Networks will be more complex, need more investment and have a golden age before them
(27 February 2012) Electricity networks are gaining more importance in recent European policy discussions. The internal market obliges transmission operators to build more interconnection links. Electricity produced from renewables make the networks more complex.
Technological developments fuel a discussion over the smartness of networks. And it all needs to be financed. EPSU organized the meeting to consider these developments.
Michael Kilpper of DG Energy of the European Commission presented the Energy Roadmap 2050. He gave a general overview and focused on the challenges for the grids from more electricity produced by renewable energy sources and the need for massive investment. The Commission sees investment also coming from the private sector. Several initiatives are expected from the European Commission including a Communication on the Internal Market which will analyse the implementation and functioning of the internal market for electricity and gas in the Member States as well as suggest ways in which investments in capacity and networks can be made.
A clear focus on the future of the transmission networks in Europe was given by Geoff Feasy of ENTSO-E, the European Transmission System Operators for Electricity In his presentation he focused on the work of ENTSO-E to predict the the major transmission bottlenecks. A major discussion was over how much energy from renewable energy sources can be linked to the grid in the forth coming years and to describe the transmission infrastructure required until 2022; Another contentious point is the continued stress of ENTSO-E for further market integration which will achieve savings according to the organisation. As with the Commission, does ENTSO-E see a major role for private investments and in particular pension funds. The union group expressed its concerns over merchant lines driven for profits rather than the general interest. The next 10 year network development plan will be published in March.
Greenpeace’s Frauke Thies gave a challenging presentation on the implications for the networks from a large increase in renewable energy sources for investment, for interconnections as well as for base loads. This was a particular challenging aspect and further discussion will be needed. The presentation was based on the study of Greenpeace Battle of the Grids Greenpeace has also cooperated with several transmission operators to develop the Renewables Grid Initiative.
Jacky Davy of the French union CGT-FNME delegation in the French transmission company RTE made a presentation on the implications of supergrids for workers and general interest issues.
Areas for further work of EPSU were suggested such as:
The public interest needs to prevail in any discussion over networks as problems with the networks will harm large parts of the economy and society. Common criteria for network investment and operation will be very important especially if merchant lines are allowed by regulators. EPSU has expressed its concerns over private investment in networks
Qualifications of those working on networks (operation, maintenance, dispatching…) should be at a high level and comparable.
Investment in training should be part of the financing mechanism and permitted by the regulators
Project bonds could possibly be a way of financing investment
While it appears that the transmission companies invest in training this is less in the subcontractors. Transmission companies and regulators should encourage investment in training at this level too.
The meeting took place on 21 February 2012, Brussels. EPSU’s DGS Jan Willem Goudriaan participated.