In the face of ageing grid systems, the EU Commission announced an action plan to upgrade its grid, in preparation for an increasingly renewable future. The “EU Action Plan for Grids” sets out several actions to accelerate grid infrastructure deployment. This includes a list of Projects of Common Interest (PCI) and the improvement of longer-term planning at both the transmission and distribution levels. This has been long awaited by Charging Point Operators (CPOs) as connection time to the grid has been a major bottle neck for the industry, but CPOs say the plan does not go far enough.

The European Grid

According to the Commission, European electricity consumption is expected to increase by 60% between now and 2030. However, for the block to reach its renewable energy production goal of at least 1,000GW by 2030, grids need to be rapidly expanded and upgraded. Furthermore, the EU’s recent Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation, aims to establish a fast charging point every 60 km on main transport corridors, poses further challenges to the grid. Approximately 40% of Europe’s grids are already over 40 years old and in need of modernisation. The Commission estimates that EUR584 billion of investments is needed to upgrade grids for this decade.

The EU action plan

The plans identify 166 PCIs which will be able to apply for funding from 2024, around half of these are aimed at modernising and better connecting power networks. The Commission also highlighted that cross-border infrastructure needs to be doubled over the next seven years. Equating, approximately, to reaching over 160GW of cross-border power connectors, up from the present 93GW. Further to this, the Commission will work with the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) and the EU DSO Entity, to support DSOs (Distribution System Operators) and TSOs (Transmission System Operators) providing guidance and recommendations to improve the grid network.

While the announcement marks a positive initial step, problems still need to be addressed at individual national levels. The Commission acknowledged that grid connection queues and permitting challenges was an issue but did not to come up with solutions. The high number of TSOs and DSOs within Europe, each one with a different permitting and connection procedure, makes the process of installing charging stations time consuming and complicated. This has led to widespread delay of public charging points across Europe. Charging stations play a major role in transport electrification, making up one of the key pillars of the EU’s Net Zero plan. Delaying the rollout of EV chargers can have knock-on impacts on electric vehicle penetration rates.

Rho’s Evaluation

The Commission’s announcements have been welcomed within the renewable energy industry, with increased transmission capacity crucial to a cleaner future. That considered, standardisation and harmonisation across the European bloc is still required to meet EU targets. The grid needs to adapt to a decentralised renewable energy system, that can operate across borders and with simple connection procedures. A grid unable to cope with the bloc’s decarbonisation needs undermines all the pillars of the EU’s net zero goals. This announcement follows the European Wind Power Action Plan, which was released in October and aligns with the EU’s ambition to reach 45% renewable energy generation by 2030.

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Sources: EU Commission