Europe’s electricity industry calls for €400bn investment in distribution grids

Jean Bernard Levy is President of the European electricity industry association Eurelectric and CEO of the Paris-based electric utility company EDF. [EPA-EFE/JULIEN DE ROSA]

Jean-Bernard Lévy, the chairman and CEO of French utility EDF and current president of power industry association Eurelectric, has urged EU countries to invest in distribution grids in order to sustain Europe’s move towards climate neutrality.

“We consider that between now and 2030, about €400 billion of investments are needed in distribution grids,” Lévy said during the Eurelectric Power Summit last Wednesday (15 June).

Alongside this, Lévy called for easier access to EU funds and faster permitting procedures to speed up construction of new power lines.

“It’s not all about solar farms and wind energy,” he added, “it is also about transmission and distribution.”

Electrification is seen as a key enabler for the decarbonisation of the economy and achieve energy independence amid rising tensions with Russia, Europe’s main gas supplier.

However, the share of electrification in the EU economy is stagnating at around 22% at the moment, and further measures are needed to support investments in Europe, Eurelectric says.

Europe needs to double electricity share to meet climate goals – EU official

The European Green Deal to be unveiled in early 2020 will pursue a strategy of increasing the share of electricity in the EU’s energy mix, the new head of the European Commission’s energy department told a conference in Brussels Wednesday (6 November).

Warning against hydrogen import dependence

Electrification is expected to play a central role in driving Europe’s move towards climate neutrality, with plans to connect new sectors such as buildings, transport and industry to clean power sources like wind and solar.

By mid-century, 53% of Europe’s energy needs – more than double the current amount – needs to be met by renewable or low-carbon power sources like nuclear, the European Commission said in its 2050 energy strategy.

And for sectors which cannot be electrified directly – like heavy industry, freight, maritime transport, and aviation – so-called “indirect electrification” is seen as the way forward, with the European Union planning to ramp up production of clean hydrogen from water electrolysis.

“Electrification is the key priority to implement,” said Catharina Sikow-Magny, director at the European Commission’s energy department.

“We need to electrify as much as possible, everywhere as feasible, and then leave what cannot be electrified today for the molecules that do step in,” she told participants at the Eurelectric Power Summit last week.

However, Eurelectric President Lévy highlighted the need to maximise hydrogen production within Europe in order to avoid depending on foreign suppliers.

“This would still be an H2 dependency,” he warned.

“We could agree that it could be quite risky that in 20 years, all of a sudden, we discover that there is a problem in one of the countries which is so important for the supply [of hydrogen]. All of a sudden we find ourselves in the same situation as what has happened when Russia invaded Ukraine,” he added.

Hydrogen will be ‘pivotal element’ in future economy, says EU climate chief

Hydrogen will be essential for Europe’s future economy, particularly to store and transport green energy, EU climate chief Frans Timmermans told the European Parliament on Thursday (28 April).

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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