15 Feb 2019

More cooperation needed between electricity and gas grids in the new energy system

System integration important for meeting climate targets

  • Electricity and gases will complement each other in the new, sustainable energy system to keep it reliable and affordable;
  • Integration of electricity and gas grids will create new transport and storage opportunities;
  • Study carried out by TenneT and Gasunie leads to new insights about the energy system of the future in the Netherlands and Germany;
  • Study is part of the Dutch draft Climate Agreement, in which system integration plays an important role.

Transmission system operators TenneT (electricity) and Gasunie (gas) publish their Infrastructure Outlook 2050 today. This is the first joint study into how the energy system in the Netherlands and Germany can continue to function properly in the future. The study shows that the existing electricity and gas infrastructures in the Netherlands and Germany continue to play a crucial role in attaining the Paris climate targets.
Close collaboration between both infrastructures is needed to guarantee the reliability of the energy system. Increasing fluctuations in solar and wind energy production can only be smoothed out by integrating the two systems to a greater extent. Gasunie and TenneT's study also shows, for the first time, different scenarios covering further developments in the future energy supply.

The operators of the high-voltage electricity grid and gas infrastructure, both active in the Netherlands and Germany, took the Paris climate targets (COP21) as the starting point for their extensive study. Although elements within the future energy system are not yet economically viable under present circumstances, it is expected that costs will drop further, also due to increasing technological developments.

Manon van Beek, TenneT's CEO: "Solar PV and offshore wind energy have shown huge cost reductions in a very short period. And the energy transition will accelerate as governments continue to set higher targets for restricting CO2 emissions. That's why we all need to act together now. This Outlook 2050 initiated by TenneT and Gasunie represents a solid, joint start with fresh insights. Industry is also a crucial partner in this process. For energy systems are not converted overnight but require sustained, joint efforts."

Han Fennema, Gasunie's CEO: "The study shows the requirements and the restrictions relating to a future CO2-neutral energy system. In order to cope with increasing fluctuations in the energy network we need our gas and electricity infrastructures to be seamlessly aligned. If our Outlook 2050 makes one thing clear, it is that linking TenneT's network to Gasunie's will provide the flexibility required by the energy system; it will also keep the system reliable and affordable."

The Infrastructure Outlook 2050 is part of the Dutch draft Climate Agreement (ontwerp-Klimaatakkoord) and has been officially presented to Ed Nijpels, chairman of the Dutch Climate Council (Klimaatberaad): "This outlook clearly shows that cooperation is necessary to make the energy transition a success. TenneT and Gasunie are setting a clear pace to tackle the challenges ahead. This way of working is an example of what we will see more often in the coming years."

Main conclusions from Infrastructure Outlook 2050

The existing electricity and gas infrastructures will play a crucial role in the future energy system. Electricity and gas complement each other well. Transporting electricity directly to the sectors where electrification is feasible remains the best option. An option for the other sectors may be (sustainable) gases such as green hydrogen.

  • As 2050 approaches there will be even more opportunities for storing electricity. Seasonal storage is reliant on gas buffers alone due to far greater volumes involved. This could provide the answer to prolonged periods of cold weather (meaning high demand) and little electricity being produced from sun or wind.
     
  • Hydrogen may play a major role in the future energy system. Large quantities of hydrogen could be made from (surplus) solar and wind energy, also known as power-to-gas (P2G). Of course, it is important for P2G installations to be positioned close to sustainable electricity production facilities, thus avoiding the high costs associated with expanding the electricity network.
     
  • All the scenarios indicate a significant increase in the necessity for electricity transport, through electrification of the market and generating energy sustainably. This will ultimately lead to a considerable increase in the use of high-voltage grids. Expanding the electricity transport grids is vital in order to prevent overload.

TenneT and Gasunie have identified two conditions for a successful energy transition.

  1. Political willingness to build new electricity grid connections to facilitate predicted growth in demand by end users as well as the creation of a clear, supportive, regulatory framework;
  2. Creation of a clear, supportive, regulatory framework for the integration of P2G (hydrogen) installations into the system to add the necessary flexibility and to avoid unnecessary costs for grid expansions.

Next steps

The Infrastructure Outlook 2050 is an initiative in the context of the draft Climate Agreement. Using Outlook 2050 as a basis, transmission system operators Gasunie and TenneT will take the following steps to carry out, with the help of distribution system operators, an integrated infrastructure study 2030-2050. This integral infrastructure study 2030 – 2050 is also specified as one of the agreements in the draft Climate Agreement. This study is to be available by 2021 and will provide more clarity on the trends in demand for electricity and gases. The study will also include the findings from the Regional Energy Strategies (RES).