Commission encourages research co-operation for electricity grids

April 7, 2006

Brussels, 6 April 2006

21% of Europe’s energy could be produced by renewable sources, but existing electricity grids are not keeping pace with changes within the energy industry. Future trans-European grids will have to provide all consumers with a highly reliable cost-effective power supply, which make the best possible use of both large centralised generators and smaller distributed power sources throughout Europe. To confront this challenge, the European Technology Platform “SmartGrids” will meet in Brussels to agree its objectives and strategies for the development of electricity networks of the future that respond to the needs of industry and consumers.

“Europe’s electricity markets and networks lie at the heart of our energy system, and must evolve to meet the new challenges” said Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Science and Research, who attended the meeting. “This Technology platform brings together industry, transmission and distribution system operators, research bodies and regulators to make sure that research is connected properly to the needs of the industry and its consumers.”

Electricity networks have been the link between electricity producers and consumers with great success for many decades. The situation that Europe faces today is that their fundamental architecture is based on the needs of large, mostly carbon-based power generation, which are often distant from the consumers they feed. But at the same time the European energy landscape is changing, with a growing presence of “distributed generation”, that is, smaller-scale local power facilities. Examples would be wind turbines or solar (photovoltaic) panels. The challenge is to develop electricity grids in such as way that they are adaptable to both types of electricity generation.

This is why the SmartGrids Technology Platform will today present its Vision for the development of secure and sustainable electricity networks for Europe, looking to 2020 and beyond. There will also be a first discussion of the Strategic Research Agenda to implement this Vision. The principal objective will be to increase the efficiency, safety and reliability of the European electricity grid by putting in place a more open, interactive network for both customers and operators and removing obstacles to the inclusion of distributed and renewable energy sources. Ultimately the system could be developed so that even individual homes that have their own electricity-generating sources, such as a wind turbine or solar panels, could sell unused power back to the grid.

It is expected that the research priorities identified by this sector will provide invaluable input to European and national research, development and demonstration programmes in the coming years. The advantage of the approach taken by the Technology Platform is that all the major players are on board, covering technical, commercial and regulatory aspects, and provide a forum to discuss future developments.

The European Commission has supported research into electricity grids in the Sixth Research Framework Programmes with about €50m. Projects have mainly focused on integrating distributed and renewable generation into the electricity system. Research has also focused on what are known as “enabling technologies” such as electricity storage devices, power electronic converters and high temperature superconducting devices, and regulatory issues
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Item source: IP/06/473 Date: 06/04/2006

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