This article is part of our special report Wind Energy.
A more coordinated approach to electricity grid planning is needed if Europe is to reap the benefits of large-scale investment in renewable energies, said large EU power firms and the wind sector in a joint statement yesterday (9 June).
"A truly European approach to grid planning [is] crucial to the large-scale deployment of renewable energy," said the European Wind Energy Association and Eurelectric, a trade group representing large power companies such as EDF and E.ON.
The joint declaration stresses the importance of linking the ten-year network development plan drawn up by European grid operators (ENTSO-E) with EU member states' roadmaps for the development of renewable energy, due to be published later this month.
"As soon as they are published, National Renewable Action Plans (NREAPs) must be incorporated into the current pilot ten-year network development plan," the joint statement stresses.
Integrating increasing amounts of renewable energy into the electricity grid became the next challenge for Europe when EU leaders backed plans to source 20% of the bloc's overall energy needs from renewables by 2020.
The challenge hinges on the intermittent nature of renewables and their uneven geographical distribution. For instance, the best wind energy spots are located in the north during winter, while solar radiation is strongest in the Mediterranean area during summer.
Integrating large amounts of renewable electricity will therefore require massive upgrades to the grid so that it can be more responsive to variations in supply and demand.
"The EU 2020 targets must not be undermined by inadequate grid enhancements projected in the ten-year network development plan," the two associations say in their joint letter. Above all, they stress the need for "a pan-European vision" on planning grid infrastructure, not just "a compilation of national plans".
The declaration also underlines the importance of linking national electricity markets with one another. "Integration of wholesale markets, through the development of cross-border intra-day and balancing markets, will contribute decisively to reducing congestion […] and integrating renewable energy sources in the most economically sound way," the statement says.
Hans ten Berge, secretary-general of Eurelectric, called for "a real top-down" approach to grid planning at European level and "integrated intra-day and balancing markets".