17 yrs
EWEA Activities, BB200612

EWEA Policy Conference on Large Scale Integration


The European power system was at the heart of discussions during a policy conference organised by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the European Transmission System Operators (ETSO) and the European Commission on 7 and 8 November in Brussels. Experts and stakeholders discussed the European power infrastructure, the need to modernise the grid, increase interconnection between member states, and adapt the power system to new technologies such as wind energy. Internal electricity market aspects, financing needs and possibilities and regulatory issues were also discussed.

The input to this two-day conference, attended by more than 250 delegates, came from different stakeholders involved in wind power integration: European institutions, wind turbine manufacturers, developers, wind farm operators, Transmission Systems Operators (TSOs), research institutes and governmental institutions.

Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs gave the opening address describing the achievements of wind energy growth over the past 35 years. “Europe’s dominant position is now being challenged by other countries with significant expansion in Asia and America. I am pleased about this, but it’s very clear that Europe should remain the leader. Therefore, political and technological challenges need to be addressed.”

“Wind power’s share of the EU-25 countries demand is almost 3%, the annual output of 83 TWh is equivalent to the electricity consumption of Portugal plus Denmark. EWEA has set targets of 22% by 2030, although I think this could actually be higher if energy efficiency is increased. Wind power is an essential and basic source to satisfy the present and future energy needs for the EU citizens. Our competitive advantage lies in environmental energy technologies, and I think this is where our future is; wind energy is the best example of where we have made results.” He also highlighted a number of issues, in particular the need for a strong, efficient and liberalized EU energy market.

In relation to technology, the Commissioner said: “The Commission support for R&D is necessary and will continue in the 7 th framework programme (FP7). We will focus on further reducing costs, improvement of short-term forecasting, storage and minimising the environmental impact. The newly-born European Technology Platform for Wind Energy will be a great way to address these aspects.” While on a more political note: “We should concentrate on offshore wind power and more efficient integration into the European transmission and distribution networks. We will use Intelligent Energy for Europe and TEN-Energy programs, as well as the 7th Framework research programme to support projects like EWIS and TradeWind that are starting now.”

Member of the European Parliament, Claude Turmes highlighted a vision: “I share the dream with others here of transforming the North Sea from an oil and gas resource to a wind and marine energy resource. This would resolve all our dependency. Renewable energy is a peace project for the world. If we manage to harness the North Sea wind and marine resources, the rest of the world will follow our example …. We are at a moment in history where we must decide: whether to go back to the methods of the seventies or forward to the 21 century with decentralised power, phasing in substantial amounts of wind energy, biomass and cogeneration while being energy efficient. To enable this, we need to address the challenges of grid integration. The present electricity market however is blocking innovation and is biased for old technologies.”

President of the European Association of Transmission Systems Operators, Daniel Dobbeni said: “System operators and the wind industry need to work together. It is in the interest of TSO’s to have a liberalised market, a more balanced energy mix, and higher energy efficiency” He highlighted four main issues from a TSO point of view. First, the long delays needed to upgrade the network. Then the need for wind power plants to provide grid support (like low voltage ride through). Number three: the challenge to operate a Europe-wide system that starts behaving like a single grid, but has not yet been upgraded accordingly. And last but not least: the single electricity market introduces high costs for TSO’s which should be recuperated by higher tariffs.

Head of the R&D Division in the Field of Renewable Energies of the German Ministry of Environment, Joachim Nick-Leptin - speaking on behalf of Director General of the German Ministry of Environment, Urban Rid – reminded the 4 th of November power cut to clearly show that more investments are needed in grids, not only for wind but also to improve the market. He underlined two important news items from Germany: the German offshore test field in Borkum that will come in line in 2008 (12 x 5 MW) and will be operated by 3 TSO’s. And even more important: the adoption of the Law on Acceleration of Infrastructure Investments whereby TSO’s are required to invest in the grid connection for offshore wind. In addition he announced that Germany is ready to act as a driving force behind the Offshore Action Plan during the coming EU presidency.

The question of how wind energy is fitting into the European Lisbon agenda was dealt with in a lively panel debate, introduced by five speakers. The audience was reminded that Europe was built in the early 50’s on the foundations of energy. In the spirit of Jacques Delors, we should proceed in deploying a common European energy policy, working with targets and timetables. The representatives of the European Commission Alex Ellis (Adviser of the Cabinet of the President Barroso) and Jean Vinois (Head of the Energy Policy & Security of Supply Unit, DG TREN) emphasised the central place of Energy Policy Development. Europe has shown its strength: it has been capable of lowering the oil bill. For them, we are stronger than we maybe think (but not always, see example of negotiations with Russia about gas). Renewable energy is the future but a nice transition should be made, and options (energy mix) should be kept open.

Representing the manufacturing industry, Vestas’ International Policy Advisor, Aidan Cronin said that rather than pointing fingers at system imperfections (hint to system fault on 4 th of November’s power cut), TSO’s and the wind sector should cooperate to develop future power system concepts that correspond better to future needs. Then questions are: how to arrive at some speed in grid upgrade process? How to provide drivers for sustainable investments in a 100% liberalized market? Without a better grid the Lisbon agenda cannot be achieved.

Ian Mays, Chief Executive of RES, stated that global challenges (global warming and depletion of resources) are happening simultaneously and can potentially disrupt the system. The analysis of what we are facing - a gap between demand and supply if going on business as usual with fuels - should lead us to conclude that drastic changes have to be made. For renewable future we need strong political leadership, strong policies and a changed infrastructure, and there is little time left; we cannot rely on market forces alone for the necessary infrastructure investments.

Christian Kjaer , Chief Executive of EWEA, stated that Europe has the chance to turn the energy challenges into an opportunity and could be followed by the rest of the world. Summarizing EWEA’s vision, he gave several recommendations on how to face up to these challenges : infrastructure needs, incentives to build them, full ownership unbundling of transmission and production activities, the need for a European regulator, the need to develop technologies for DSM and smart grids, setting targets, and the need for an offshore policy. “Wind energy will be able to compete on costs in the very near future, but to prove it we need markets to function. The infrastructure is a crucial element in creating real, fair and undistorted EU-wide competition”.

Going Offshore

The European offshore Supergrid project and its 10 GW pilot project were explained by its main proposers: Eddie O’Connor, Chief Executive of Airtricity and Bo Normark, Senior Vice President of ABB Power Technologies Management. These projects intend to combine on a large scale the harnessing of offshore wind resources with the strengthening of European interconnection, thus providing a cost-effective, secure and carbon-free supply and improving the internal electricity market.

European Commission’s vision on how to improve European interconnection was clarified by Wolfgang Kerner, Policy Officer in DG TREN. The Priority Interconnection Plan - presently being prepared as a part of the Strategic Energy Review and to be agreed between the Member States and the EU - focuses at 36 interconnection projects. The actual process however is slow and the question is whether its pace will meet the ambitions of the wind power industry. The foreseen Regional Network Planning could provide a new opportunity for renewable energy to use the process to provide grid infrastructure upgrade.

Imar Doornbos, Senior Administrator in the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs provided some insight in the ongoing informal discussions between the Member States – also known as the Egmond–Copenhagen-Berlin process - which should ultimately lead to a European Offshore Action Plan.

An example of how offshore grids are regulated in the UK was explained by John Overton, Assistant Director of the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Based on consultation of the market parties, the government took the decision to realise grid extensions for offshore through regulated approach, rather than merchant approach (in use in most countries). The approach that will be adopted in Germany is basically the same one, however the differences on the level of rules and conditions are quite substantial.

Head of Project Development and M&A of Vattenfall, Göran Dandanell presented its (planned) 640 MW Krieger Flak project in Baltic Sea with connections to 3 countries. In a way this can be considered as an example of a mini transnational grid. One of the challenges is use of the connections as merchant lines.

The last panel discussion on the first day brought forward the vision and opinions of system operators and developers on feasibility of large-scale integration.

In general, at present penetration, the system handles wind power well without major modifications, but with increasing penetrations, new and additional options for balancing (including the wind farms themselves), improved forecasting and more system flexibility will be needed, beside new lines. Hydropower is a very good balancing partner for wind power, but it is not always possible to extend, even in countries with a large (physical) potential such as Portugal. Wind power plants might have to participate in the balancing too. Strikingly, the advantages of using interconnectors for balancing hence using larger control areas are in general not recognised. Solving institutional inefficiencies in power market was mentioned by Michael Payne, General Manager of Shell Wind Energy as a prerequisite to drive down integration costs and to facilitate new entrants like wind.

On the second day of the conference Policy Officer of DG TREN, Beatriz Yordi highlighted the necessity of fair grid access, sufficient grid capacity and proper internal market conditions in order to meet the objectives set in the RES Directive. The Commission is working hard at the Renewable Energy Road Map.

Andrew Garrad, Managing Director of Garrad Hassan Group provided a helicopter view of wind power technology development. It has only been a few years since wind farms are growing into real power plants. The question: “will turbines survive?” has developed into: “can turbines support the grid?” Integration will require a system approach on a big scale. Examples of large penetration without much interconnection, storage etc. can be seen in Germany and Spain. But there is still much to learn in order to operate systems at high penetration. There is an increased need for proper connection codes, and these techno-political tools should be worked out in co-operation between manufacturers and system operators. The role of forecasting wind power is to make wind power look conventional – and now efforts have to concentrate at accurately determining the forecast uncertainty.

Hannele Holttinen of VTT Research Centre presented the work of an IEA working group (Task 25) which brings together international studies looking at the integration costs of wind power.

Because of the diversity of power systems and market mechanisms there is a large range in results. The report of the IEA Task 25 aims at enabling comparison and interpretation of the studies and recommends harmonised methods.

To conclude this two days conference, Frans Van Hulle, Senior Technical Advisor at EWEA summarized the main challenges regarding grid issue in Europe:


Wind energy is an essential resource (climate, security, depletion of fossil resources) in the generation mix to supply power to European citizens. Wind is maybe not the silver bullet but certainly is one of the best answers to today’s energy challenges. In order to enable proper deployment of this mainstream source, targets and timetables are needed.

Liberalised market conditions are needed for a cost-effective integration of wind power in the European power supply. The issues to address in order to successfully integrate wind are very much in line with the basic elements of the intended European Energy Policy: grid expansion, market redesign and regulatory reform.

Strengthening of the European interconnection is essential. A European framework for improving interconnection exists (TEN-E, preparation of Priority Interconnection Plan) a.o. to offer the possibility of international balancing. However the process of grid upgrade needs to be even more accelerated. For large scale wind power utilisation, the grid is the key: in smoothening fluctuations and delivering energy.


Significant wind integration is already happening now, under imperfect conditions. This is showing clearly the areas where more co-operation is needed between the stakeholders (TSO’s, wind industry, market parties, authorities).

Major opportunities supporting wind power deployment are: the fast growth of installed wind power in Europe, the existence of support schemes and financing opportunities. The progress in wind power technology from ‘mechanical’ generator to controllable power plant is certainly a factor that will speed up the integration. Initiatives in the market such as a large offshore Supergrid offer advantages for cross-border trade.


Power systems can handle the present penetration levels. But for larger penetrations improvements are needed : better forecasting and imbalance settlement, more balancing solutions and flexibility and a continuous effort on grid connection codes (as techno-political tools).

Grid upgrades are necessary. Significant investments in the transmission network are crucial to improving the functioning and the sustainability of the European internal electricity market. The physical planning of new lines however is much more a constraint than the costs, and the administrative/legal barriers have to be addressed. Developments of regulatory schemes and financing solutions such as shown during the conference should be further pursued.


Large scale wind power integration is not possible without a strong co-operation between wind power industry and system operators. The spirit of co-operation is present. Specific common work areas are grid codes and methods for evaluation of impact of wind on power systems. An immediate opportunity is the co-operation between the two recently started wind power integration projects TradeWind and EWIS.


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