In October 2022, the EU introduced its “Digitalising the Energy System-EU Action Plan”, which will revolutionize the EU’s current power grid. The plan aims to contribute to EU energy policy objectives by creating a sustainable, secure, transparent, and competitive market for digital energy services. It also aims to facilitate the integration of renewable resources into the EU’s power grid.
Specifically, within this plan, the EU highlights the need to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roofs of all commercial buildings by 2027 and all new residential buildings by 2029. The EU points out that a revitalized energy system that is better able to meet green energy demands will be needed in order for the EU to meet its goal of reducing emissions by 55% by 2030, and, as such, has laid out a path to digitalize its power grid. The EU plans to invest approximately 584 billion euros in its electricity grid between now and 2030, and a substantial part of these investments will go towards digitalization. Some of these digitalization measures will include smart Internet of Things (IoT) devices and meters, 5G and 6G connectivity, and a pan-European energy data space powered by Cloud-edge computing services. The use of digital tools will be pivotal in the continued development of smart buildings and will allow for greater energy monitoring to occur, which in turn will lessen emissions and energy waste.
The European Commission also announced that it would support the EU transmission system operators (TSOs) and distribution system operators (DSOs) to create a digital twin of the European electricity grid. The digital twin will help to enhance the efficiency and intelligence of the current grid that is in place and will increase the ease of obtaining energy grid data.
These changes will have a notable positive impact on the EU’s current power grid system. Currently, each of the EU member state’s national power grids is interconnected by cross-border lines to create a larger EU power grid. Interconnectors between national power grids of EU member states have continued to be added since the beginning of the 20th century to create the transnational power grid that is in place today. Europe’s cross-border electricity networks are governed by European Commission Implementing Regulations. Each year the EU reviews these regulations, and the European Commission, the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), and the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) come together to adopt updated proposals for network codes. These codes deal with issues like capacity allocation and congestion management, restoration, and requirements for generators.
According to data from the European Environment Agency, the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions due to electricity generation has been steadily decreasing in the EU over the past decade, with the exception being between 2020 to 2021 when there was an increase in electricity generation due to COVID-19. However, the Russia-Ukraine war has highlighted that the EU’s current energy system cannot reliably provide the amount of energy that member states need to sustain themselves without relying on outside energy resources and is not forecasted to be strong enough to sustain households’ energy needs through the upcoming winter.
Additionally, most member states’ energy systems in the EU are centralized, which often leads to energy loss as energy has to travel across long distribution lines to reach consumers. A large part of the EU’s ability to meet its emissions goals is also impacted by grid operators’ ability to optimally transmit or balance fluctuating volumes of renewable energy without compromising system security. If excess solar or wind energy is produced in one EU member state, the grid must be able to support the transfer of this energy to another EU member state. Therefore, by digitalizing the power grid, it will become significantly easier to monitor and transfer renewable energy between member states. Through upgrading the power grid, the EU’s energy system will also become more flexible and able to manage a greater share of renewable energy.
Hence, while it is clear that the EU’s power grid needs to be significantly strengthened in order for it to be equipped to support the EU’s energy needs, the digitalization of the EU’s power grid is a promising step in increasing the bloc’s energy independence and reducing its overall emissions.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard European Union Manager Brittany Demogenes
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