Greenpeace: ?Smart Grids? ? climate infrastructure for the 21st century

The report: Renewables 24/7 – Infrastructure needed to save the climate shows how the world’s power grids could be transformed to support a power mix comprising 90% renewable energy by 2050. The transformation would be achieved at a modest level of investment, presents a huge market opportunity for ICT companies, and would enable huge cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Renewables 24/7 is part of Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution scenario, a comprehensive vision for a climate friendly global energy supply.

The study explains how mini-grids and smart-grids could be connected intelligently with a super grid [1] to provide reliable around the clock supply without any need for coal fired or nuclear power plants. The study also proposes a specific grid reinforcement and expansion plan for Europe, including a cost analysis.

“With smart grids we basically merge the internet with the electricity grid”, says Greenpeace International senior energy expert, Sven Teske. “Building up smart grids is a huge business opportunity, especially for IT companies. In Europe the annual investment needed will be around €5 billion. That would cost a European household less than five Euros a year. To unlock this urgently needed investment in new climate friendly infrastructure, we need energy policies which support the transition towards close to 100% renewables in the power sector,” Teske added.

The 2008 EU 27 Energy [R]evolution scenario [3] showed how Europe could achieve 90% renewable energy supply by 2050. The new report compared 30 years of weather data with European annual demand curves and concluded that with the existing grid there is only a 0.4 percent — or 12 hours a year — chance that high demand correlates with low solar and wind power generation. The proposed grid reinforcement would remove even this small uncertainty and guarantee reliable power.

This new publication comes on the heels of a political declaration of a “North Seas Offshore Wind Initiative”. On 7th December 2009 Ministers of the North Sea Countries announced that they would develop an offshore grid to enhance the integration of renewable energies such as offshore wind farms. The offshore grid will be one of the first steps toward a European super grid.

“We welcome the EU initiative for a better use of renewable energies which shows we can deliver a smart, super grid and expand renewable energy supplies in parallel.”, said Christine Lins Director General from EREC.

“The global market for renewable energy could grow at a double digit rates until 2050, and overtake the size of today’s fossil fuel industry. Currently, the renewable energy market is worth € 100 (EREC will send data) billion and doubling in size every three years. The global renewable market will go hand in hand with the development of smart grids, when the combined share of wind energy and solar photovoltaic power exceeds roughly one third of the total power generation.”

Copies of the “Renewable 24/7” report can be downloaded at: and

[1] Smart Grids combine distributed power sources to create virtual power plants. In this way small wind power, solar, geothermal and bio-gas facilities can provide the same power as a traditional power plant but with greater efficiency and flexibility – and far lower CO2 emissions.

Super Grids use High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) lines to transfer power huge distances with great efficiency. This will allow surplus wind energy from the North Sea to be stored in Norweigan Hydro systems, or solar energy from Spain to be delivered to Germany.

[2] The proposal for a European grid would cost around €209 billion or € 5.225 billion per year till 2050.

Assuming the level of electricity consumption in Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution, this would increase costs of every kWh by 0.15 cent over 40 years.

More research may show that the price could be even lower. If there were sufficient European storage capacity from electric vehicles and if it were possible to further optimise the energy generation mix grid expansion costs would fall, and there would be a reduction in the links needed between North Africa and Europe

[3] The EU 27 Energy [R]evolution Scenario is available at