Renewables could feed 60% of European grids by 2030, study finds

A study published today by DNV GL claims that the integration of around 60% renewables into the European electricity system could be feasible by as early as 2030 – provided appropriate regulatory and infrastructure support was forthcoming.

In a report commissioned by the European Commission looking at the potential impact of renewable on local and regional distribution grids across Europe, DNV GL states that the current challenges to wider integration can be mitigated by a series of technical and regulatory measures.

Alongside Imperial College London and NERA Economic Consulting, DNV GL has published the study – titled Integration of Renewable Energy in Europe – with the encouraging caveat that greater integration of variable renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power is possible, and the emphasis should be on improving distribution infrastructure across the continent.

The need for expansion is clearly understood. As part of the EU Energy Roadmap 2050, the EU is pushing for an ‘energy union’ and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Smart grid technologies are expected to play a pivotal role in the maturation of flexible grids, the study adds, thanks to their ability to minimize the need for distribution expansion.

More specifically, the report suggests that active voltage control by distribution networks and decentralized generators are both effective and feasible, particularly when aligned with decentralized energy storage and variable restrictions placed on solar PV at certain times of the day.

The report states that the best way to handle solar and wind integration into the grid is to create a balanced geographical distribution, which would entail taking solar and wind capacities away from the best resource location and moving them near to load centers, thus reducing the cost of integration. Demand response is also touted as a promising cost-reduction measure.

In addition to such technical measures, market-based instruments must also play a decisive role, the report adds, such as incentivizing the parallel expansion of renewable generation and network infrastructures, promoting a balanced distribution of decentralized generation, and promoting the development and use of innovative technologies.

"The research findings present a positive image of the role renewable energy sources can play in keeping with the objectives of the EU’s Energy Roadmap 2050," said DNV GL’s project manager for the study and head of section energy markets, Christian Hewicker.

"However, our analysis suggests that there are a number of technical, regulatory and market-based measures that should be used to facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources – while keeping the need for additional, costly infrastructure to a minimum."