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Over the next ten years, the European Union will invest around 1 trillion Euros updating an outdated energy system in order to save energy and meet climate change demands.


More than ever in the history of the Europe has technology and energy played such a huge role in nearly every aspect of daily life as it does today. That is why the European Union feels that it is necessary to upgrade its power grid system.

A proposal to do just that was adopted on November 17th 2010 by the European Commission. A report titled 'Energy infrastructure priorities for 2020 and beyond - A Blueprint for an integrated European energy network' was presented by EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Ottinger to outline the goals and plans for the near future. This updating scheme will include the cooperation of 27 European Union countries.

At an aggregate cost of nearly 1 trillion Euros, in the next ten years the EU will focus on updating the system to meet climate change demands and energy efficiency policy standards. According to the report, 500 billion Euros will be allocated to updating "networks, including electricity and gas distribution and transmission, storage, and smart grids. The new smart grid will use digital technology to monitor electricity flowing into the grid while controlling consumer demand. A similar undertaking is currently going in the U.S. (Click here to read about the U.S. system upgrade)

A smarter energy grid

This decade we are seeing the beginning of a transformation in the way we hope to see energy generated in the future, by renewable resources such as wind and solar power. The report states that some of the infrastructure challenges it hopes to overcome are meeting increasing energy demands as well as efficiently transporting and storing energy generated from renewables, with special emphasis on offshore wind generation capacities from the Northern Seas.

The EU has two legally binding targets. The first is to make sure that 20% of the total energy consumption comes from renewables and the second targeting a 20% greenhouse gas reduction, as compared to 1990 levels, by 2020. Currently the EU has less than 7 percent renewable energy contributing to their total grid system.

As proposed, the first ten year development plan (TYNDP), which will make Europe’s electricity grids fit for 2020, focuses priorities mainly on these four items:

1. Offshore grid in the Northern Seas and connection to Northern as well as Central Europe- to integrate and connect energy production capacities in the Northern Seas with consumption centers in Northern and Central Europe and hydro storage facilities in the Alpine region and in Nordic countries.

2. Interconnections in South Western Europe- to accommodate wind, hydro and solar, in particular between the Iberian Peninsula and France, and further connecting with Central Europe, to make best use of Northern African renewable energy sources and the existing infrastructure between North Africa and Europe.

3. Connections in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe- strengthening of the regional network in North-South and East-West power flow directions, in order to assist market and renewables integration, including connections to storage capacities and integration of energy islands.

4. Completion of the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP)- integration of the Baltic States into the European market through reinforcement of their internal networks and strengthening of interconnections with Finland, Sweden and Poland and through reinforcement of the Polish internal grid and interconnections east and westward.

*NOTE: These four descriptions are taken directly from pages 10/11 of the report and you can see the zones described in the image at the top of the page.

(Click here to access the report)

According to an article on IPS, "Today's grid works in one way only - electricity flows from giant power plants to consumers. In the near future, however, electricity will be generated in small plants and it will flow in both directions - from generators to consumers and back. It will be consumed when it is the cheapest, and can be stored when it is not being used.”

IPS international news service declares from sourcing the report’s official figures, that “the energy sector is currently responsible for producing more than 80 percent of total greenhouse gases emissions (GHG) in the EU. To reduce this number and boost energy efficiency, the new plan requires that renewable sources of energy must constitute 20 percent of the region’s overall energy consumption and that regional GHG emissions must be reduced by 20 percent.”

Employing large-scale storage capacities would drastically reduce the cost of producing renewable energy, promoting a more feasible choice for energy suppliers. It would also ensure the integration of renewable energy generation capacities within Northern and Southern Europe and improve the existing infrastructure to meet growing energy demands. These are the two biggest problems with the current infrastructure in Europe.

Natural gas supply

The report also emphasizes that new infrastructure be built to withstand a projected steady increase in demand for natural gas well into the future. Most of Europe’s gas is imported from other countries. Currently it imports 57% of its gas and these imports are expected to reach about 73-79% by 2020 with rising demands. Members feel that it is necessary to increase the resilience and strength of the gas system in order to diversify supply and provide infrastructure provide uninterrupted oil supplies in the case of a disruption. The trillion dollar estimated budget for the next ten years with also be directed at fixing up the gas supply infrastructure.

One of the main issues with the current infrastructure handling the gas supply is that it is only allowing the flow in one direction. Ottinger stated that problems with gas flows to Southern Europe were “hindered by a lack of reverse flow options and inadequate interconnection and storage infrastructures.” This means that if there are disruptions in the system, it is not easily detectable and is complicated and timely to fix. There are several ways that these improvements would make to the system more stable. The first hopeful is to diversify sources at the EU level and to bring gas from the Caspian Basin, Central Asia and the Middle East to the EU. Currently the EU is receiving gas supply from 3 corridors: the Northern Corridor from Norway, Eastern corridor from Russia and the Mediterranean Corridor from Africa. Northern Corridor from Norway, Eastern corridor from Russia, Mediterranean Corridor from Africa. Also to remove internal bottlenecks in the North-South Corridor in Western Europe

In the future, efficiency can be achieved by implementing transparency and information platform with the smart grid to ensure good practice concerning issues with deployment across Europe.

All of these changes that would boost the energy grid will undoubtedly have a positive effect for the environment and people by reducing emissions and the threat of global warming. It will also secure that natural gas will continue to be a reliable source of energy for Europe into the future.

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