Memorandum submitted by Greenpeace |
Greenpeace believes that the development of a European
supergrid presents a huge opportunity to drive a transition to
100% renewable energy by 2050.
The major difference in producing clean energy is
that it requires lots of smaller generators, some with variable
power output. Some can be located inside the grid, close to where
power is used. Small generators include wind turbines, solar panels,
micro turbines, fuel cells and co-generation (combined heat and
power). The challenge ahead is to integrate new decentralised
and renewable power generation sources while phasing out most
large-scale, outdated power plants. This will need a new power
system architecture. The overall concept balances fluctuations
in energy demand and supply to share out power effectively among
users. New measures, such as managing the demand from big users
or forecasting the weather and using energy storage to cover times
with less wind or sun, enable this. Advanced communication and
control technologies further help deliver electricity effectively.
The key elements of the new power system architecture are micro
grids, smart grids and a number of interconnectors or an effective
super grid. The three types of systems support each other and
interconnect with each other.
1. What are the technical challenges for the
development of a European Supergrid?
Large-scale integration of renewable electricity
in the European grid (68% by 2030 and 99.5% by 2050) is technically
feasible with a high level of security of supply, even under the
most extreme climatic conditions with low wind and low solar radiation.
This further confirms the feasibility of a 100% renewable electricity
vision. It also strengthens the findings of Greenpeace's Energy
[R]evolution2, which demonstrates that meeting the demand in 2050
with 97% renewable electricity would cost 34% less than under
the IEA's Reference scenario and that by 2030, 68% renewable electricity
would generate 1.2 million jobs, 780,000 more than under the Reference
It is vital that there is a clear priority of access
for renewables in a European Supergrid. Currently there are no
clear priority rules at the European level, including on the interconnections
between countries. For example, wind turbines in Germany currently
do not have a priority over nuclear power plants in France in
providing energy to the European grid.
As a first priority, national and European regulators
should create appropriate framework conditions to enable network
upgrades and developments. In addition, to overcome bottlenecks
to international transmission, the European Commission should
propose financing mechanisms for international transmission projects
where the individual business case does not sufficiently reflect
the wider economic benefit. Demonstration projects for innovative
approaches to onshore grid upgrades and the construction of offshore
grids should be supported on the European and national level.
These ground-breaking projects are necessary to help develop cross-border
networks and test the technical and regulatory conditions.
The European Union should focus on the development
of smart grid technology and demand management measures through
research and development support, streamlining and standardising
technology, and the support of demonstration projects.
2. How much would it cost to create a supergrid
and who would pay for it?
Greenpeace has developed two models of Supergrid:
a "Low Grid" model focused on the centre of Europe;
Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and France and a "High Grid"
model incorporating North Africa. (Please see the attached report,
"Battle of the Grids" for more details).
europe. This pathway would seek to produce as much renewable energy
close to areas with high electricity demand as possible. It is
particularly focused on the centre of Europe; Germany, Netherlands,
Belgium and France. Solar PV capacity in these areas is increased,
even if those solar panels could supply more electricity if installed
in the south of Europe. This approach would increase the generation
cost per kWh, but lowers the grid investment, which is limited
to 74 billion between 2030 and 2050. Security of
supply relies less on the electricity grid and long distance transmission.
Instead the gas pipelines are used more intensively to transfer
biogas from one region to the other, thereby optimising the use
of bioenergy as a balancing source.
africa. This approach would install a maximum of renewable energy
sources in areas with the highest output, especially solar power
in the South of Europe and interconnections between Europe with
North Africa. This pathway would minimise the cost to produce
electricity while increasing the amount of electricity to be transferred
over long distances through the grid. The result is a higher interconnection
cost (an investment of 581 billion between 2030 and 2050),
and strong security of supply 24/7 because the super grid capacity
exceeds demand. It also balances solar production in the south
and wind production in the north of Europe.
It should be stressed that between these "Low
Grid" and "High Grid" scenarios after 2030, there
is a large area of feasibility to combine different levels of
grid development and renewable capacities. Over the next decade,
European policy needs to be better formulated to provide a clearer
vision for the energy mix after 2030 period.
3. Will a supergrid help to balance intermittency
of electricity supply?
Power from some renewable plants, such as wind and
solar, varies during the day and week. Some see this as an insurmountable
problem, because up until now we have relied on coal or nuclear
to provide a fixed amount of power at all times. There is a struggle
to determine which type of infrastructure or management we choose
and which energy mix to favour as we move away from a polluting,
carbon intensive energy system.
Some important facts include:
demand fluctuates in a predictable way;
can work with big electricity users, so their peak demand moves
to a different part of the day, evening out the load on the overall
from renewable sources can be stored and "dispatched"
to where it is needed in a number of ways, using advanced grid
Wind-rich countries in Europe are already experiencing
conflict between renewable and conventional power. In Spain, where
a lot of wind and solar is now connected to the grid, gas power
is stepping in to bridge the gap between demand and supply. This
is because gas plants can be switched off or run at reduced power,
for example when there is low electricity demand or high wind
production. As we move to a mostly renewable electricity sector,
gas plants will be needed as backup for times of high demand and
low renewable production. Effectively, a kWh from a wind turbine
displaces a kWh from a gas plant, avoiding carbon dioxide emissions.
Renewable electricity sources such as thermal solar plants (CSP),
geothermal, hydro, biomass and biogas can gradually phase out
the need for natural gas. (See Case Studies for more). The gas
plants and pipelines would then progressively be converted for
Lines will be needed especially from areas with overproduction,
e.g. south of Europe in the summer, to areas with a high demand
like Germany. This allows a more efficient use of the installed
solar power. In winter months, the opposite could happen, when
a large oversupply of wind power is transported from the north
of Europe south to population centres. It is common for both wind
speeds and solar radiation to vary across Europe concurrently,
so interconnecting the variable renewables in effect "smoothes
out" the variations at any one location. Adding more grid
infrastructure increases security of supply and makes better use
of renewable energy sources. It also means backup capacity in
Europe can be used more economically because biomass, hydro or
gas plants in one region can be transferred to another region.
4. What are the implications for UK energy
policy of greater interconnection with other power markets?
A European-wide legal framework is required to build
and operate a crossborder transmission system. It should include
a regulatory approach for international transmission and continue
to harmonise network codes. Europe also requires accelerated standardisation
of transmission technology to move towards a truly international
power system. Cross-border markets for the day-ahead and intra-day
trading of power should be introduced to allow for a truly integrated
market capable of exploiting efficiencies. At the same time, European
energy regulators should allow for the international exchange
and accounting of reserve capacity.
5. Would new institutions be needed to operate
and regulate a supergrid?
The planning and development of Europe's power system
should be done with an overall view to integrating increasing
shares of renewable energy sources. The European Transmission
System Operators' (ENTSO-E) Ten year Network Development Plans
should reflect the renewable energy forecasts in line with the
Renewable Energy Directive.
At the same time, an independent European body should
be created to oversee and coordinate European grid planning and
developments. Its tasks should include also the development and
analysis of long-term scenarios and network development options.
17 See Greenpeace 'Battle of the Grids' Report, 2011,
pg. 5. Back
Ibid. pg. 21. Back