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60% integration of renewables in European distribution grids feasible by 2030 through mitigating technical and regulatory measures

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Renewables integration
Study by DNV GL for European Commission first to consider the impact of renewables on distribution grids both locally and across regions within Europe
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  • Integration of renewables will come with an expansion of European distribution networks, depending on the individual countries’ distribution grids and mix of distributed generation technologies
  • Measures like Smart grid technologies, Demand Response and a balanced geographical distribution of renewables can significantly reduce the cost of integrating renewables

The integration of approximately 60% of renewables into the European electricity system will be feasible by 2030, but will come with an extensive expansion of infrastructure, including transmission and distribution networks as well as conventional backup generation. The challenges of grid integration of renewables can be mitigated by a number of technical and regulatory measures. These are the findings of a DNV GL study for the European Commission, looking at the impact of renewables on distribution grids both locally and across regions within Europe, carried out in conjunction with Imperial College London and NERA Economic Consulting. In addition to the necessary expansion of transmission and generation, the study Integration of Renewable Energy in Europe specifically evaluates the requirements on distribution infrastructure.

The study assesses the integration of renewable energy sources into the existing grid until 2030, concluding that the need for expansion strongly depends on the different structures of European distribution grids as well as the mix of distributed generation technologies (e.g. wind, PV-plants and mini-CHP) in individual countries.

Moreover, the analysis shows that different measures like smart grid technologies can be taken to minimise the need for distribution expansion. These include examples such as active voltage control by distribution networks and decentralised generators, a selective use of decentralised energy storage, or a limited restriction of solar PV to avoid excessive peaks of decentralised generation.

In addition, Demand Response stands out as a particularly promising measure to reduce costs, especially in the light of the significant load growth assumptions taken from the scenarios of the EU Energy Roadmap 2050. If deployed alongside a balanced geographical distribution of renewables, i.e. taking wind and solar capacities away from the best resource location and towards load centres, the cost of integrating renewables can be significantly reduced.

The study also shows these technical measures can be supplemented by regulatory and market-based instruments. These may facilitate the grid integration of renewables for instance by incentivising a parallel expansion of renewable generation and network infrastructures, promoting a balanced distribution of decentralised generation and stimulating the development and use of innovative technologies.

“The research findings present a positive image of the role renewable energy sources can play in keeping with the objectives of the EU’s Energy Roadmap 2050,” said Christian Hewicker, Head of Section Energy Markets at DNV GL and Project Manager of this study. “However, our analysis suggests that there are a number of technical, regulatory and market-based measures that should be used to facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources - while keeping the need for additional, costly infrastructure to a minimum.”

The full report Integration of Renewable Energy in Europe is available for download here.

Learn more about the company’s renewable integration expertise here.