Electricity grids in Europe are increasingly confronted with the fluctuating feed-in of renewable energies. Consequently, they need more flexibility, which can be provided by the comprehensive coupling of sectors such as energy, transport, industry and heat. Many European transmission system operators (TSOs) have identified the integration of electricity and gas transmission infrastructures as a promising approach to fulfilling the requirements of the coming sustainable energy system. Electricity and gases must complement each other, since interlinking both grid types creates new storage possibilities and also provides additional transport options for renewables. Both factors will help to keep energy supplies reliable and affordable also in the low carbon energy future.
TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO for electricity, and Gasunie, the Dutch TSO for gas, each operate grids in the Netherlands as well as in Germany. Last year they entered into a sector coupling partnership with plans for the Power-to-Gas (PtG) pilot plant “ELEMENT ONE”. Now the TSOs have presented their joint “Infrastructure Outlook 2050”. It clearly illustrates that the existing electricity and gas infrastructures in the Netherlands and Germany continue to play a decisive role in coping with the increase in renewable energies and achieving the Paris climate targets. The main conclusion of the joint TSO study is that electricity and gas networks must be more closely interconnected by 2050 in order to meet the objectives. The Outlook is also the first document of its kind to consider various scenarios for the future development of energy supply.
The importance of hydrogen from PtG technologies for energy storage and transport is also highlighted. But even despite the potential of sector integration, further expansion of the electricity grid remains essential, as all scenarios envisage a significant increase in the necessity of electricity transport. In addition, however, there must also be backing from political decision-makers and the creation of a clear, supportive regulatory framework. Manon van Beek, CEO at TenneT, argues that “energy systems are not converted overnight but require sustained, joint efforts”. She therefore sees the need for close cooperation between all those involved in the energy market. In this respect, the “Infrastructure Outlook 2050” represents a “solid, joint start with fresh insights”.