EU electricity roads status: work in progress...
The latest figures published by Eurelectric show that 30% of EU grid infrastructure is over 40 years old. The required investment at the distribution level, where most solar is connected, is between €38 bn/year in 2021 and 2030, and €61 bn/year between 2030 and 2050.
The lack of investments is freezing the energy transition and EU RES targets. By 2030, 70% of renewables are expected to be connected to distribution grids. Delays on a future-proof grid infrastructure are provoking:
- Decrease in solar being connected. Grids are getting more congested at TSO and DSO levels. The pipeline of projects to be connected is growing.
- Increase in solar being curtailed. Grids have no flexibility at TSO and DSO levels. Solar energy is being wasted
What needs to be done?
- Availability of grid capacity mapping at the substation level for project developers' consultation: All Member States MUST request TSOs and DSOs to design and make available grid capacity maps, as has already been done recently in Austria. This would accelerate the process and make solar deployment more efficient.
- Ensure the implementation of a harmonised national rulebook for grid connection procedures and promotion of EU standards.
- Require that regulators recognise flexibility solutions when connecting to the grid such as hybridisation of systems at the same grid connection. Hybrid systems (PV + Storage or/and RES) should not be neglected or made complex. These are readily available and grid-beneficial systems that don’t need extra grid infrastructure. We just have to create a swifter process for complementary technologies and projects by facilitating hybridisation at the same grid connection point.
- Require that regulators promote and allow the possibility for grid users (generators and prosumers) to request systems operators for non-firm grid connections and power control systems.
- Require Member States and regulators to digitalise grid connection and communication procedures, as well as further improving the grid connection procedure for prosumer PV (simple notification).
- Renewables and long-term grid development scenarios should be done together: longer-term grid planning should be developed in close consultation with stakeholders and in line with political objectives.
- Regulatory Sandboxes for prosumer planning: Regulators should support and incentivise good tools such as Regulatory Sandboxes. This would support SOs on efficient deployment and interaction of new grid user models, such as prosumers and energy-sharing models.
- Inclusion of flexibility assessment into the network planning and investment. Investments are also about smart flexibility solutions, making the most of flexible technologies. Energy Storage and Demand Response are tools that allow for more flexibility on the grid. Greece is a good example of incentivising Energy Storage Deployment to support the lack of flexibility on the grid. In 2022, the EC approved, under the Covid-recovery fund, Greece's plan of 341 million euros for 900 MW of grid-scale energy storage capacity. Solar PV needs 200 GW of energy storage in the EU by 2030.
- Better recognition of OPEX and anticipatory investments with political oversight. Governments and NRAs must ensure that System operators (TSOs and DSOs) are included in their grid planning alternatives to grid expansion (focus behind CAPEX), and based on this progress, appropriate incentives to system operators must take place. This means implementing remuneration on OPEX and on SOs Performance.
- Network development plans and investments are political, and should evolve, but they are not being monitored by the EU. Member States must ensure progress is being made, e.g. the implementation of the Clean Energy Package adopted in 2019 must be ensured.