With stringent greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to meet by 2050, Europe’s energy sector has a good deal of work to do in the years ahead.
The European Energy Union targets for 2030 include a 40% reduction in domestic greenhouse gas emissions and reaching at least both 27% energy savings and 27% renewable energy penetration at EU level. These form the minimums for the next ten-year plan, just released for consultation, for the region’s transmission networks.
Indeed, some of the visions presented in the plan, i.e. those that demand an even pace of activity from now to 2050, go even further, as high as 60% renewables penetration and 80% emissions reductions by 2030.
The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) updates its 10-year network development plan (TYNDP) on a biennial basis.
The renewables challenge for transmission
According to ENTSO-E, variable renewable energy uptake is the major driver for grid development by 2030. The generation fleet will experience a major shift in the next decade with the replacement of much of the existing capacities, probably located differently and further from load centres, and involving high renewable energy development.
Local smart grids will help increasing energy efficiency and improve local balance between generation and load. Nevertheless, ENTSO-E forecasts larger, more volatile power flows over longer distance across Europe, mostly North-South driven by the aforementioned energy transition with increasing importance of renewable development.
Thus, most transmission investments needs are linked to renewable energy integration developments, either where direct connection of renewables is at stake or because the network section or corridor is a bridge that links the renewables and load centres.
The study identifies 10 main interconnection requirements. These include:
• Ireland and Great Britain and the two countries with Scandinavia or mainland Europe (potentially uncertain post Brexit, see Engerati-Brexit and UK and Europe’s energy sectors)
• The Baltic states to Europe
• Poland with Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia
• Further interconnections of the Nordic countries with mainland Europe, of Italy with neighbouring countries, of South-East Europe with Central Europe and across the Balkan peninsula.
Overall, interconnection capacities should double by 2030 in Europe, on average, according to the plan.
200 transmission and storage projects
In all TYNDP 2016 compiles €150 billion investments in 200 transmission and storage projects, of which €80 billion is for projects already endorsed in national plans and/or intergovernmental agreements by 2030. These figures are in line with the previous analysis of the TYNDP 2014.
While the total project effort is significant for the financial means of TSOs, it represents only about €1.5-2/MWh of power consumption in Europe over the period, i.e. about 2% of the bulk power prices or less than 1% of the total electricity bill, according to ENTSO-E.
Further, there is a claimed significant positive impact on European social welfare. The created market integration will reduce bulk power prices by €1.5-5/MWh (depending on fuel and CO2 cost assumptions). In addition, it helps avoid 30-90TWh of renewable energy spillage, reducing it to less than 1% of the total supply.
"Even if local solutions, demand response and storage will play a growing role, transmission grids will still be needed to shift large volumes of renewables from the peripheries to the consumption centres," comments Konstantin Staschus, ENTSO-E Secretary-General. "Without a fit-for-purpose transmission grid, we will not fulfil our COP21 climate protection commitments. The energy transition and transmission grids are two sides of the same coin."
Progress of TYNDP 2014 projects
Monitoring of the ongoing implementation of the TYNDP 2014 infrastructure projects shows that a quarter of them are experiencing delays. This is a small improvement compared to the 33% in 2014. The main cause of delays remains resistance by people or municipalities to the building of lines close to their property.
In the TYNDP 2016 less than 4% of project routes cross urbanised areas and only 8% cross protected areas.
Work is also starting on the TYNDP 2018 with stakeholders being asked to give their opinion on what shape this new TYNDP should take.