Europe’s energy transition needs €2.5bn over next 10 years

European energy stakeholders present research and innovation priorities for the future electricity system.
Published: Mon 30 Jan 2017

With climate targets extending out to 2050, the energy sector needs to take a similarly long-term view on how the system must evolve to meet these targets.

The latest of the successive 10-year plans for Europe is the European Technology and Innovation Platform for Smart Networks for the Energy Transition (ETIP SNET) Research & Innovation Roadmap 2017-26.

This updates and extends the previous European Electricity Grid Initiative Roadmap 2013-2022. As such, this important piece of work should form the basis for European energy development in the decade ahead, building on past and current projects.

“For Europe to integrate over 50% of variable renewable energy such as wind or solar efficiently and reliably into its power system in the future, the electricity networks will need to be able to utilise all kinds of flexibility,” said Konstantin Staschus, Chairman of the ETIP SNET.

“They will be the heart of the overall climate-friendly energy system through smart interactions with gas networks and heating and transport systems.”

European energy: power system challenges

The roadmap presents a consolidated stakeholder view of the research and innovation (R&I) requirements of Europe’s future electricity (and energy) system. It is based on three constructs – analysis of European Union climate and Energy Union policy, definition of the future challenges for the system operators and a mapping between these future challenges.

Specifically, the single overarching goal is to produce new knowledge that aims to “optimise the European welfare brought by the electricity value chain while ensuring the proper level of reliability within the energy system of the EU28.”

In addition to the electricity system – and unlike the earlier European Electricity Grid Initiative Roadmap – it also encompasses interactions with the gas and heat networks with a focus on the integration of energy storage technologies and other flexibility options into the power system.

The roadmap identifies four major trends in Europe’s power system that are presenting challenges for the system operators.

These are:

  • More intermittent generation at different spatial scales sometimes far from the main consumption centres.

  • New loads as a result of the electrification of the transport sector and energy efficiency policies in the building sector.

  • The integration of the pan-European transmission electricity network with a regional management layer as well as new links in the energy system, e.g. connections between electricity networks and the gas and heat networks.

  • The internal energy market where market makers (network operators) will have to manage an increasing number of interactions with market players while ensuring adequacy and security.

The development rates of these trends will be conditioned by public acceptance: grid expansion with overhead lines is less and less accepted by the general public, which forces network operators to use more expensive and challenging technological options, and to deploy fast new solutions to operate the network within the suitable security margins.

R&I objectives

With the typical time scale needed for developing technologies (including software, management tools and methodologies), demonstrating their performances and validating system integration of the order of magnitude of a decade, the aim is to launch R&I activities in time so as to come up with optimised and cost-effective solutions, maximising social welfare.

The final R&I priorities have been summarised in clusters of “functional objectives” for both the transmission and distribution systems, as per the tables.

Clusters and functional objectives for the transmission system

Clusters and functional objectives for the distribution system

These clusters give an indication of the prioritised topics: modernisation of the network; integration of smart customers and buildings; security and system stability; power system flexibility from generation, storage, demand and network; integration of decentralised resources; economic efficiency and digitalisation of the power system; network operations; and planning and asset management.

R&I cost requirements

The cost requirements estimated for the transmission system R&I activities are a little over €1bn and those for the distribution system activities are almost €1.5bn to give a total of approximately €2.5bn.

The roadmap notes that these amounts cannot be supported by European funds alone and that other national, transnational or private investment will be needed.

In conclusion, the roadmap states that the future R&I activities will contribute directly to the optimisation of the full European power system (and its integration into the energy system with a focus on energy storage) under reliability constraints  and will take into account any unforeseen change of the electricity system between 2017 and 2026.

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