The European Union together with its member states and industry stakeholders, is trying to develop a pan-European grid high capacity network, which can meet its ambitions of being largely self-sufficient in electricity, can accommodate around a 30% increase in new net generating capacity by 2025 and, in the longer term, allow a phasing out of fossil fuelled plants subject to the European Union’s Low Combustion Directive.
Viewed on a map, Europe’s transmission grids and distribution networks look both complex and comprehensive, serving households and industrial customers from Portugal in the West to Bulgaria in the East and Norway in the North to Italy in the South. In reality the power grid comprises a series of national grids and markets managed by national and regional independent transmissions system operators who, whilst co-operating with each other, are constrained in the amount of power they can transmit to neighbours. Europe’s transmission and distribution grids consists of over 230 000 km high voltage and 1500 000 km low/medium voltage lines providing around 500 million customers with 3081 TWh per year. However, these networks are ageing, designed for large centralised electricity production and feature weak interconnections according to the European Commission’s ‘European Technology Platform for the Electricity Networks of the Future’ webpages, September 2014.