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02 September 2014
Home arrow Energy and Survival arrow Where next for the renewable energy European Supergrid?
Where next for the renewable energy European Supergrid? PDF Print E-mail
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by Julian Jackson   
13 March 2013
ImageThe Supergrid is a massive project to connect renewable power and decarbonize Europe over the next four decades. With its rallying cry of "No Transition without Transmission" the supergrid consortium intends to link up all the national grids in Europe to facilitate the large-scale use of renewable power. Some of the visionaries behind this, like Mainstream Renewable Power's Eddie O'Connor, visualize a Europe generating 100% renewable electricity, without any fossil fuels or nuclear reactors.

The Friends of the Supergrid, a support organization for the project, are having their second annual conference on Tuesday 19th March in Brussels. Details here: fosg-event.eu. The FOSG is a non-profit umbrella organization based in Brussels which was formed by a group of companies to assist in the promotion of the supergrid and its regulatory framework. They include Alstom, ABB, Dong Energy, Siemens, GE, the UK's National Grid and Mainstream Renewable Power among their member companies: a heavy-hitting brigade.

The plan is to have an overall structure technical, financial and administrative, to ensure that the national grids over Europe can connect up and share power across national boundaries. The vision is that Norwegian hydro-power could light up Italy when solar or wind is not active, and vice versa.

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future to have more of this

There are no technical impediments or "Show Stoppers" in the supergrid jargon. HVDC cable technology is well understood and all practical problems have been solved. However, this would be a massive task, and expensive, but in a world of instability, energy security is important, even without factoring in the environmental damage and increasing scarcity of fossil fuels. The EU intends to have a single European electricity market by 2014 and has a target of reducing greenhouse gases - by 20% by 2020 and by 80-95% by 2050, (against 1990 levels).

The problems for the supergrid lie more in the area of whether the participating countries will be inclined to fund such a costly project while they are having such severe financial problems. Eddie O'Connor gave evidence to the UK's parliament in 2011 that it would cost 200 billion Euros ($275 billion) in total, with a first stage of 28 billion Euros by 2020. Though this sounds like a colossal amount, spread over the decades and between perhaps 20 countries, it is not that a great investment for a major move forward in infrastructure. In addition it is expected to lower offshore wind costs by 25%, and create jobs. The first "nodes" of the Supergrid are likely to be in the North Sea or between the UK and Ireland, where connections either already exist or are planned. If the EU framework is in place then the network can grow organically as more connections are added. It would encompass all forms of renewable energy, but wind turbines would be a major component. The EU wind energy sector installed 11.6 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in 2012, bringing the total wind power capacity to 105.6 GW, according to the 2012 annual statistics from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), which was 2.2 GW more than was installed the previous year.

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Supergrid territory

Unfortunately the harsh economic conditions are starting to bite and roll-out of new projects is stalling. Overall, the EU is almost 2 GW (1.7%) under its National Renewable Energy Action Plan forecasts. Eighteen Member States are falling behind, including Slovakia, Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary, France and Portugal. It remains to be seen how this will impact on the whole supergrid project.

The conference will bring together the latest developments and thinking on the project. Contributors include FOSG CEO Ana Aguado, futurologist Jeremy Rifkin, Eddie O'Connor and EU MEP Sir Graham Watson. This year they are instituting an award for the for the best Supergrid-related project of the year 2012. The upside of this pioneering project is that it will solve problems and lead the way for other groups of countries to institute similar, advanced, environmentally-beneficial energy grid systems.

SUPERGRID 2013 will take place on Tuesday, 19th March 2013 in Brussels.
For further information:

fosg-event.eu

friendsofthesupergrid.eu

* * * * *

Julian Jackson has covered subjects at EarthTimes.org such as the Sail Transport Network and Jan Lundberg's autobiography Songs of Petroleum. His website is julianjackson.co.uk. His profile is at linkedin.com/profile/view?id=52846092

Further reading:


A fly in the ointment? The Price of Green Energy: Is Germany Killing the Environment to Save It? FROM DER SPIEGEL by Markus Dettmer, Peter Müller and Cornelia Schmergal, March 12, 2013
"The German government is carrying out a rapid expansion of renewable energies like wind, solar and biogas, yet the process is taking a toll on nature conservation. The issue is causing a rift in the environmental movement, pitting "green energy" supporters against ecologists."

Comments (8)Add Comment
Birth control is so much easier and more effective than mega-engineering projects.
Peter Crabb
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Love it when people point out the obvious, and offer no plan. Sure, forced population control is one solution, but it simply isn't going to happen. Besides, Western and Chinese cultures already have some of the lowest birthrates in the world. If you want to limit population, you'll need to convince Africa, SE Asia, India, S. America, and much of the Middle-East. Ain't gonna happen.

This article speaks to the biggest hurdle we face transitioning to renewables. Our current grid (both U.S. and Euro) isn't designed for renewable dynamics and will require massive retooling. This retool will need to be in place when renewables reach about 30% of total electricity. Will we have the money? Western governments have been subsidizing renewables to encourage adoption. As renewables become cheaper (e.g., Solar PV), govt's will end the subsidies. Eventually (2025?), renewable installations will start -paying- a grid-use tax to fund and maintain the new grid.

The good news is that renewables are coming on line fast, and solar PV costs continue to drop. We should see another two price "halvings" for PV by 2035-2040, making the amortized cost of daytime electricity dirt cheap ($0.02/kwh - $0.05/kwh, depending on location). Our biggest energy hurdle remains OIL. World oil demand will rise from 90M b/d to roughly 120M b/d by 2040, with prices forecast anywhere from $150-$400/bbl. Not sure we can sustain healthy global growth on $300 oil.

My gut sense is that we will transition to electric mobility faster than current forecasts, but not -that- much faster.
JohnL
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JohnL-- The plan is simple: men should pull out. So much easier than completely unsustainable techno-wetdreams.
Peter Crabb
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Yes Peter, back during the U.S. war on Indochina we used to say of Nixon, "His father should have pulled out!"
JanLundberg
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I think this could work out, since most countries in Europe are the same size as states over here in the US. However, like this article points out, most countries in the Eurozone are on the brink of recession. This may take awhile.
ADI
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We use up to much energy; we don't need "supergrids", as it is additional environmental destruction. We must (and we will!) learn how to live with less energy - much less - than we are used to. The techno - "green" solutions are just another way of making money.
DamirB
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The article on the proposed European Supergrid is a typical anthropocentric delusion that takes into account selective arguments to support a temporary technofix to the energy supply problem. It does not take into account that the construction, operation and maintenance of the grid and associated equipment irreversibly uses up limited natural resources, including those that supply most of the energy that the Supergrid will have in a limited lifetime, as the availability of resources to replace aging components will inevitably decline. The suggestion that the Supergrid will solve the energy supply problem will inhibit more realistic measures to make more effective use of the available energy supply. - from Denis Frith, Australia
JanLundberg
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This proposal calls for urgent action a hastened shift towards Africa’s infrastructure integration. It also calls for a critical consolidation of the African Union since that is the only way a common infrastructure policy can endure the pending global competition for resources, otherwise needed to develop the continent. Thus, this submission sets out a new vision for Africa’s Infrastructure policy. Indeed in these moments where the world has exceeded its carrying capacity, there is no doubt that SSA will lose the resource race if the region does not take advantage of its resource abundance.
Most importantly the critical issue here is energy related resources…especially the materials required for energy infrastructure development. While the West facing threats to its energy security, Africa has never had the opportunity to grow beyond a certain threshold due to colonization and the scramble for resources. While the West bothers about the implications of the decline in living standards due to energy scarcity, SSA is yet to get to where Europe was a century ago! Indeed the West claims they have accepted their onerous environmental responsibilities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for developing green energy that will be difficult to fulfil. However the major their major concern is that cheap fossil fuel is no more and China is getting too close to Africa for comfort.
All these challenges raise a single question: can Africa to afford further energy, environmental and economic crisis that will ensue when the west embarks on a final sweep of resources to buttress their undying consumption habits?
In all truth there is probably no single answer. But one thing is clear: Africa cannot afford to skip her only chance for human progress and development by utilizing her remaining resources. Indeed it is time for the remaining resources to be used internally.
Africa is abundant with solar energy. But Africans are probably counting on the west as usual for a breakthrough in renewable energy technology before a single solar panel will be mounted in a village! Then the whole village will rejoice and dance around this panel, oblivious of the fact that somewhere nearby, a ship is being loaded with enough resources to build modern energy infrastructure for a whole country. It should also be noted that Europe is endowed with the world’s richest wind resources, mainly in the seas around its northern and western coasts. Thus, they will never bother about developing technology that will benefit Africa -- such as solar technology. After all, what is in the deal for them?
The technology for converting offshore wind to electricity has advanced to the point where it is not only technically efficient but fast becoming commercially competitive. If it was not for China which has interests in solar energy, Africa’s hope to improve access to electricity is dim. Thus this submission is meant to spark a debate in the mid of the modern African who is tired of being sidelined while the West continues to develop on Africa’s resources. This is the time…it is now or never!
True African
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