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Press release: Efficient grid use and offshore transmission are key to deliver REPowerEU in practice

18 May 2022

currENT welcomes the increased ambitions for renewable energy in the REPowerEU plan published today. currENT would like to stress, however, that getting the most out of our transmission and distribution networks, and planning for a pan-European offshore renewables grid are absolutely key to getting it done quickly and cost-effectively. 

 Time is of the essence. If we are to increase energy security in a changing geopolitical landscape, and manage the energy transition in line with the Paris Agreement, Europe needs to significantly pick up the pace. This urgency comes through loud and clear in the REPowerEU plan published today by the European Commission. It proposes to increase the EU renewables target for 2030 from 32% to 45% and to increase the binding 2030 energy efficiency target to 13%.  

At the same time, in all of these proposals, more attention needs to be paid to the grid capacity required to deliver on this ambition,” says Layla Sawyer, Secretary-General of currENT, ”Grid expansion has traditionally been a slow process, and the existing limitations in grid capacity are a major obstacle to deploying more renewable energy quickly.  New-build transmission will be part of the solution, but in the meantime getting the most out of our existing transmission networks will be key to getting it done. Innovative grid technologies will be key to the planning, design and deployment of new, innovative pan-European electricity infrastructure, including offshore, to accommodate the rapid increase in deployment of renewables.”  

The importance of electricity grids is somewhat recognised in the REPowerEU plan, where it states that “an additional EUR 29 billion of investments are needed in the power grid, to make it fit for increased use and production of electricity.” Alongside the REPowerEU plan, the Commission has also proposed an amendment to the Renewable Energy Directive today, recognizing renewables and related grid infrastructure as a matter of overriding public interest. Yet more emphasis needs to be placed on the innovative solutions that can contribute to using the grid as efficiently as possible. Innovative grid technologies can optimise and reinforce grids in a matter of months, while building new lines can take an average of 12 years to build in Europe. Innovative grid technologies enable network operators to maximise the capacity on the existing grids, minimise constraint costs, increase network resilience and create more flexibility on the network. These solutions should also be considered as overriding public interest.  

Despite the numerous benefits listed above, there are still many significant barriers for wide-scale deployment of innovative, mature grid technologies. As was recognised in the proposed revision of the market design that was published along with the REPowerEU plan today, Member States need to incentivise innovation in their national regulatory frameworks. Moving away from the existing bias towards high-CAPEX solutions is essential for the uptake of technology solutions and encouraging investments that can both lead to an overall reduction in the total cost for citizens and enable the transition to renewable energy to happen much more quickly.  

In addition to removing barriers to innovation, Europe needs to actively encourage investment in new and innovative grid technologies. currENT welcomes the additional funding that has been announced in the REPowerEU plan, such as the Innovation Fund and the new call for proposals for Projects of Common Interest that will be funded by the Connecting Europe Facility, with a total estimated budget of EUR 800 million. It is essential that innovative grid technologies, including offshore DC grids, are encouraged under these funding mechanisms.