Better interconnected electricity grids are a priority objective of this century's energy infrastructure in Europe.
The energy system is increasingly based on renewable energies and more and more energy use is electric (for example due to electric mobility and electric heat pumps for heating), the electric system becomes more decentralized and interactive.
Integration and digitization of electricity grids will give the market more flexibility and efficiency in the use of raw materials and energy sources.
For this reason, the EU is pushing for very flexible markets, where users and the environment can benefit from them in view of the ambitious objectives of 2050.
Energy systems and smarter grids
For the energy system to integrate various sources of renewable energy, and ensure that production and consumption of electricity always match, the grids need to become smarter.
This requires a high-level of digitalisation and automated communication and control. It will benefit consumers, as they can get better control over their energy consumption. They can for example opt for clean, locally produced electricity, invest in local cooperatives or install solar panels on their roof. The Commission supports the development of flexibility markets through research and innovation projects, funded by Horizon2020 and organises workshops,bringing together stakeholders and discussing the future of flexibility markets.
BRIDGE is a European Commission initiative that unites Horizon 2020 projects on smart grids, energy storage, islands and digitalisation, to create a clear overview on cross-cutting issues. It is organised in 4 working groups that cover
- data management
- business models
- citizen and consumer engagement.
The groups report on their work and decide on future topics for collaboration during the annual general assembly. The most recent assembly took place online on 2-4 March 2021 and included presentations from the working groups on finished and new projects, as well as discussions on eV energy flexibility and direct current technologies.
The total budget of all projects gathered in BRIDGE (starting from 2014) is €484 million and there are 545 companies from all EU countries involved, as well as third countries.
Direct current technologies
Not all renewable energy production will be decentralised in the future.
At the same time, the Commission’s scenarios presented in the ‘Clean Planet for All’ Communication (COM/2018/1173), indicate that offshore wind will become increasingly important in the energy mix. That requires electricity to be transported from offshore wind parks to the main consumption centres (industrial sites and cities) onshore, over long distances.
High-voltage direct current (HVDC) cables are an efficient way of transporting electricity over longer distances, but integrating them in the existing electricity network, based on alternative currents, poses technology challenges.
The Commission promotes research and innovation projects that develop the HVDC technologies of the future, for example through projects like Promotion and Migrate.
Direct current technologies also play an increasing role at local level, as many new sources of electricity production and consumption depend on these technologies, such as solar panels and batteries in electric cars.
Testing new ways of integrating direct current technologies in the distribution grid is a priority for the Commission. It has organised the following workshops, bringing experts, project experiences and policy makers together on this topic.