The decarbonisation of the energy sector
The decarbonisation of the energy sector remains the most important driver for change in Europe. This trend is being driven by political and social goals to fight climate change and is characterised by the rapid development of renewable energy sources at increasingly lower costs. We expect this trend to speed up, which will have a direct impact on the grid development that is required and the operation of the system. The availability of different types of renewable energy which are generated at different locations contributes to the sustainability, capacity and stability of the European power system as a whole. As increasing amounts of distributed renewable energy sources are integrated into our grids, more energy flows need to be transported over long distances and the interconnectors need to be built to link up European power systems. In other words, we need to be well equipped for the transmission of electricity over long distances and be able to manage fluctuations - particularly in terms of power generation - that may be extreme.
Decentralised generation and new players
The move towards more widely dispersed, small and local generation sources will continue. Increasing numbers of ‘prosumers’ (producers who are also consumers) will play a more active role in the energy system. New technologies, increased electrification and sector coupling entail the arrival of new players, for instance service providers who will work for end customers. This will render the operation of the system more complex: as a Group which owns two transmission system operators, we will need more flexibility to keep the system in balance.
Given the ever-growing share occupied by renewables in the energy mix and the trend towards decentralised production and a much larger number of players, the energy system is becoming more diverse and more complex. In addition, grid development is unable to keep pace with the fast development of renewable energy generation. In some European countries, this has given rise to congestion issues and considerable redispatching costs. As the electricity system and energy market in Europe become increasingly integrated, tackling these challenges is requiring a supranational approach. This takes place at a regional level, for instance through Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs such as TSCnet or Coreso), or at the level of the European Union, such as during the development of ENTSO-E’s Ten-Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP).
The digitalisation of the energy sector is in full swing and will further accelerate decarbonisation and the increase in decentralised generation. In future, we expect to see enormous quantities of renewable energy being injected into the grid from many different sources; the increasing electrification of the mobility and heating sectors; closer international cooperation; and millions of people generating and storing their own electricity. A new approach to system control is therefore needed to exploit the advantages of the energy transition. This is being enabled by the digitalisation of the energy system, which means all electrical equipment and different players within the energy sector can be connected together. The emergence of new digital technologies will create new possibilities for optimising the collection, transfer, processing and representation of data and will also support automatic decision-making and the implementation of corrective measures as part of system control. Existing digital technologies comprise the Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence and blockchain.