The Netherlands: Renewable Energy Expansion Requires Large Investments in Electricity Infrastructure
A significant increase in the share of renewable energy to 40-55 percent of the European energy mix by 2050 will place great demands on the European electricity infrastructure. Meeting these demands will require considerable investments in new infrastructure to make more efficient use of existing infrastructure.
The EU-funded project “SUSPLAN” (acronym for Planning for Sustainability) has over the last three years (2008-2011) assessed the energy infrastructure needs to allow for large scale integration of renewable energy sources in Europe in the timeframe to 2050.
Consumers as energy producers
Over the last few centuries, the development of the European electricity system has taken place within the framework of a national utility perspective which has to a great extent emphasised large, centralised conventional power production. Investment decisions concerning new energy have typically been made at national level.
In the future, energy production will to a larger extent be based on local or regional renewable energy sources (RES). In the future, many consumers are also likely to become energy producers feeding into the infrastructures. These changes will require very different electricity and gas infrastructures as well as decision making processes than what we see today.
Lack of infrastructure capacity is already a significant barrier for further deployment of RES-based energy production in many regions in Europe.
Based on a storyline approach, with two key driving forces – technology development and public attitude regarding climate change and environmental issues – the SUSPLAN project developed, compared and synthesised scenarios in order to identify the best development pathways for the integration of RES at regional and transnational level.
SUSPLAN analysis showed that a strong increase in the penetration of especially large scale renewable generating units, such as offshore wind parks, will have a large impact on the future need for electricity infrastructure upgrades. S
ince most favourable wind locations generally lay in South-Western and North-Western Parts of Europe, a substantial share of future investments needs to be spent on strengthening the electricity corridors from South and North-Western Europe to Central and Eastern Europe.
Another interesting observation is the strong interaction between the gas and electricity markets, which implies that different developments in RES shares will impact not only on electricity infrastructure but also on gas infrastructure in Europe. Few studies have previously analysed this interaction.
ECN, along with the whole SUSPLAN consortium, has concluded that the following strategies & actions are needed to accommodate for large scale integration of RES in the European energy market in the time frame to 2050:
- Establish long term (>10 year) common planning procedures for infrastructure development
- Develop a better framework for transnational infrastructure expansion
- Develop a long term vision for offshore wind development
- Support the development of coherent network extension plans for the entire EU
- Integrate electricity and gas network planning
Press release, September 3, 2012; Image: SUSPLAN