Interconnections with other systems are proving key to integrating renewables and future proofing energy security. In recent articles we have looked at the potential for interconnecting Europe’s grid both eastward to China and westward to North America. These are long term projects, if indeed they ever materialise, and of more immediate potential is the opportunity for north-south interconnections across the Mediterranean.
North African countries have long been of interest to Europe for their solar generation potential and as illustrated in a new network map a few interconnections are in place and under development. But new proposals from Mediterranean transmission system operators (TSOs) could see up to 14 new interconnections spanning the Mediterranean as part of a raft of other projects to support the development of the region.
The proposals, which were developed with the support of the European Commission (EC), also would help to meet the European Energy Union’s country interconnection ambitions, initially set at 10% of installed generation capacity by 2020 and subsequently revised upwards to 15% by 2030.
“Energy integration in the Euro-Mediterranean region is no longer an opportunity, but an unavoidable requirement to bring the two shores of the Mediterranean closer,” says Moncef Harrabi, President of the regional TSO association Med-TSO. “The development of infrastructures – energy, water and transport – are key for a new progress path, based on employment, job creation and innovation.”
Mediterranean Master Plan
The Mediterranean Master Plan developed over the past three years by Med-TSO is aimed at consolidating “a secure and sustainable electricity infrastructure through the development of interconnections, while facilitating the integration of renewable energy resources in the region”, according to the project report.
Part of the overarching Mediterranean Project to advance the energy sector to support the socio-economic development of the region, the plan looks to the infrastructure development requirements considering various scenarios with a 2030 time horizon.
Macro trends identified in this period include an increase in the production capacity of approximately 250GW to 400GW in the Mediterranean area, of which from 40% to 60% is from renewable energy sources, corresponding to an expected increase in electricity demand of about 1,000TWh.
In broad terms demand is projected to grow fastest in the southern shore, more than doubling from now to 2030. Western and northern shore demand will increase about 7% to 18% on average, while north-eastern regional demand will grow at an intermediate rate between 40% and 70%.
In terms of energy, solar generation is expected to increase between four and seven times to 175-330TWh, while wind generation increases between two and four times to 230-420TWh. With these increases, the share of renewable generation within the Mediterranean area is expected to reach between 32% to 42% by 2030, up from 25% in 2016.
Outcomes of modelling of the scenarios are 14 new interconnection clusters totalling 17,850MW of new capacity.
Of this 8,200MW are in/out of the ENTSO-E area and 9,650MW are between the northern and southern systems. The countries most impacted are Turkey with 6,600MW of new capacity through five interconnections and Egypt with 4,300 MW in three interconnections.
Based on network analysis, the extra investment required for these interconnections is estimated at about €16bn. The need for reinforcements is limited, however, amounting to about 2,200km of new lines, 840km of reconductoring and fewer than 40 new bays and transformers.
Other aspects of the Mediterranean Project have included the development of a common set of rules as the basis for a Mediterranean grid code, investigation of international electricity exchanges which would occur on the interconnections, and the launch of various data-gathering and information-sharing initiatives
According to the project report, the next step will be to develop an action plan, likewise to be supported by the EC.
Key will be to update the Mediterranean Master Plan with the aim to make the interconnections into deliverables.
Other needs identified by Med-TSO are to strengthen cooperation between the TSOs in both system operation and system development and to improve their capabilities for elaborating adequacy reports and market studies. Work will also continue on the harmonisation of regulations and technical rules in the region.
Med-TSO is a relatively young body founded in 2012, with membership comprising 20 TSOs from the 18 countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.