The Battle of the Grids

Greenpeace has hit the nail on the head in its just-launched report, pinpointing grid extension and smart grid management as crucial to the integration of large amounts of CO2-free renewable energy.

The ‘Battle of the Grids’ report shows that the lack of a fair energy market in Europe means renewables are often forced to play second fiddle to traditional power sources in getting access to the network.

However, in a wider, more flexible power network, renewables could be transported from where they are produced to where the power is needed. According to Greenpeace, renewable energy could provide the majority – 68% — of Europe’s power by 2030. EWEA’s wind-only goal for the same year is 33% of Europe’s electricity – nearly half Greenpeace’s target from one renewable source alone. Both Greenpeace and European Wind Energy Association think renewable energy can provide 100% of Europe’s electricity by 2050.

What is also important to remember, especially in these economically difficult times, is the vast savings well-thought-out grid development would bring. EWEA’s ‘Powering Europe’ report, released last November, identifies a massive €1,500 million yearly reduction in total operational costs of power generation due to the increased availability of all generation capacity.

And if we can integrate 265 gigawatt (GW) of wind energy into Europe’s grids by 2020, we can save at least €41.7bn per year in the cost of electricity because wind power replaces power sources where fuel must be constantly bought and paid for.

Not only that, but upgrading the grids will improve security of supply and inject much needed-competition into the electricity market to the benefit of consumers.

The more voices that clamour for grid extension and a single energy market, the better. The EU decision-makers, with their recent communication on infrastructure development, appear to be listening. The Energy Summit on 4 February, and the legislative proposals the European Commission will begin to make this year, should indicate the level of real commitment among European and national leaders and legislators to a more environmentally and economically sound energy future.

By Sarah Azau,