European power grids keep lights on though solar eclipse

solar-eclipseElectrical grids in Europe claimed success on Friday in managing the unprecedented disruption to solar power from a 2-1/2-hour eclipse that brought sudden, massive drops in supply.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, at the heart of the event, boasts the world’s biggest solar-powered installations, which last year supplied 6 percent of national power requirements.

The initial 13 gigawatts (GW) drop in Germany was less than operators had feared and they were able to draw on alternative power sources including coal, gas, biogas and hydroelectric energy pumped from storage.

Grid spokespeople said control rooms were tense. “The mood is concentrated but confident that it will go smoothly,” said Andreas Preuss, spokesman of TenneT peer Amprion, which operates the longest network inside Germany.


World Economic Forum

At Davos Summit, a Path Forward for a Solar (and Wind) Powered World

World Economic ForumLocation, location, location, the aphorism goes. Especially when it comes to solar power.

Take the World Economic Forum’s recent report The Future of Electricity(PDF) as a fitting example. Charting the European Union’s transforming grid and return on investment in renewable energy over the last decade, WEF’s interactive widget posits that the EU would have saved $140 billion had it more accurately coordinated and maximized solar and wind buildout. Specifically, solar needed more of a foothold in sunnier Spain, which boasts 65 percent more solar irradiation than EU leader Germany, while wind needed greater penetration in windier northern nations like France and Britain.

Despite these stumbles, investment in power generation grew 11 percent annually between 2001 and 2012, 54 percent of which was in non-hydro renewables like solar, wind, biomass and geothermal, although close to $8 trillion more is needed to meet policy objectives between now and 2040. To do this, the WEF recommends that OECD countries “exploit the most efficient and renewable resources across borders,” provide stable market signals “on carbon pricing to incentivize decarbonization” and “remove unnecessary regulatory barriers between incumbent utilities and new entrants.”

With residential electricity prices predicted to increase in both America and the EU over the next two decades, now is the time for investors and homeowners alike to rethink and rebuild the 20th century’s obsolete models with more resilient, flexible systems that reflect the growing demand for clean energy. A clear price on carbon would go a long way to stabilizing this transition, the WEF argued, as will adapting to the increasing participation of customers, who are no longer “merely consumers at the receiving end of long lines of transmission and distribution wires.”

The WEF specifically noted that solar has “spurred a whole set of new businesses in which companies work with individual consumers to create an end-to-end proposition: providing low cost solar energy and coordinating all the investment flows on behalf of the customer.”

While the WEF’s relatively short 25-page report is overstuffed with economic and political jargon, its primary thesis is clear: The electricity sector is being overhauled before our eyes, with customers having an even greater stake than before in how it is capitalized, utilized and disrupted. Harmonizing investment and innovation is going to make this process much easier, as is building out renewable energy everywhere but especially where it can be optimized. With trillions left to invest in time for a climate change deadline, the time is past to get that process well underway.


EWEA corrects 2020 predictions

EWEA corrects 2020 predictions downward

EWEA corrects 2020 predictionsThe European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has reviewed its 2020 scenarios(link is external). The new central scenario expects 192 GW instead of 230 GW, which was the headline figure in the 2011 published “Pure Power 3”.

EWEA’s previous wind energy scenarios were published in 2009 (“Pure Power 2”) following the adoption of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive. They were subsequently re-published in 2011 (“Pure Power 3”). The scenarios looked at both annual and cumulative installations and included a country breakdown for 2020, but not for intermediate years. The headline figure was 230 GW (of which 40 GW offshore) producing 581 TWh of electricity, meeting 15.7 % of electricity consumption. EU electricity consumption for 2020 was projected to be 3,689.5 TWh.



Switzerland cuts feed-in tariff for photovoltaics

520-IHS 520-markt_pv_schweizThe Swiss Federal Council has passed a resolution cutting feed-in tariffs for photovoltaic power by between 12 and 23 percent. The alterations will be effective from 1 January 2015.

Both feed-in remuneration at cost (Kostendeckende Einspeisevergütung – KEV) and the one-off payment for installations with an output below 30 kW are affected by the cuts. Rates of remuneration are to be cut in two stages, from 1 April and 1 October 2015.

The KEV cuts will affect small installations more seriously.

Solar Installations to Rise 20 Percent in 2014

clean-energy-collectiveGlobal photovoltaic (PV) solar installations will rise to 45.4 gigawatts (GW) in 2014, with 32 percent of this total, or 14.4 GW, coming in the fourth quarter, according to IHS Technology.

Although IHS has trimmed its forecast for 2014 by 1.5 GW due to weaker-than-predicted performance in several key markets, a 20 percent increase is still forecast in installations from 37.8 GW in 2013.

Driven by strong demand in China and the United States, the final quarter of the year will again be the largest in terms of new installations. A total of 32 percent of annual installations will occur during the fourth quarter, as presented in the attached figure. IHS predicts that these two countries alone will account for more than half of all global demand in the final quarter of 2014.

“Following a first half that saw declines in several key countries, the global PV solar market is undergoing a major acceleration in the final quarter of the year,” said Ash Sharma, senior director of solar research at IHS.

“China and the United States will propel global growth. With China installing more than 5 GW and the United States installing 2.3 GW in the fourth quarter of 2014, these two countries will account for more than 50 percent of global installations during this period. The huge final quarter in China is expected to be only slightly higher than what was achieved in the same quarter of 2013-a figure that surprised many in the industry.”

Information in the release is derived from the Q3 2014 PV Demand Market Tracker from the Solar service at IHS.

A tale of two halves for solar
Several countries achieved strong installations in the first half of the year, including the United Kingdom and Japan. However, there were also declines in Europe and in countries that typically undertake more installations toward the end of the year. This set the stage for a major rebound in installations during the second half of the year.

However, Germany and Italy will see another year of market decline with only 2.1 GW and 0.8 GW of new installations in 2014, respectively, down from 3.3 GW and 1.7 GW in 2013.

Second-half rebound for China and US
Throughout 2014, IHS has expressed doubts over China’s capability to meet the ambitious targets the government set for distributed PV (DPV) in 2014. After a recent adjustment from its government, the country’s overall target of 13 GW is now in line with the IHS forecast.

However, IHS predicts that ground-mount PV will still dominate the market this year and account for 8.5 GW of installations. DPV is struggling to overcome barriers, including the lack of suitable rooftops and difficulties in obtaining financing.

Installations in the U.S. are forecast to follow a similar seasonal pattern in the final quarter. Installations have been ramping up throughout the year, and IHS predicts that 33 percent of U.S. installations in 2014 will be completed in the fourth quarter.

UK to become fourth largest PV market in 2014
Among the leading photovoltaic markets in 2014, the United Kingdom is experiencing the strongest percentage growth by far.

The country saw a huge boom in utility-scale installations in the first quarter as developers took advantage of the attractive renewable obligation certificates (ROC) scheme, which offered 1.4 ROC per megawatt-hour (MWh).

The U.K’s massive growth in 2014 is in part an unintended consequence of the government’s review and subsequent closure of the ROC scheme to PV projects above 5 MW in size.

The resulting rush to beat the March 2015 deadline of the expiration of the scheme will lead to 3.1 GW of PV installations being completed in the fourth quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015. IHS predicts that a significant portion of this will be completed in 2014 to avoid the bottleneck and delays in connections that were seen during an equivalent rush in February and March of this year.

In total, IHS forecasts 3.0 to 3.2 GW of new installations in 2014, making the United Kingdom the fourth largest market this year after China, Japan and the United States. IHS predicts that following a strong first quarter in 2015, in which more than 65 percent of annual installations in the U.K. will take place, utility-scale installations will fall, leaving residential and commercial rooftops as the main sectors.

Market growth to slow down in 2015, but to remain solid
Annual growth of global PV installations in 2013 and 2014 will be more than 20 percent as established markets have expanded rapidly. However, IHS is forecasting increases to slow to 16 percent with 53 GW of new capacity being installed.

China’s market more than doubled in 2013 and is projected to grow by 30 percent in 2014. Unless new policy or targets are raised further, IHS predicts China’s annual growth to slow to 10 percent in 2015-but still sufficient for the country to remain the largest end market globally.

Meanwhile, installations in Japan are expected to peak in 2014 at 9.1 GW, before slightly declining in 2015 as land availability, grid connection issues and an upcoming feed-in tariff review take their toll on demand.

Emerging regional hot spots across the globe represent huge opportunities for growth, and IHS predicts such markets will steadily increase their share. However, development in these regions should not be overestimated, as policies are slow to be implemented and governments are keen to avoid the boom-bust scenarios seen in other markets.

Europe Has Poured $4 Billion into Smart Grids


According to the Joint Research Center (JRC), the EU in-house scientific service, more than 450 smart grid projects in Europe account for a total investment of €3.15 billion (≈$4.27 billion).

The JRC recently published its 2014 edition of the “Smart Grid projects outlook,” which presents the most comprehensive database of smart grid and smart metering initiatives up until the first quarter of 2014 across the European Union, Switzerland and Norway. The results can also now be visualized using new interactive, freely available web tools.

SEE ALSO: EU-US Smart Grid Interoperability Center Opens in Chicago

Number of smart grids projects in Europe (cumulative)

Although the work from the preceding reports cannot be directly compared with this inventory a positive trend can be confirmed. The previous edition of this study reported 281 projects and a €1.8 billion budget.

With its 135 projects, Germany has the largest number of initiatives, while France and the United Kingdom have invested the most, at €500 million each. In both countries €5 million is on average pumped into a project. Denmark has the highest investment in smart grids per capita and per national electricity consumption followed by Slovenia, which together with the Czech Republic, is one of the leading countries within the newer Member States in establishing a strategy for smart grid testing and implementation. However, Eastern European countries only account for less than 1% of the total budget.

EU-15 organizations still manage the bulk of the investments in smart grid projects, of these, 90% are supported by some form of public funding. Private capital investment amounts to 49%; the rest comes from EC (22%), national (18%) and regulatory funding (9%), and the remaining 2% is unclassified. Several types of organizations, such as universities and distribution system operators (which together manage more than half of the budget), transmission system operators, manufacturers and ICT companies participate to significant degrees in smart grid projects.

Around 200 million smart electricity meters in Europe (ca. 72% of EU customers) are expected to be deployed by 2020 with an estimated investment of €35 billion. In EU Member States where the roll-out of smart metering is positively assessed, the expected penetration rate for electricity may even exceed the EU target of 80% by 2020.

Original Article on The Daily Fusion

Germany: Transforming Energy Usage


As the academic breeding ground of Einstein, Freud, and many other internationally-known scholars, it should come as no surprise that Germany is at the forefront of modernizing an industry as complex as energy. Over the last two decades, Germany has been revamping its electricity sector with the ambitious goal of powering its economy almost entirely on renewable energy by 2050. And last Sunday, the country broke a new record by acquiring nearly 75 percent of its total energy demand from renewable sources (mostly wind and solar). Even the European Union’s recent announcementthat it will begin divesting in renewable energy by 2017 hasn’t shaken Germany’s ambition to forge ahead  in its quest to phase out fossil fuels.

Energiewende (the German term for ‘energy transition’) is by far the most aggressive clean energy effort among the G20 and could be as beneficial for other countries as it is for Germany. The German Institute for International and Security Affairs argues, “If the [German] energy transition succeeds, it will serve as an international model… The allure of the German energy transition represents an important foreign policy resource, of which full use should be made.”

At the moment, Energiewende is the closest thing the world has to a renewables-integration pilot on a national scale. If successful, this blueprint will expedite the broad scale integration of technologies that will be necessary to wean the world off fossil fuels and combat climate change.

Germany’s reasons for pursuing Energiewende (Energy Transition):

According to the Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU), one of the two federal entities responsible for energy in Germany, and Energy Transition (2013), five of Germany’s reasons for pursuing Energiewende are:

  1. Responsibility to future generations to choose an alternative form of energy supply wherever it’s technologically and economically feasible.
  2. Lead international climate protection activity by example.
  3. Make the country less dependent on energy imports. At present, Germany imports 97 percent of its oil, 90 percent of its natural gas, and two-thirds of its hard coal.
  4. Tap the budding clean energy industry’s economic potential regarding both jobs and GDP.
  5. Enable greater public participation in the energy sector via demand-side production, local cooperatives, etc.

Energiewende goals and Germany’s progress:

Table 1, below, highlights Germany’s climate and energy goals, including reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a significant ramp-up of renewable energy (RE) sources, both in the total use of electricity and the country’s overall consumption of energy (including oil, gas, nuclear, etc. and referred to as ‘end-use energy’ in the table), plus notable reductions in primary energy use, electricity consumption, and the country’s buildings’ use of energy. According to a 2013 report from Poyry, these targets are not legally binding (i.e. national targets of this level of ambition are not part of any legislative document). But they are politically binding, for they appear in a range of official documents. This shows the level of ambition possible without introducing formal legislation.

Table 1 – Germany’s Climate and Energy Targets






GHG (wrt* 1990)





RE share (electricity)





RE share (end-use energy)





Primary energy (wrt 2008)



Electricity consumption (wrt 2008)



Energy requirements in buildings (wrt 2008)

-10% (heat)

-25% (primary energy)

Energy end-use productivity

2.1% annually

Nuclear phase-out

All nuclear power plants must be switched off by 2022.

*wrt = “with respect to”

The law catalyzing Germany’s renewable energy increases is the “Renewable Energy Law” (EEG), the first iteration of which was passed in 2000.  Energiewende was later conceived in September 2010 when the Federal Government adopted the Energy Concept, which was revised in 2011 after the Fukushima meltdown inspired the German government to cut nuclear power from its envisioned electricity mix.

A little over a decade after the EEG and just a few years after Energiewende’s birth, the German energy landscape has been completely transformed.  According to the Hertie School Experts on the German Federal Elections (2013), renewables’ share in Germany’s electricity generation has increased from three percent in 1990 to twelve percent in 2005 to more than 22 percent in 2013. In the first quarter of 2014, renewable energy resources met 27 percent of the country’s electricity demand, double the approximately thirteen percent of U.S. electricity supply powered by renewables as of November 2013.

What we can learn from Germany

One procedural insight Energiewende has underscored is that an energy transition to renewables entails both accumulating megawatt hours and optimizing this capacity. In Germany, renewables have become a central pillar of the electricity market. So now, the aim has expanded to optimizing the renewable energy mix through infrastructural and other investments geared towards making supply more responsive to demand. The past two years have seen multiple measures – such as theApril 2014 bill that aims to “control renewables growth [while] enhancing market integration” – that water down incentives for Energiewende for various reasons, foremost of which is cost containment. While far more renewable energy capacity is needed, enough has been amassed such that massive strides towards Energiewende’s goals can materialize in the form of optimization improvements, even if capacity additions are reduced.

EDF is at the forefront of leading a U.S. energy transition. The German example reveals that, while aligning politics, policies, and governance structure for such a transition is a heavy lift requiring robust agenda-setting efforts, implementation occurs quickly and with overwhelming economic benefits once these pieces are in place. Though U.S. and German social, political, and economic contexts differ – and policy solutions that were successful in Germany might not suit the U.S. – there are many important lessons the U.S. can learn from Germany’s experience with Energiewende.

Catching up to a frontier is easier than forging one. Cell phones are prominent in many African villages that never had landlines.  And followers can learn from leaders’ inefficiencies. In the energy transition context, the U.S. has the benefit of learning from Germany’s experience. Once the right policies and incentives are in place, the energy transition in the U.S. should occur even faster than it has in Germany.

Over the next five blog posts, I will describe best practices gleaned from the German experience and examine their U.S. applicability. The following blog series will focus on the Politics, Governance, Policy, Implementation, and Economy of Energiewende.

Original Article on EDF Energy Exchange Blog

Solar In Europe is Now Mainstream


One of the factors in determining the viability of alternate energy sources is the cost. Ten years ago, it cost $70 per watt to install solar panels. Nowadays, that price tag has shrunk to just $1.34, at least in Europe.

A sight that’s becoming increasingly common in Europe.

Here Comes The Sun … At Least In Europe

Solar photovoltaic generation, or PV, is on the rise. Currently, the whole world has installed 130 gigawatts of PV, a substantial increase over the 1.4 gigawatts in the year 2000. But it’s Europe that has really embraced PV, since it accounts for 80 gigawatts of that power, and furthermore, Germany alone has 35 gigawatts. That’s about 7% of the entire nation’s electricity.

Large volume installation is responsible for the aforementioned price drop. That makes sense; the more people that purchase a new product, the cheaper it can be sold. Consequently, the cheaper the product, the more affordable it is to a wider range of people. This in turn helps drive the price down further, making it even more affordable, etc., and you have a self-perpetuating cycle.

Feed-in tariffs have contributed to the boom in PV production. A feed-in tariff is a compensation paid to individuals and businesses that generate renewable energy. Investment in renewable energy in Germany, Italy, Spain, and France took off when feed-in tariffs were implemented.

Nothing shows how successfully Europe has embraced PV than in reaching certain benchmarks. The European Union had created a set of goals that included: committing to a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases below 1990 levels, a 20% energy efficiency improvement, and a 20% increase in the renewable share of energy consumption. The European Environmental Agency has reported that Europe has reduced emissions by 18% in 2012 already. The PV industry lobby group EPIA reported that ten of the 27 EU states have already hit their 2020 PV targets, and most of the other members are getting closer.

The Advantages of PV

The green benefits of PV are staggering. PV generated electricity over its lifetime uses an average of 87% less water, takes up or changes over 80% less land, offers a toxicity to humans drop of 95%, contributes and average of 94% percent less to acid rain, and about 97% percent less to the discharge of excess nutrients into marine environments, a process that causes algal blooms. PV power also contributes an average of 97% less greenhouse gases than 100% coal-generated electricity.

Although things like the green benefits and feed-in tariffs have certainly made it easy for Europeans to embrace PV power, the traditional energy suppliers (coal, oil, nuclear) aren’t ready to just shrug and go away. Recently, Great Britain agreed to a 35-year guaranteed price for power from a new French-operated nuclear plant.

What Next?

Financial uncertainty in Europe has caused governments to revisit the idea of feed-in tariffs, as well as take a closer look at other public energy policies. But assuming that the PV trend continues, and the European governments don’t shift their green energy policies, the world will see more efficient PV production unites, with the EU taking the lead. PV advocates and lobbyists warn that if European governments pull back on green support, especially in areas like the feed-in tariff, it could undermine investor confidence. Last year alone, renewable energy attracted $137.7 billion in new investments.

Europe could very well end up leading the way in PV technology and energy production, making them less dependent on coal and oil, and setting themselves up as the world’s green energy powerhouse.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

The Largest European Energy Storage Project

edd-projectThe largest European energy storage experiment so far – involving a 6-megawatt (MW) lithium-ion battery – is under way in the UK.

It’s a collaboration between utility S&C Electric Europe, high-tech firm Samsung SDI and energy management company Younicos that the three partners believe will save up to $9 million on upgrades, such as replacing transmission lines and transformers.

The four-year-long project at the Leighton Buzzard substation in eastern England will use a massive Smart Network Storage battery from Samsung SDI.

The goal is to ease capacity restraints and to improve ways of connecting clean intermittent sources such as wind and solar onto the grid. The local distribution operator, UK Power Networks, is leading the project.

“The major grid challenges from the UK’s decarbonization can be met through energy storage’s inherent ability to reinforce the network,” says Andrew Jones, Managing Director, S&C Electric Europe. “But currently there are limited large-scale energy storage projects here, leaving a confidence gap. This practical demonstration promises to show the strengths and limitations of storage and unlock its potential as a key technology for the transition to low carbon energy.”

The project is supported by $20 million in funding under the UK’s Low Carbon Networks Fund, managed by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem). The total cost of the test will run about $29 million.

“If we are serious about transitioning to a renewables-based energy economy, adding more, and intelligent, storage to the grid quickly is key,” says Clemens Triebel, founder and speaker of the board of Younicos. “That’s why we’re proud to contribute to this groundbreaking project’s success through our intelligent control algorithms and experience in frequency regulation and battery management. We’re eager to show how industrially available batteries can be integrated into existing grids economically today, and help effectively balance intermittent renewable generation, allowing us to switch off CO2-intensive thermal plants when they aren’t needed.”

By deploying 2 gigawatts (GW) of energy storage, the UK could save $4.6 billion annually by the 2020s — the savings go up as the proportion of renewable energy as a total of the nation’s overall power portfolio rises, according to research from Imperial College.

Energy storage is become an increasingly critical component of renewable energy investments.

In February, Germany started offering feed-in tariffs (FiT) to encourage the installation of energy storage alongside solar arrays. In California, the public utilities commission has hinted it will make this technology a standard part of future solar plants.

The UK project may be the biggest one in Europe but there are bigger ones elsewhere.

In China, a battery bank the size of a football field can store up to 36 megawatt-hours of power from a nearby 140 MW wind and solar plant. Duke Energy has invested in a similar-sized installation for a wind farm in Texas.

But the biggest one yet is a 60 MW battery bank being installed in Japan, slated to be operational by 2015.

Original Article on SustainableBusiness

Top 5 Greenest European Cities


Building a sustainable future for our planet has become increasingly important and over the years countries all over the world have taken it upon themselves to make green living a priority, completely rejuvenating towns and cities, providing an eco-friendly life for all. For some people this means not driving their cars as often, or washing at 30 degrees instead of 40, however for others it’s a way of life.

If you’re planning your summer holiday why not continue the green trend and head to one of Europe’s greenest cities for a spot of relaxation and sight-seeing:


Barcelona is famous for its delicious food and stunning scenery and now it’s also renowned for its green living too.  Over recent years Barcelona has made a considerable effort to reduce its carbon footprint, encouraging residents and tourists to recycle as well as take more pride and responsibility in the well-being of their city.

Barcelona has worked hard in creating a greener lifestyle for its residents, there is now a discount on health foods meaning people can enjoy a healthy, balanced diet without breaking the bank. They have also allocated streets, squares and parks dedicated to green living as well as a biking scheme to encourage both tourists and residents to cycle around the city as a pose to using taxis and trains.


Nantes is the sixth largest city in France and is the 2013 winner of the European Green Capital of the Year awarded by the European Commission. The sea port city of Nantes is absolutely beautiful, whether you’re looking for inspirational modern building, Roman ruins or medieval architecture, Nantes had got it all – as well as being incredibly green!

For the past 10 years Nantes has been working on developing a highly sustainable transport system for the city. It was the first city in France to re-introduce electric tramways as well as encouraging residents and tourists to use bicycles within the city.


Iceland may conjure up images of quiet, quaint towns and cities with not a lot going on however Reykjavik, Iceland’s largest city boasts a plethora of bars, hotels and restaurants not forgetting the impressive scenery on offer in and around the city. They also have a healthy reputation of being incredibly green, having invested millions into a fund to help a leading energy company and several universities to become a major location for environmental research.

They also have a number of programs whereby the natural supply of geothermal heat from hot springs in and around the city is harnessed to heat buildings, roads and pavements. It’s hoped this will lower the number of accidents that take place on the icy city streets during winter.


Sweden’s capital is nicknamed ‘The Venice of the North’ and it’s no surprise when you witness the fantastic medieval architecture twinned with the trendy bars, cafés and designer boutiques. Couple this with it now being known as one of the greenest cities in Europe and you have yourself a very sought after city to visit.

Over the years Stockholm has worked really hard to clean up its act, its reduced noise and air pollution within the city as well as tackling the dirty water supply by incorporating an eco-friendly waste system. The city is clearly planning on continuing with this winning green city as it hopes to be entirely independent of fossil fuels by 2050.


Germany’s second largest city is the place to visit when you want to party hard as well as getting in that all important shopping trip. Hamburg is also one of the greenest cities in Europe and has won awards for its commitment to reducing CO2 emissions in the city. It’s already reduced its emissions by over 15% and has plans to get this figure up to 40% by 2020. It also boasts an impressive public transport system, providing many residents with trains and trams available to pick them up literally from their door.

This post was written by Meredith Watts, a keen eco enthusiast busy planning her summer trips whilst working towards turning her house into an eco-home with the help of the team at SolarTechPhoto source

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

Europe 2012: $2.35B Invested in Smart Grid


The Joint Research Centre (JRC), a Directorate-General of the European Commission that provides independent scientific and technical advice to the European Commission to support a wide range of EU policies has published an update of the 2011 report “Smart Grid projects in Europe: lessons learned and current developments,” which is the most comprehensive inventory of smart grid and smart metering initiatives across the European Union, Croatia, Switzerland and Norway.

Geographical distribution of the number of SG projects surveyed in 2011 inventory and in the 2012 update (Credit: EU, 2012)

The current release of the inventory focuses specifically on the smart grid research, development and demonstration projects. The recent developments and lessons learned from smart metering activities in Europe will be discussed in a dedicated report to be issued by the European Commission still in 2013.

In the 2012 update, 281 smart grid projects were identified, accounting for a total investment of €1.8 billion ($2.35 billion). Project budgets of over €20 million ($26 million) have been growing steadily from 27% in 2006 to 61% in 2012.

The UK, Germany, France and Italy are the leading investors in demonstration projects, while Denmark is most actively involved in R&D. EU-15 organisations are managing the bulk of investment and are also tightly cooperating in multinational projects, of these, 95% are supported by EC funding. Together with national and regulatory funding, they provide 55% of the total budget for the smart grid projects surveyed; the remaining 45% comes from private capital. Utility and energy companies are most involved in smart grid projects, followed by universities and research centers, manufacturers, IT and telecoms businesses, and transmission system operators.

The projects mainly targeted the following applications: control systems to improve the observability (e.g. smart meters to collect and store, on demand and in real time, data for consumers) and the controllability (e.g. frequency and power flow control) of the networks; distributed ICT architectures for coordinating distributed energy resources (e.g. wind farms, photovoltaic plants and co-generation units) and balancing demand and supply in a flexible way; charging and communication infrastructure works for electric vehicles; and use of storage as an additional source of grid flexibility. The main barriers for smart grid projects are a lack of interoperability and standards, regulatory barriers and consumer resistance to participating in trials.

Original Article on The Daily Fusion

In Focus: The European Supergrid


The European Supergrid is a project still in the works and is designed to provide huge amounts of benefits to European countries but how about the rest of the world? Read on to find out.

Defined as “a pan-European transmission network facilitating the integration of large-scale renewable energy and the balancing and transportation of electricity, with the aim of improving the European market,” the European supergrid is rather an ambitious project. By creating a unified system of electricity generation and transmission of various renewable energy resources, the EU supergrid can provide the following benefits for its member countries:

  • Zero carbon emissions from power generation
  • Access to infinite resources
  • Freedom from fuel price volatility
  • Security of power supply
  • A powerful and single electric market
  • Energy independent Europe by 2050

By 2050, the supergrid should be able to produce an unprecedented amount of energy for the whole of Europe relieving them of dependence from non-renewable energies to power their homes, businesses, government and educational institutions and others. But there are many challenges in the way of getting the supergrid started.

According to Ana Aguado, the CEO of friends of the Supergrid, there are three main barriers lying in the way of the supergrid. “A lack of the necessary strong political support at EU level, existing differences in the electricity regulatory frameworks of the Member States, and, as a consequence of the two previous points, a lack of incentives to investors.”

Apart from that, they also have to consider the design and construction of advanced and high tech renewable energy generators since they will be exposed to harsh environments, such as the huge wind turbines to be planted at the North Sea. Challenges that need to be overcome are the creation of ports, logistics, construction, generation, transmission, governance, and finance.

With production costs projected at around £500 million (US $807.9 million), gathering the funds for it needs a lot of backup from companies and support of the government. At the moment, the supergrid is still in its development and planning stages.

How could the rest of the world benefit from it?

From the challenges created of building a supergrid, opportunities arise. If this does push through, there will be a number of benefits that could be felt by the rest of the world. In terms of economics, it could help boost the demand for manpower and natural resources as building materials. One material that is crucial to the development and success of the supergrid is copper. Copper is needed to create the lines that will connect one country to another for the transmission of power. Right now, the biggest producers of copper is Chile and this could mean an improvement in their economy.

Of course there will also be a need for employment of skilled individuals capable of planning, designing, and building the supergrid.

The second benefit the whole world will get is the reduced carbon emissions. The whole EU is on the move to achieving zero carbon emissions by 2050 so this would mean reduced carbon emissions for the whole world and slow down the catastrophic effects of climate change.

Lastly, the EU Supergrid can serve as an inspiration and an example to other nations for succeeding in a multinational effort for the betterment of the environment and their respective countries. The supergrid is a large project that entails a lot of collaboration between countries which is a rather rare scene these days. If the supergrid does get implemented, it will hopefully inspire other nations to do the same.

While the rest of the world may not directly benefit from the EU Supergrid, it still has some positive effects. There is still a multitude of detractors who are pessimistic with the idea of a supergrid but if you look at it on the brighter side, they will only serve as reminders of the realistic problems that need to be faced by people involved with the development of the supergrid.

With the vision of the green and renewable energy industry, collaboration of various governments, and involvement of the people, the European Supergrid might happen.

Brooke Haughton is a correspondent of Solar Panels Info. She provides a national quotation service for solar panels for your home from certified solar panel installers in your local area.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

The European Supergrid: Game Changer for Renewables?

Europe’s energy infrastructure urgently needs updating. In this interview published in the latest edition of EWEA’s Wind Directions magazine, Ana Aguado, CEO of Friends of the Supergrid, explores how this can be done.

What is the supergrid and why do we need it?

We define the supergrid as “a pan-European transmission network facilitating the integration of large-scale renewable energy and the balancing and transportation of electricity, with the aim of improving the European market”.

With such a definition it is stated quite clearly that in order to transform our energy systems to one that is based on clean and indigenous resources there is no other way but to build a European high voltage network able to integrate all those renewable energy sources, cope with their variability and transport electricity over long distances. We call such an EU planned network the supergrid.

What are the three main barriers lying in the way of the supergrid?

A lack of the necessary strong political support at EU level, existing differences in the electricity regulatory frameworks of the Member States, and, as a consequence of the two previous points, a lack of incentives to investors.

Do we yet have the technology to deliver a supergrid?

Yes, we can start the supergrid in the North Sea by building supernodes: Alternating Current (AC) is used to collect the energy from offshore wind parks and then Direct Current (DC) to transmit this energy to distant load centres. We then convert back to AC for connection to existing transmission systems. We propose to do this using many supernodes connected in a DC grid to allow multidirectional power flows depending on supply and demand.

One of your stated aims is “improving the European market” what does this mean? Will consumers benefit?

One of the reasons why Europe can still not benefit from a single electricity market is due to the lack of necessary infrastructure. Moreover, much necessary infrastructure hasn’t been built in the last 15 years partly due to public opposition. Citizens and consumers in Europe were not very in favour of the idea of building high voltage networks for the sake of trade or the removal of grid congestion. Conventional power stations can be built close to consumption zones and the general benefits that a single market can bring thanks to transmission are too vague to be appreciated by consumers. However, the supergrid means a transformed energy system where clean and indigenous energy sources will be used, it means local employment and increased GDP, it means combating climate change and secure and independent energy supplies. All these benefits to consumers are in my view more tangible. Consumers need to understand that in order to exploit our renewable energy sources there is no other way than the supergrid.

The European Commission has said it wants a single market in electricity by 2014 – is that goal realistic?

No, it cannot be since the necessary investments in transmission networks in Europe have not been made in the last 15 years. The regulatory frameworks will certainly evolve in the right direction by 2014 but it will not be sufficient for a single market.

If you could look-ahead to 2020, then 2030 and finally 2050, how would you describe Europe’s electricity infrastructure and market at those points?

If we really wish to decarbonise the power sector and the European economy as much as 90% by 2050 the necessary steps should be taken now. Investments related to energy in general and to infrastructure in particular are by definition long-term. The networks or generation units built today will last in most cases for at least 40 years; and nobody wishes to have stranded assets at a certain moment. But decarbonising means a completely different way in planning the networks and certainly in the generation sources to be used. I therefore see new targets for renewables by 2030 and beyond if still necessary and the first phases of the supergrid being built by 2020 or right after.

Regarding the single electricity market, I would guess that we can start benefitting from regional electricity markets by 2016 and from a single electricity market hopefully before 2020, maybe 2018? But it is only a guess.

Can a European Supergrid be a Game-Changer for Renewables? originally appeared in Green Chip Stocks. Green Chip Review is a free 2x-per-week newsletter, is the first advisory to focus exclusively on investments in alternative and renewable energies.

285 Days of Rain A Year Hasn’t Stopped European Solar Industry

Everyone knows the United Kingdom gets a lot of rain – up to 285 days per year – but that hasn’t stopped solar panels from dotting up on rooftop after rooftop.

Indeed, despite having one of the wettest climates in all of Europe, the UK has stealthily become one of the continent’s largest solar markets. Since the Labour government announced a feed-in-tariff program in 2010, the amount of solar energy has increased 41 times to reach a milestone of 1,200 MW in February 2012.  Suntech is well positioned to lead in the UK; currently it holds more than 16 percent of the market. Part of that is due to Suntech panels’ stellar weak-light performance, which refers to the ability of panels to generate electricity even during times of low solar irradiance.

Certainly the UK’s journey to harnessing the sun hasn’t been without hiccups. Recently the industry has witnessed a rollercoaster of policymaking that has sent mixed signals about renewables at a critical time for the industry.

In November 2011, the government gave just six weeks’ notice that FITs for domestic solar installations would be cut by half. A second wave of cuts in April 2012 took down the FITs again – to USD$0.34 per kWh. And then during the summer of 2012, the subsidies were cut once more to USD$ 0.26 per kWh, while the length of time for eligibility was cut to 20 years from 25 years. In justifying the cuts, the UK government has said they reflect current market conditions and the precipitously declining rate of solar energy prices. Indeed, in 2011, globally the price for wholesale solar declined by more than 50%.

Yet despite the recent ups and down in subsidies, solar still remains an attractive proposition – with an average of 9% financial returns for UK households. That’s better than what UK residents would receive from banks and most average investment opportunities.  This is the story we’ll need to embed in the minds of solar customers. During the times of healthy FITs, solar’s selling proposition might have been “Install PV and earn money.” Now the tagline should be “Implement solar and save – it’s still cheaper than many energy forms.”

We’ll continue to watch how the UK government proceeds regarding renewable energy policy. We all know policies need to be flexible enough to adapt to changing times, but sudden and drastic cuts like UK’s most recent FIT decreases shake investor confidence. What’s on our side is that as solar prices continue to drop, we’ll soon reach the point that any homeowner planning to build a house will have the automatic reflex to plan for few solar panels on the roof.

That time is just around the corner – as solar prices continue their downward march to become cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

Original Article on Suntech Connect