Building bridges for our electricity

» By | Published 06 Feb 2012

Susanne Nies

Some of the windiest conditions – and best electricity generating opportunities – are found out at sea or in remote on-land spots. But if we, as people with cars and boats to transport us, struggle to get to Europe’s more isolated locations, electricity has an even greater battle to travel from some sources to demand.

What is more, electricity faces an uphill struggle to travel between EU countries since there is no single market for electricity in Europe, and very limited infrastructure to carry it across borders. For example, Spain has an interconnection rate of just 3.6%, making it a virtual island.

Throughout Europe there is a huge need for massive investment in electricity grids, because the system is ageing and demand for electricity is rising. The whole system must be re-vamped – alongside a rethink of the rules surrounding Europe’s electricity markets – to meet our 2020 targets and to take the whole of Europe to a green electricity future.

Susanne Nies from Eurelectric – the EU association of the electricity industry in Europe – described the EU power grids to Wind Directions as “no longer fit for purpose”.

For renewables in particular, an offshore grid, onshore grid reinforcements and cross-border electricity exchanges would allow more offshore wind energy to be brought online and surplus renewable electricity to be transported more widely, removing the need to turn off wind farms in times of high production. This would also boost competition in the electricity sector with the ultimate effect of pushing out expensive polluting technologies and reducing power prices for the consumer.

It would also lower the risk of electricity blackouts, which cost countries a phenomenal amount – for Germany, it is estimated that a full blackout would cost around €500 million per hour.

The importance of building a full power grid and a single electricity market in Europe have been emphasised recently by Energy Commissioner Oettinger, and the Commission has published draft legislation on energy infrastructure, which should help the issue forward. EWEA’s “Freedom for Electricity” campaign and statement also highlight the need for the EU institutions to act quickly: see

Read the full article in the latest Wind Directions