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Energy ministers conclude Belgian Council presidency with ‘EU Supergrid’ plan

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EU energy ministers committed to work towards deeper integration of the European electricity grid and to facilitate longer-term and more cross-border planning at Thursday’s (30 May) meeting of the Energy Council, the last under Belgium’s six-month Council presidency.

Grids are high on the political agenda in Brussels as power consumption is expected to increase by 350% as the EU decarbonises. Until 2030, the European Commission sees the need for €600 billion in grid investments.

EU energy ministers signed up to a comprehensive declaration emphasising “the need to roll out an EU Supergrid,” explained Tinne Van der Straeten, Belgium’s energy minister, after her final time chairing a meeting of Europe’s energy ministers. Hungary takes over the EU Council presidency from Belgium on 1 July.

Deeper integration of European power grids could slash fuel use by 21% by 2030 and significantly reduce power price volatility, according to the Brussels think-tank Bruegel

“Grids have saved us,” explained Van der Straeten, recalling the 2022 energy crisis, when interconnections helped address supply disruptions and allowed power to flow between countries. She added that “grids will be key and essential if we, as a Union, will become more resilient.”

Most of the work towards that goal hinges on planning.

To facilitate progress towards the “Supergrid,” EU ministers affirmed their commitment to “long-term, coordinated electricity grid infrastructure planning at European level” especially with a view to grid congestion.

While the EU’s power and gas grid regulators already create regular ten-year plans, EU countries are looking to create plans looking 20 years ahead as well. 

The incoming European Commission, to be formed after June’s European elections, is urged to “further strengthen the regional approach to electricity infrastructure planning and combine it with an EU-wide approach.”

To better serve future demand and avoid supply shortfalls, ministers also stressed the need for anticipatory investments – a riskier, speedier way of building infrastructure that is not immediately needed..

How much money is missing?

While the Commission has put a number on grid investment needs, no institution has yet put a figure on how large the gap is between currently planned investment and total needs.

The Commission should provide a figure, EU countries agree, calling for “actual investment needs in relation to electricity grids compared to the funds earmarked for them”.

EU industrialists eye an €800 billion investment volume until 2030 – while energy think-tank Ember has found that more than 10 EU countries’ grid plans do not account for recent influxes of renewables, which is liable to distort the figures. 

Either way, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is called upon to “strengthen financing and de-risking initiatives” for grid investments in the future.

[Edited by Donagh Cagney/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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