Energy infrastructures in Europe are outdated. In its Infrastructure Guidelines published in October 2011, the European Commission states: “Electricity networks must be upgraded and modernised to meet increasing electricity demand due to a major shift in the overall energy value chain and mix. The grids must also be urgently extended and upgraded, including through
electricity highways, to foster market integration and maintain the existing levels of system’s security, but especially to transport and balance electricity generated from renewable sources, which is expected to more than double in the period 2007-2020. At the same time, reaching the EU’s 2020 energy efficiency and renewable energy targets will not be possible without more innovation and intelligence in the networks at both transmission and distribution level, in particular through information and communication technologies.”
To upgrade and modernise energy networks, political action and rapid implementation is needed. Commissioner Oettinger has in 2011 stressed that now is the time for another “historical investment”: we need smart grids across Europe now. The electrical engineering industry in Europe can provide the technology for many possible changes in the European electricity infrastructure network, notably by offering the technology to:
• Upgrade and expand the existing AC distribution and transmission networks, by increasing voltage levels and power loads, reducing losses through reactive power compensation and reduction of equipment losses or by introducing hybrid systems – that are installed partially underground.
• Create a DC overlay network to transfer high amounts of electricity over long distances, by developing switchgear technology or changing AC lines to DC.
• Develop an emergency concept (cyber security, reliability, fire load etc.).
• Implement a common power management system throughout Europe.
• Establish a charging infrastructure to support the expected growth of eVehicles.