.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Wind power needs the grid but if the cost of wind power continues to drop then it will become more economic to build extra capacity and curtail production when the grid can’t handle it than to pay for transmission upgrades. And solar certainly works better when there is actual sunshine, but if it is cheap enough Europe will end up with a lot of solar anyway. Maybe a beefed up grid is the best solution, I’m just a little cautious because here in Australia they beefed up the grid to prepare for increased electricity demand but instead demand dropped and that’s a major reason why I am now paying all up nearly 50 cents a kilowatt-hour for electricity.

          • eject

            As I said, it is not so much about retail electricity. It is about energy. Germany needs (in a recession) 4000TWh of it. The UK needs 2700. This will increase as the rate of recycling increases.
            While it is entirely possible to produce those amounts of energy within a year it would need a lot more storage then there is currently available. Pumped hydro and batteries can take care of electricity. But keeping the chemical industry running? The mining and refining sector? At the moment all bigger industry plants have there own coal fired power stations in the region of 50-200MW (those are not counted in the normal electricity production since they don’t feed to the grid) with the grid mainly providing the frequency and backup. If you want to get rid of them all year round a couple of batteries won’t do. If the wind slows down in the north sea you will need some help from spanish or italians or fire up gas plants.
            The question is what is cheaper, I cant see P2G as ever being viable, it loses 75% in the round trip electricity to electricity, that is madness. A grid would definitely be cheaper.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Eject, you appear to be making some assumptions about what I think. Looking at what I’ve written and only what I’ve written is there anything in the things I’ve mentioned which may reduce the need for transmission capacity relative to what it would be otherwise that you don’t think would have that effect?

          • Ulenspiegel


            eject wrote: “Germany needs (in a recession) 4000TWh of it.”

            That is nonsense. We talk about final energy. Germany needs in the current energy landscape 600 TWh electricity, 600 TWh oil for transport and around 2500 TWh process heat (heating of buildings 1100 TWh, industry 400 TWh at high temperatures).

            Electrification of transport would reduce the demand from 600 to less than 150 TWh (only a clown substitutes for the waste heat of ICEs).

            50% of the heating demand could easily be saved by better insulation, the rest would be provided by heat pumps, therefore, 150 TWh electricity are more than enough for heating. To substitute the current final energy 1:1 with electricity is complete nonsense in case of Germany, considering population density and per capita RE resources.

            Of the 400 TWh for industrial processes more than 1/3 could be saved with todays technology.

            Of the 600 TWh of the current electricity demand 60-100 TWh could be saved (consumption of power plants 40 TWh, old pumps in industry and housholds 20 TWh, light 30 Twh…).

            Therefore a realistic demand for a electrified German final energy production would be in the range of 700-1000 TWh, biomass would go into process heat (industry).

            Even with the extreme P2G scenario (Fraunhofer) the demand is “only” around 1000 TWh, a super grid approch would reduce it to 600-700 Twh.

          • Ulenspiegel

            it should have been …1500 TWh process heat (heating of buildings 1100 TWh, industry 400 TWh at high temperatures).

  • spec9

    Instead of just opposing things, Greenpeace is wise to do things like this . . . offer green technical solutions to problems. Just saying “No” to a coal plant is not very useful without offering an alternative.

  • JamesWimberley

    The EU Commission will love this. European megaprojects! Good for Greenpeace rejecting the localist utopia that distributed generation means everybody can be more or less autonomous in their own valley.
    Most likely is a half-way house. The EU will manage to boost interconnectors, but a long-distance HVDC grid (like the lines from Quebec’s dams to the Northeast USA) will take the incumbents well out of their comfort zone.
    The result will be a lot of curtailment. There will be opportunities for P2G and similar options for making use of the virtually free renewable electricity that will be available for many hours in every month.

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