In order to deal with the explosion of renewables, Europe needs “a smarter approach” to grid expansion according to two industry groups.

The Renewables Grid Initiative, a collaboration between the EU’s major transmission system operators (TSOs) and environmental NGOs, and WindEurope, the wind sector trade body, called this week for “more strategic” investments in grid rollouts in order to meet Europe’s target of integrating 35 per cent renewable power onto the grid by 2030. 

“To deliver an adequate grid in Europe and further reduce system costs, the extension of electricity infrastructure needs to be done in a smarter way,” the groups said.

To this end, they recommend a three-step approach that includes closer collaboration between renewable power producers and grid operators in order to clarify where to invest in additional infrastructure.

If Europe’s member states were to detail how much renewable power they plan to deploy post-2020 as part of their National Energy & Climate Plans, previous problems with grid bottlenecks could be avoided, the groups said.  

And it added that, along with the expansion of renewables, planning for the development of new transmission lines must consider the electrification of other sectors.  

Increasing electrification of sectors such as heating, transport and industry means the EU will need to prioritize extensions and upgrades to electricity grids over gas grids when allocating funds, the groups warned.  

And they said power market software also “needs to be fixed”, with grid support services increasingly commoditized.

“New wind power plants are technically able to provide these services and many countries already impose these responsibilities on wind farms. But many markets still do not allow wind power plants to provide and be compensated for these services,” they said.

“In the next decade, massive growth of renewables as well as related grid development need to be supported,” said Renewables Grid Initiative CEO Antonella Battaglini. “This can only be realized if we at the same time protect nature and involve society in the process. This requires multidisciplinary skills and collaborative processes to properly address people’s concerns and desires for a more sustainable and at the same time affordable energy future.”

And WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said: “The energy sector is transforming rapidly.  This transformation needs a common vision, shared by both the renewables and grid industries.

“The investments in new electricity grids are essential to ensure Europe can fully exploit its wind resource,” he added. “A smarter approach to how we develop the grids will allow wind energy to provide an ever greater part of consumers’ energy needs.  This will be key in meeting an ambitious renewables target for 2030.”

Europe’s grid development is a key topic of the conference programme at Electrify Europe in Vienna in June. For more details click here.