EU Council approves conclusions on the EU’s electricity grid infrastructure

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The European Council approved conclusions on the EU’s electricity grid infrastructure, proposing a series of measures for an interconnected and resilient electricity network in Europe, to ensure energy security and achieve decarbonisation in the EU.

“The share of renewables in electricity generation has more than doubled since 2004 to reach almost 40 per cent,” said Tinne Van der Straeten, Belgian Minister for Energy. “The Council conclusions align with this development and reflect the European Union’s ambition to become more green, competitive and resilient in the energy sector, emphasising the need to roll out an EU Supergrid to incorporate more renewables, support electrification, stabilise prices and increase energy security.”

The EU aims to achieve a fully integrated, interconnected and synchronised power system in Europe. The Council conclusions highlight the need for long-term, coordinated electricity grid infrastructure planning at the European level, especially in view of the growing challenge of network congestion. This planning should be combined with the bottom-up coordination of national plans at the regional level and take into account the specificities of regions that are not interconnected or not sufficiently interconnected.

In this context, the Commission is invited to propose a strengthened framework that ensures that the grid planning and rollout is compliant with EU climate and energy targets. The aim is to increase transparency and traceability for the whole transmission grid planning and development process.

The conclusions also call on the Commission to assess and identify gaps and develop measures, if needed, to improve the governance framework at the EU level concerning the planning, selection and implementation of cross-border infrastructure, in order to ensure a sufficiently integrated European and regional approach.

According to the Council’s conclusions, the Commission should also help member states improve the security of electricity supply, focusing on risk preparedness and taking into account specific risks connected to some of the EU’s external borders.

In order to strengthen infrastructure resilience, member states are invited to strengthen cooperation with entities at all levels, with a focus on hybrid threats and critical infrastructure.

Finally, the conclusions acknowledge the unprecedented investment needs in electricity networks at both transmission and distribution levels in order to ensure a highly interconnected, integrated and synchronised European power system that is necessary to achieve the EU’s decarbonisation, competitiveness and security of supply objectives.

The Commission, amongst others, is invited to provide information about the actual investment needs in relation to electricity grids – compared to the funds earmarked for them – and to look for ways to increase overall investments for electricity grid infrastructure. The European Investment Bank is also called on to support further expansion and modernisation of grids through financing initiatives.

Furthermore, the Commission must also identify measures to accelerate permitting procedures of grids for swifter development of electricity grids, while ensuring public engagement.

Welcoming the conclusions on grids, SolarPower Europe is urging EU leaders to take the next step on clean flexibility.

“While grids are essential for the energy transition, flexibility, encompassing battery storage and demand response, is crucial for enabling grids to quickly adapt as infrastructure catches up,” said Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe. “We regret that Ministers did not address the challenges for scaling up battery storage and other flexibility solutions, with the same detail as they did for grid infrastructure.

“We are far behind the target of 200 gigawatts (GW) of battery storage needed by 2030,” she reminded. “Despite flexibility being the faster and more cost-effective solution to avoid more negative pricing in electricity markets. […] We urge EU leaders to take the next step on clean flexibility, for example by setting political goals for energy storage and demand response for 2030 and 2040. We need to keep flexibility high on the political agenda.”

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