In February, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, took time out from his busy schedule to congratulate a pan-European team of power system engineers and academics on its ground-breaking work.
The team, known as EU-SysFlex and led by Ireland’s electricity grid operator EirGrid, has been researching solutions to the challenges presented by the deployment of a significant amount of renewable energy on power networks, critical to delivering on the future of European energy and just transition.
Sefcovic addressed the group at a specially convened webinar to mark the findings of the EU Projects, as the EU-SysFlex project team begins winding down its work.
He described EU-SysFlex as “a project that is very important to the future of European energy”. And he explained that in order to resolve the current energy crisis, we need “to accelerate and carefully manage our transition to clean energy by expanding renewables on Europe’s power grids”.
EU-SysFlex has spent the past 4½ years looking at how this ambition can be achieved. The group, comprising representatives from 34 energy organisations in 15 European countries, received funding of €20 million under Horizon 2020, the EU’s €80 billion research and innovation programme.
EirGrid has been the overall project co-ordinator, with French electricity group EDF acting as technical co-ordinator.
Across Europe, renewables currently meet approximately 30 per cent of our electricity needs, and will rise to 40 per cent by 2030. The aim is to implement legally binding targets to reduce net EU emissions by 55 per cent by 2030, from 1990 levels, and eliminate them by 2050.
“It’s not just a question of building more wind and solar farms,” says Liam Ryan, chief innovation and planning officer at EirGrid. “It is a lot more complex than that. Power from renewable sources has different technical characteristics to electricity from traditional generating stations, and that presents challenges for the stability of the European power system. EU SysFlex has developed a roadmap to addressing this very issue.
“Also, we are transitioning away from traditional power grids, which consist of a small number of large generating stations, to ones which are much more decentralised with lots of new smaller renewable generation sources.”
Innovation is at the core of EU-SysFlex, utilising expertise and technology innovation across a broad collaborative spectrum to solve the challenges presented by Europe-wide renewable energy integration and greater power system flexibility.
Analysis conducted by EU-SysFlex has identified European system technical scarcities and needs associated with the integration of high levels of non-synchronous technology on the pan-European Grid expected by 2030.
It has identified the products, services, market and regulatory enhancements required to mitigate the future scarcities.
In tandem, through demonstration projects and trials, it has identified technological solutions to meet the flexibility needs on a national, cross-border and pan-European basis. “The project will ultimately create a long-term roadmap of actions for Europe to facilitate large-scale integration of new technologies and capabilities,” says Ryan.
The group has also produced a “Flexibility Roadmap”, which addresses some of the high-level questions that must be answered before the European power system can progress toward 2030 decarbonisation targets. These questions include:
- What issues and scarcities will the EU power system face in 2030?
- Which potential solutions can be deployed to mitigate technical scarcities?
- How do we support an appropriate mix of technologies to provide the required technical solutions and system services?
- How do we enable the utilisation of technical solutions and system services?
The key recommendations, extracted and refined by the EU-SysFlex investigations and trials, are at the heart of this roadmap.
The EU-SysFlex project is fully aligned with medium and long-term EU energy policy objectives
The holistic, collaborative approach adopted in the project is unique: it acknowledges that there is not one solution, but a suite of solutions from across the entire power system. These range from technical solutions to market and regulatory changes and require engagement from multiple stakeholders.
“The EU-SysFlex project is fully aligned with medium and long-term EU energy policy objectives and has the potential to unlock system wide flexibility,” Ryan concludes. “It recognises that a European-wide flexible system and market are essential to facilitate the EU’s long-term renewable ambition.”
[ For more information about the work of EU-SysFlex, see https://eu-sysflex.com ]