Integrating renewables into the electricity grid

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Europe has put in place legislation to promote renewable energies but is now faced with the challenge of integrating increasing amounts of intermittent power sources like solar and wind into the electricity grid, running the risk of destabilising it.

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Overview

The EU's 2001 directive on the promotion of electricity from renewable energy sources established a framework for integrating renewable energies into Europe's grid. The directive required member states to take measures to ensure that transmission and distribution system operators "guarantee the transport and distribution of electricity produced from renewable energy sources".

Acknowledging persistent large variations in the degree of integration achieved by member states, the framework was strengthened in the EU's new Renewable Energy Directive, agreed in 2008.

The law requires member states to provide either priority or guaranteed access to the grid for electricity produced from renewable sources in order to achieve the objective of producing 20% of Europe's energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Furthermore, it obliges EU governments develop grid infrastructure, intelligent networks and storage facilities in order to secure the operation of the electricity system while ramping up production of renewables.

In addition, many countries have put in place national incentive schemes to accelerate the grid integration of renewables, such as feed-in tariffs in Germany and other countries (see Euractiv LinksDossier on 'Supporting renewable energies').

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