EC publishes plans to switch on smart grids

13th April 2011

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All European member states must publish timetables detailing the rollout of smart grid technology by September 2012 to comply with new plans from the European Commission (EC).

Smart technology, which gives real-time information on the consumption of energy to consumers and generators, will provide the “backbone” of decarbonised power within Europe according to the latest communication published by the EC.

It details key steps to accelerate a coordinated and effective approach to the adoption of smart grids throughout Europe including:
• requiring all EU member states to produce action plans with targets for the implementation of smart grids
• developing common technical standards
• incentivising smart grid investments
• guaranteeing transparency in retail energy markets
• promoting innovation through initiatives highlighting new research and development.

Energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger unveiled the communication yesterday (12 April) during an event in Brussels to mark European Sustainable Energy Week.

"When it comes to energy production and consumption, Europe needs more than ever to be on a sustainable path. The smart grids and the use of smart meters are key for a better use of energy," said Oettinger

"We will have to address the issues that stand in the way of full implementation of smart grids. We cannot afford to miss out on the opportunities an upgraded electricity system would offer in terms of decarbonising our economy and providing real added value for consumers."

The announcement from Brussels came less than two weeks after the UK government published its plans to introduce smart meters.

Reacting to the European announcement a DECC spokesman said: “Smart grids will help us use the electricity network more efficiently and help us connect to the low carbon sources of electricity of the future which, over time, will greatly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

“We want to see the first layer of smart grids to be in place by 2020 and we are working with Ofgem to establish a Smart Grid Forum to look at forthcoming regulatory needs to ensure networks can deliver our future energy requirements.”

He confirmed: “We are planning to publish a strategy for future networks, balancing supply and demand and smart grid development as part of the Electricity Market Reform White Paper later this year.”

The EC estimates that smart grids should reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the EU by 9% and annual household energy consumption by 10%, helping its members to achieve targets set for reducing emissions by 2020.

In the UK energy regulator Ofgem, has made £500 million available through the Low Carbon Investment Fund for smart grid trials and DECC is currently supporting eight pilot projects.

Luc Van Den Berghe, programme manager - innovation at CEN and CENLEC, confirmed that the European standard organisations have now received a mandate (M/490) for smart grids standards and are organising themselves to produce the requested standards.

A report into the situation of smart grid standardisation across Europe, authored by a group of standards bodies will become available after 4 May.

"The report identifies the necessary steps to be taken and proposes recommendations concerning standardisation of smart grids," said Van Den Berghe. "A large amount of work has already been done and a vast set of important and mature standards is already in place. Smart grids implementations based on these standards can already start from this level and from the work already in progress."

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