Saturday, March 5, 2011

Europe's grid

Due to the significant increase in the production of renewable energy in the European Union in recent years, electricity grids in these regions are no longer able to handle the energy being generated by renewable sources like wind and solar power. The increase in renewable energy production has been spurred on by high government subsidies. In addition, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on reducing carbon output in order to minimize the effects of climate change, contributing to the increase in production of renewable energy.
In order for the electricity grids to become capable of handling the extra energy being produced, there would need to be up to $138 billion spent on improvements in the next decade. This money would go towards strengthening, upgrading and smartening these units. The grids would also need to become much larger in order to handle the increased amount of renewable energy that is being produced. In addition, there would also be significant costs involved in expanding the current offshore energy networks and ensuring that this energy can be transported to onshore locations where it is most needed. Therefore, a major debate is underway regarding who exactly should be responsible for financing the expansion and improvement of the European Union’s grids. Although the government subsidized the production of renewable energy, it is not necessarily the case that the bill for electricity grids will also be picked up. Instead, the market forces involved in international energy trading may be left in charge of financing the grids.
In addition, there are many ideas being circulated regarding how the renewable energy that is being produced should be transported among the different nations within the European Union. The transport measures are all a part of the larger idea of creating a European “supergrid”, which would be capable of transporting power from the “wind-rich north and sun-soaked south to the center”, where the highest demand for energy exists. This ideal “supergrid”, however, has many problems associated with it, both technical and financial. The problems associated with renewable energy in the European Union have led some to speculate that it may be more economically efficient to rely upon imported gasoline as the main source of energy in the EU instead of expanding the use of renewable sources of power.
Although there are clearly many financial concerns involved in attempting to increase the size and capacity of the European Union’s electricity grids, I think that constructing and upgrading these grids is probably the best move for the EU in terms of creating sustainable energy. The projects will undoubtedly be expensive. There is no way around that. With government intervention and funding, however, it will be more than possible to finance the projects. The government is clearly somewhat responsible for pushing the idea of renewable energy production in the form of wind and solar power. It would therefore be irresponsible to leave all of the grid development to market forces without any funding being provided by the government. There is no reason why wind and solar energy must be lost due to a lack of grid availability. The increased capabilities of upgraded and expanded electricity grids will quickly pay for themselves. In addition, they will also allow the European Union to rely on more sustainable energy forms.
--Caitlin White

1 comment:

  1. I agree with Caitlin, upgrading the energy grid will be an expensive investment, but will pay off in the long run. The cost of fossil fuels in the future may become so high that renewable energy sources will actually be an economical alternative. Aside from investment and upkeep costs of solar and wind energy, they are essentially feeding the grid with free energy. Renewable energy systems will become increasingly important in the future and it would be beneficial to prepare for it now.