WindEurope calls for 'smarter grid roll-out' to integrate renewables

EUROPE: More strategic investment in electricity grids needs to take place if renewables are to meet 35% of Europe's energy needs, WindEurope has argued.

WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson (left) at the Grids meet Renewables conference in Brussels

Better collaboration between energy producers and grid operators, prioritising electricity grids over gas grids and encouraging wind farm operators to provide support services would help integrate renewables more effectively, the group argued.

This strategy was "key" to Europe meeting a proposed renewables target of 35% by 2030, WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson claimed at the Grids meet Renewables conference in Brussels, Belgium this week.

Smart grids, demand response, flexible wind turbines and storage are already helping to integrate renewables across the continent, WindEurope claimed.

But to deliver an adequate grid in Europe and to further reduce system costs, the extension of electricity infrastructure needs to be done in a "smarter way", it added.

Renewable energy producers and grid operators should collaborate more closely to jointly plan transmission lines.

Countries could also help provide clarity by detailing the volumes of renewable energy they will deploy beyond 2020 in their National Energy and Climate Plans — blueprints for how countries intend to meet climate goals between 2021 and 2030.

Visibility of volumes would help operators invest in infrastructure more intelligently and avoid grid bottlenecks.

Elsewhere, the EU must prioritise electricity grids over gas grids to accommodate increasing electrification.

Four major transmission lines across Europe designed to aid the integration of renewables received more than €650 million in European Union support funding last month.

These include the 580 kilometre SuedOstLink, which would connect wind power generated in the north of Germany to consumption centres in the south, and the 280 kilometre Biscay Gulf projet, which is planned to increase interconnection between France and Spain from 2.8GW to 5GW.

WindEurope described these as "good examples" of the EU prioritising support for electricity grids over gas grids through its Connecting Europe Facility — an EU fund to promote infrastructure projects.

The trade body called for increasing the use of grid support software whereby renewable energy generators can ramp up and down supply according to demand.

New wind farms are technically able to provide these services and many countries already impose these responsibilities, WindEurope argued, but many markets do not allow wind farms to be compensated for this service.

"The energy sector is transforming rapidly. This transformation needs a common vision, shared by both the renewables and grid industries," WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson told delegates. 

"The investments in new electricity grids are essential to ensure Europe can fully exploit its wind resource.

"A smarter approach to how we develop the grids will allow wind energy to provide an even greater part of consumers’ energy needs. This will be key in meeting an ambitious renewables target for 2030," Dickson added. 

Following the decision last month, by members of the European Parliament to increase the renewable energy target of 35% by 2030 — an increase on the 27% target proposed by the European Council — negotiations between the three branches of the EU to reconcile the eight-percentage-point difference in targets are due to begin.