A new report from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), concludes that substantial investments are needed to make smart grids a reality. The study reviewed 219 smart grid projects Europe-wide, which have a total investment value of approximately €5.5 billion, and found new Member States (“EU12”) tended to lag behind in implementation.
The report provided a complete catalogue of the projects to date, which the JRC says, shows “how smart grids can help integrate more renewables, accommodate electric vehicles, give more control to consumers over their energy consumption, avoid blackouts and restore power quickly when outages occur.”
European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, explains, “The implementation of smart grids is a significant opportunity for European industry to research, to market and to export new technologies, to create new jobs and maintain global technological leadership. We are only at the beginning of the transition to smart grids, and at this stage, sharing the results of research projects can help increase the stock of knowledge and add impetus to innovation in this field.”
Other findings show that Distribution System Operators (DSOs) play an integral role in coordinating smart grid deployment across Europe. DSO-led projects represent about 27 percent of all projects and about 67 percent of investments. However, the study points out that current regulation in EU Member States tends to promote cost efficiency by reducing operation costs rather than by upgrading to a smarter system. The report also warns that the investment potential on smart grids will be hindered unless current regulatory models are revised.
JRC concludes: “The survey indicates that in almost all countries a significant amount of investment addresses the integration of different smart grid technologies. Most technologies are known, but their integration - i.e. how well they work together - is the key challenge for the success of these projects and the overall smart grid concept.”