Wind wire: Grid expansion

German and Dutch transmission network companies Vattenfall Europe Transmission (VET) and Tennet have joined forces with environmental pressure groups to form the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI).

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It is promoting the need for a co-ordinated expansion of electricity grids across Europe to enable maximum integration of renewables. A pan-European grid needs to meet the needs of both large scale renewables, such as offshore wind, and smaller decentralised plant, says the RGI. It must also connect both to existing and new sources of energy storage, such as the Nordic and Alpine hydroelectric systems. Berlin-based think tank Thema 1 set up the RGI supported by the European Climate Foundation. Germany's VET and its Dutch counterpart Tennet are its first members, along with non-governmental environmental groups the World Wildlife Fund and Germanwatch. Under the RGI, VET and Tennet are involved in projects examining the feasibility of offshore power grids in the Baltic Sea and North Sea, respectively. VET has responsibility for connecting German Baltic Sea offshore projects to the onshore network. The Dutch government is considering handing similar responsibilities to Tennet for projects in the Dutch exclusive economic zone of the North Sea. The network companies are keen to ensure that electricity generated offshore can be brought to market efficiently. RGI says investment in onshore grid infrastructure to reinforce current lines, add new high-voltage direct-current lines for low-loss long distance power transport and to equip the grid with advanced controls, information management systems and sophisticated meters is "an economic, energy and climate security imperative."

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