While one of the main aims of the Juncker Commission is to link the electricity networks of the Member States with each other within the framework of the “Energy Union“, this ambition still requires major efforts from Europe.
Last March, Portugal has exceeded 100% renewable energy and produced more renewable energy than it used, due to a lack of an extended connected network or a significant possibility of storage. This problem is not new, however, and it’s in this context that the European executive has set itself the goal that at least 10% of the electricity produced by a State may be transported to one of its neighbours by 2020, and 15% by 2030. Seventeen Member States have already reached their 2020 target.
In fact, better interconnection and greater flexibility of the networks would allow Europe to ensure its security of supply, to achieve its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, while reducing wholesale prices of electricity. The Portuguese example shows the extent of the achievements that are yet to be made, particularly with regard to the peripheral regions of Europe (Iberian Peninsula, South-east Europe as well as Poland and Ireland) to compensate the delays related to the infrastructure networks and the insufficient interconnections between the countries.
Since 2015, the Commission has increased investments and announced that it will take about 180 billion euro of investment until 2030 to “modernize and expand” the European networks. It also published at the end of November 2017 a list of some 100 “Projects of Common Interest” (PCIs), projects that are funded by European funds, including the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). With a new list of PCIs being established every two years, the next one, the fourth, will be published in 2019. These projects include, for example, the submarine link project in the Bay of Biscay between France and Spain or the interconnection between France and Ireland, planned for 2025. It’s also within this framework that EirGrid in Ireland and EDF in France have decided to collaborate within the EU-SysFlex project, to propose a roadmap for networks and interconnection.
Discussions on interconnection and energy pooling remain complex to this day. Between nationalist resistance, competition laws, investment costs and public acceptance, Europe still needs to combine its efforts to maximize its results in the field of smart grids. These difficulties will be debated next May at the “Energy Infrastructure Forum”, which is held annually in Copenhagen.