EU votes to accelerate work on new solar and wind friendly Supergrid

By John Parnell

The EU has backed proposals to speed up work on a new interconnected grid across the continent in a key vote in Brussels this morning.

The move will make it easier to transfer electricity around the continent, a capability that strengthens the argument for renewable energy. The continent’s gas and electricity infrastructure is estimated to need €200bn of investment by 2020.

Linking European renewable energy sources can "smooth out" peaks and troughs in different countries. (Source: Flickr/Theodore Scott)

A so-called European supergrid would allow excess solar power can be transferred north and vice versa for wind power.

The vote also backed carbon capture and storage technology, which once developed will allow emissions from fossil fuel plants to be collected and piped into long term storage inside rock formations. This has been criticised by Greenpeace due to concerns that its diverts investment into high-emitting fossil fuels such as coal.

Broadly however, it has welcomed today’s announcements.

“So long as environmental protection is not compromised, we strongly support the vote,” spokesperson Tara Connolly told RTCC.

“All sides agree that an efficient, modern European energy grid is a top priority. This law is about removing hurdles, opening up energy markets and allowing more renewable power into the system.”

Although the results of the meeting have been broadly welcomed, not all have met with approval from environmental groups. Connolly, who attended the vote told RTCC that some positive moves were passed up.

“Overall, I can say we would prefer most of the money to go to electricity projects rather than gas projects – that idea was rejected in this morning’s vote,” she said.

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“In terms of renewables, infrastructure is clearly vital. There were a few missed opportunities in the vote, in terms of ensuring alignment with the EU’s long-term climate goals but overall these sort of structures are really important for getting the necessary lines built.”

The EU’s creaking grid infrastructure for both gas and electricity came under fire earlier this week.

Germany was singled out for criticism in a leaked paper seen by the news agency EurActiv.

The document stated that: “Important [Gas] bottlenecks remain at the [German] border with Denmark (Ellund), Poland (Lasow), within Southern Germany and on the north-south route.”

It also stated that Germany needed to improve its electricity grid connection from north to south to bring renewable energy from the Baltic nations onto the continent.

Germany’s energy security has been called into question since it began dialling down its nuclear power placing increasing pressure on its wind resources. Most of its wind capacity is installed in the North.

The UK is working with France, Germany, Norway and Sweden and others to develop the North Sea Countries Offshore Grid Initiative, a network of underwater cables that would connect offshore wind farms and other power sources to nearby countries.

The UK is also talking to Iceland about the possibility of tapping its geothermal resources.

A larger plan to connect the Desertec solar project in southern Europe and North Africa with countries as far afield as Scandinavia has been widely backed.

Read the proposals discussed at the vote here

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