Integrating renewable energy sources into the electricity grid is becoming easier and cheaper, according to the Renewables Grid Initiative and WindEurope, but more needs to be done for European electricity grids if the region is to achieve increased levels of renewable energy in its electricity mix.
These were the high-level points made by the Renewables Grid Initiative and WindEurope to participants of Tuesday’s Grids meet Renewables Conference and Best Practice Fair held in Brussels, which focused on exploring key needs to support the renewable energy industry and future electricity grid needs. Specifically, with the dominant form of new electricity generation to be intermittent renewable energy technologies like wind and solar, the grid needs to be developed in such a way as to support the growing increase in renewable generation while simultaneously reducing system costs across Europe.
The important thing to note is that the integration of ever-increasing levels of renewable energy into the European grid is continually benefiting from technological advancements such as smart grids, demand response, flexible wind turbines, and energy storage. But the grid still needs to be expanded and upgraded to modernize and secure its future, so that the cost savings available to an interconnected power market are claimed.
“The energy sector is transforming rapidly,” explained WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson. “This transformation needs a common vision, shared by both the renewables and grid industries. The investments in new electricity grids are essential to ensure Europe can fully exploit its wind resource. A smarter approach to how we develop the grids will allow wind energy to provide an ever greater part of consumers’ energy needs. This will be key in meeting an ambitious renewables target for 2030.”
In order to deliver an adequate electricity grid for Europe and to further reduce system costs, expanding electricity infrastructure needs to be done smarter. Renewables Grid Initiative and WindEurope outline three specific steps.
First, renewable energy producers and grid operators need to work more closely together, working together to plan the development of new transmission lines — taking into account a number of issues including the continued expansion of renewable energy, the electrification of other sectors such as transport and heating, as well as environmental and social impacts.
Countries can and must contribute to this partnership by announcing their planned post-2020 renewable energy expansion plans as part of their National Energy & Climate Plans so as to give renewable producers and grid operators a sense of the lay of the land.
Secondly, Renewables Grid Initiative and WindEurope believe that governments need to prioritize electricity grids over gas grids when allocating further funds under the Connecting Europe Facility so as to account for increasing electrification of various sectors — not just the power sector, but heating, transport, industrial, etc. Electrification over gas is vital for countries to transition to a low-carbon economy.
The final step that needs to be taken is to fix the software of power markets such as grid support services — wherein renewable electricity generators are able to ramp up or down their supply according to demand. New wind power plants are already able to do this and many countries are requiring wind farms to be able to provide this service, but many markets are not compensating wind farms for this service.
“In the next decade, massive growth of renewables as well as related grid development need to be supported,” said Renewables Grid Initiative CEO Antonella Battaglini. “This can only be realised if we at the same time protect nature and involve society in the process. This requires multidisciplinary skills and collaborative processes to properly address peoples’ concerns and desires for a more sustainable and at the same time affordable energy future. Each day we learn how to better integrate renewables and how to deliver better projects on the ground. To continue on this joint path, this learning exercise also needs to continue and be enhanced.”
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