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Windtech International July August 2024 issue

 

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Access to the electricity grid is now the main bottleneck for deploying renewables at scale in Europe. Hundreds of gigawatts of wind energy projects are waiting for grid connection permits, leading to administrative overload and delays. WindEurope’s new report highlights these challenges and suggests actions to release grid capacity for new and repowered wind farms.

The EU aims to increase wind energy capacity from 220 GW today to 425 GW by 2030 and 1,300 GW by 2050, crucial for energy security, affordable electricity, and industrial competitiveness. Reforms in the Renewable Energy Directive have streamlined permitting procedures, but grid access remains a significant issue. Over 500 GW of potential wind energy capacity is waiting for grid connection assessment in several countries, with Italy and the UK each having over 100 GW of projects in the queue.

The EU's new Grid Action Plan identifies measures to accelerate grid expansion and optimisation. Immediate actions include moving away from the “first come, first served” principle to prioritise mature projects and apply stricter entry criteria. WindEurope suggests applying the principle of overriding public interest (OPI) to grid infrastructure permitting to speed up expansion. Countries like France, Norway, Spain, and the UK are implementing dynamic management of waiting lists to drop slow-moving projects. Prioritisation of projects co-locating different generation technologies or with advanced grid support capabilities is also recommended to maximise grid efficiency.

The new WindEurope report analyses the factors for grid connection delays and shows which countries are particularly impacted. It finds that grid saturation and inefficient grid planning are the major reasons but not the only ones. National grid expansion targets are often not aligned with the 2030 renewables expansion targets set out in the Member States’ National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs).

To speed up the expansion of electricity grids countries should apply the principle of overriding public interest to the permitting of grid infrastructure - regardless of whether it’s to connect renewables directly or for the broader grid reinforcement of the grid.

Grid permitting authorities need to move away from “first come, first served / treat everybody equally”. They should apply filtering and prioritisation criteria to better handle the requests for grid connection. The goal must be to reduce the number of projects in the queue, to sift out immature, speculative bids and to ensure a balanced allocation of grid capacity to all strategic net-zero technologies.

 
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