Launch Press Conference: Renewables Grid Initiative founded in Berlin - WWF, Germanwatch, 50Hertz and TenneT founding members

On 3 July 2009, the Renewables Grid Initiative officially announced its initial partners – WWF, Germanwatch, Vattenfall (now called: 50Hertz) and TenneT, at a press conference at the Bundespresseamt in Berlin, Germany. The initial partners signed the RGI Memorandum of Understanding and thereby started to cooperate for 100% grid integration of renewable energy.

Europe needs a better electricity grid for renewables. It is necessary to:

  • Fully integrate localised and decentralised renewable supplies
  • Fully integrate large-scale offshore wind and concentrated solar power
  • Facilitate the possibility to recover investments in both high voltage DC and AC lines
  • Deploy innovative and smart grid technologies to foster energy conservation potentials

The Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI) promotes the expansion of distributed and bulk renewable energy generation and transmission capacity in Europe. To reach this target, the initiative brings together non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and transmission system operators (TSOs). For the first time, WWF, Germanwatch, Vattenfall Europe Transmission and Tennet join forces for a common cause.

A large-scale integration of renewable energy sources is deemed necessary to reach the European targets of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 translating into about 35 percent renewable electricity and to comply further with the 2050 targets of cutting global climate pollution by at least 80 percent. However, a considerable expansion of renewable electricity into the European grid can only be achieved by upgrading and expanding transmission capacity. New strategic interconnections will be required to transport renewable electricity from remote locations to consumption centres. The Renewables-Grid-Initiative demands a new mandate for energy regulators to enable the development of a European grid architecture capable of rapidly and efficiently transmitting renewable energies. 

Smart grid development is an essential precondition for substantive renewable energy integration for both decentralised renewables and large scale wind and solar power. At a time of serious economic distress and mounting pressure to address the widespread environmental, economic, and geopolitical consequences of our excessive reliance on fossil fuels, the case for sustainable investments in renewable energy generation and the transmission grid has never been stronger. 

Impressions from the press conference

Stakeholder statements on RGI launch

Guido Axmann – Initiator RGI / Managing Director, THEMA1:

“The expansion and renewal of the pan-European Grid to fully integrate renewables is an essential precondition for a successful climate protection. Such a fundamental project can only be implemented with the participation and the support of all sectors of society. Dialogue and understanding is key for change, progress and success.”

Christoph Bals – Political Director, Germanwatch: 

“Campaigning for an ambitious Copenhagen Climate Deal is a vital part of our work. We will only reach the necessary reduction of CO2 emissions by a massive extension of local renewable energies on the one hand and cross-regional renewable energy resources on the other hand. The expansion of the grid is therefore essential. By following such a strategy – combined with remarkable progress in energy efficiency – we can avoid dangerous climate change and keep global average temperature rise below the science-based danger threshold of 2°C above pre-industrial times. The fast expansion of grid structure and renewable energies allows us to fight jointly against the climate crisis, the economic crisis and the imminent energy crisis.”

Antonella Battaglini – Senior Scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and European Climate Forum SuperSmart Grid Process Leader:

“New thinking and new alliances are required to meet the challenges posed by increasing energy needs and climate change. Thanks to science and technology we have seen years of extraordinary development, but we have also created problems which we urgently need to solve. Our energy system needs to be transformed and become largely based on renewable energy sources. A large consensus across society is necessary for this transformation to take place. NGOs have a key role in representing general public long-term interests, in supporting necessary infrastructure expansions and in contributing to the political process to develop clear, long-term mechanisms and regulations. The transmission operators have a central role in planning and implementing the future grid architecture in full consideration of the decarbonisation requirements set by the 2050 targets. The Renewables-Grid Initiative sets the ground for speeding up investments in grid infrastructure, to fully integrate renewable energy sources wherever they are produced and whenever they become available, in full recognition of environmental concerns. A clear framework for tailored investments in grid expansion will enable simultaneously large renewable expansion projects, which substantially contribute to the 2020 and 2050 targets, while stimulating the economy.“

Ged Davis – Co-President, Global Energy Assessment, IIASA:

“The rapid development of a Super and Smart Grid is essential if Europe is to meet its ambitious targets for renewables.”

Daniel Dobbeni – President, ENTSO-E:

“This initiative.together with the EWIS study and other major EU R&D projects confirms the strong involvement of TSOs in achieving the ambitious environmental targets set up by the Member States for 2020 and later; NGO’s and TSO’s share the same concerns with respect, among other things, to the need for R&D studies focused on the integration of massive renewable energy sources in existing power systems, improved energy efficiency and shorter authorization procedures for new transmission infrastructure (as these assets are a prerequisite for the successful deployment in due time of more than 33% of renewable energy sources all over Europe). Climate change and sustainable development require strong cooperation between all stakeholders and I am confident that NGO’s and TSO’s working together will be a major step in this direction.”

Hans-Jörg Dorny – Managing Director, 50Hertz:

“Despite the fact that we TSOs are responsible for the electricity system, the massive integration of electricity from renewable sources is a challenge we can not successfully master on our own. We need the support and the cooperation with politicians, authorities, market players and civil society. Europe has chosen to go renewable; our role is to set the proper ground to make it possible. 50Hertz has a massive investment programme to develop urgently the grid according to the needs of the next decades. The cooperation with NGOs in RGI helps us ensuring that we keep the right track and that we meet society’s expectations.”

Hans-Josef Fell – Speaker for Energy Policy, the Greens, German Parliament and Initiator of the Supergrid-Initiative:

“Ich begrüße die Renewables-Grid-Initiative. In den nächsten Jahren wird es immer wichtiger werden, die Stromerzeugung in Europa und den Anrainerregionen wie u.a. Nordafrika zu verknüpfen. Mir müssen schon in wenigen Jahren sehr große Mengen Wind- und Solarstrom dorthin verteilen, wo gerade die Nachfrage ist, oder Speicher zur Verfügung stehen. Ein Supergrid wird ein wichtiger Baustein bei der vollständigen Umstellung der Energieversorgung auf Erneuerbare Energien sein. Der Löwenanteil des Ökostroms wird dezentral erzeugt werden. Das Desertec-Projekt ist hierzu eine sinnvolle Ergänzung und keine Alternative. Ich habe im Bundestag eine fraktionsübergreifende Initiative zur Entwicklung politischer Strategien für das Supergrid und Desertec gegründet. Entscheidend für den Klimaschutz wird sein, dass zukünftig die Kapitalströme im Energiesektor in die Erneuerbaren Energien sowie die passende Infrastruktur umgelenkt werden und nicht weiterhin in klimaschädliche, endliche Ressourcen investiert werden. Die Renewables-Grid-Initiative kann hierfür ein wichtiger Baustein werden.

Pierre-Alain Graf – CEO, Swissgrid:

“Because of its geographical location, Switzerland is an important hub for the international trading of electricity. Hydropower and sustainable grid assets have enabled renewable energies to enjoy a long history in Switzerland. The large number of storage power plants and the huge available cross-border transport capacity of the Swiss transmission grid make an important contribution to reliable and sustainable energy supplies in Europe. Swissgrid, an important player in Switzerland’s security of supply, will be investing 5-7 billions of Swiss francs in replacing and upgrading the transmission system over the next few years. Supplies from wind and solar energy are a huge challenge for Transmission System Operators, requiring an efficient grid system. Through the Renewables-Grid-Initiative we are going to pave the way for delivering increasing levels of energy from renewable sources to consumers.”

“Die Schweiz ist aufgrund ihrer geopraphischen Lage eine bedeutene Drehscheibe für den internationalen Stromhandel. Eine wichtige Rolle spielt die Wasserkraft; dank ihr haben die erneuerbaren Energien eine lange Tradition in der Schweiz. Die vielen Speicherkraftwerke leisten einen wichtigen Beitrag für eine sichere und nachhaltige Energieversorgung in Europa. Swissgrid, ein wichtiger Pfeiler für die Versorgungssicherheit der Schweiz, wird in den kommenden Jahren zwischen fünf bis sieben Milliarden Schweizer Franken in die Erneuerung über den Ausbau des Übertragungsnetzes investieren. Die Einspeisung von Wind- und Solarenergie ist eine grosse Herausforderung. Dazu braucht es ein leistungsfähiges Netz.”

Prof. Dr. Peter Hoeppe – Head Geo Risks Research / Corporate Climate Centre, Munich Re:

“We see the realization of the Renewables-Grid-Initiative as a necessary precondition to reach our desertec goals.”

Michael Hogan – Director, European Climate Foundation:

“The European Climate Foundation is excited to be associated with this important initiative.  The realization of the full potential of renewable electricity, both large and small scale, will be contingent on massive investments in grid infrastructure.  Such projects always raise important questions about environmental and social impacts, and they raise important financial challenges to utility shareholders and ratepayers.  As such, it is tremendously encouraging to have leading transmission utilities and leading NGOs for the first time cooperating so closely to bring forward needed investment as quickly and as prudently possible while ensuring that all stakeholders’ interests are adequately addressed.”

Alison Kay –  Commercial Director, National Grid:

“Getting the right regulatory frameworks in Europe will be vital to help the growth of renewable generation and meet climate change targets. The Renewables Grid Initiative can play a valuable role in helping transmission system operators in their efforts to increase interconnection between their networks, invest in expanded transmission capacity and introduce innovative new technology.”

Wolfgang Neldner – Technical Managing Director, Vattenfall Europe Transmission: 

“We are very pleased to be part of this initiative for network extensions and renewable energies. It gives us, a transmission system operator, the opportunity to make, together with our partners, a direct contribution to implementing European Community law, and hence to the ability to reach climate pollution abatement and service security objectives in Germany and Europe. After all, the challenges of climate protection and service security in Europe cannot be resolved by a single player. Prompt network extensions are the only way to preserve our ability to transport every carbon emission-free kilowatt-hour. With regard to network extensions, we are interested in finding solutions that are suitable to both attain the overriding objectives of climate protection and service security and meet local concerns.”

Prof. Dr. K. E. Pollmann – Dean, Otto-von-Guericke- University of Magdeburg:

„Renewable energies are undoubtedly a major issue, in research as well as in education programmes. The Otto-von-Guericke- University is engaged in this field since more than 10 years. Education in the scope of energy and especially renewable energy however is still in the beginning of its development. The knowledge about the future power systems and especially the role of renewable energies is not implemented intensively in the study programs. The Otto-von-Guericke- University is going to introduce a new master program in renewable energies. In this context we will cooperate with international partners such as RGI or the European Wind Energy Academy and are starting national or international projects e.g. W2E or EE-Harz.Mobility.“

Dr. Ivan Scrase – Senior Climate Change Policy Officer, RSPB:

Climate change is rapidly becoming the most serious threat faced by birds and wildlife. We need a renewable energy revolution to keep climate change within safe limits, which in turn demands new investment in electricity transmission, distribution and storage. We want this investment to take place in harmony with the natural world, which means avoiding and minimising the impacts that infrastructure development can cause if poorly planned, designed and managed. By bringing together TSOs and environmental NGOs, the RGI has a vital role to play in safeguarding the natural environment as we decarbonise Europe’s energy system.”

Prof. Dr. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber CBE – Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research:

“If we are to avert at least the most dangerous impacts of climate change, then emissions of greenhouse gases in Europe will have to be decreased by 80% by the year 2050. This can only be achieved if we manage to extensively transform our present energy infrastructures. This is why I welcome the Renewables-Grid-Initiative.”

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Harald Schwarz - Managing Director CEBra, Programme Director MSc Power Engineering and Director of Institute for Energy Distribution and High Voltage Engineering, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus:

“The North East of Germany is a region with one of the highest densities of renewable energies in the world, connected to a grid designed for a much lower consumer load. It will be very challenging to integrate another 10-15 GW of renewable to the 10 GW actually connected to a grid with a consumer demand between 4-11 GW and keep in mind that the conventional generation (large units and urban combined cycles) will also increase from 25 GW actually to 35 GW within 10-15 years. Beside a tremendous extension of the grid transport capacity, the training of the control centre staff will be one of the most important factors for a safe grid operation in the near future. 50 Hertz-Transmission Ltd. and BTU Cottbus developed one of the most powerful grid training centres in Central Europe at BTU in Cottbus. The centre capability will allow a simultaneous training of up to 10 interconnected transmission and distribution grids with a simulation speed, which will create “real stress situations” to the trainees.”

Dr. Stephan Singer – Director of Global Energy Policy, WWF: 

“Renewable energy electricity mainly from wind, biomass and solar power is abundantly available all over Europe and neighboring regions including North Africa. To make those technologies work efficiently, spread them substantively, allow decentralised and large-scale renewables such as off-shore wind work together smoothly and phase out fossil fuels and nuclear by mid-century require a much more coordinated cross-border management and sophisticated upgrading of the existing old-fashioned grid infrastructure. If we don’t get the grids ‘right’, we won’t be able to meet ambitious climate targets such as staying below 2 degree requiring a zero-emitting Europe by mid-century.”

Claude Turmes – Vice-President of the Greens in the European Parliament and Rapporteur of the 2009 Renewables Energy Directive:

“In December 2008, 27 EU governments and the European Parliament have – through the new binding EU renewables energy directive – decided to put green electricity sources at the very heart of the future EU electricity system; green electricity will grow between 2010 and 2020 from 15% to 35% of the total electricity demand in the EU and pave the way for a future close to 100% renewable energy sources electricity system in Europe. This effort will be achieved by investments in millions of decentralised renewables devices and by hundreds of large-scale developments like on- and off-shore wind. The integration of these large new power capacities into the  North-West European grid system is a key obligation in the future work of Transmission System Operators. I welcome the initiative to create a discussion plattform between all stakeholders in society to develop a common understanding of the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

Jacques Vandermeiren – CCO, Elia:

“Elia’s joining RGI is further evidence of our commitment to the reliable, sustainable and efficient development of the European electricity market. We want to be able to integrate a constantly growing proportion of electricity generated from renewable energy sources. Therefore, we need to work hand in hand with all stakeholders in order to gain the necessary public acceptance.”

Jean Verseille – Director System Development, RTE:

“At the crossroads between northern and southern Europe, the French power system will need to make significantly evolve its role in order to enable Europe to achieve the ambitious targets set for the share of renewable energy sources in the continent’s energy mix. The decision to sign up to the RGI reflects RTE’s commitment to greater dialogue with all stakeholders, and a sustainable development policy that reconciles grid development with respect for the environment and economic performance.”

“Au carrefour du Nord et du Sud de l’Europe, le réseau français devra voir son rôle profondément évoluer pour permettre d’atteindre des objectifs ambitieux de contribution des énergies renouvelables au mix énergétique européen. La participation à la RGI marque la volonté de RTE de développer le dialogue avec toutes les parties prenantes et de mettre en oeuvre une politique de développement durable conciliant développement du réseau, respect de l’environnement et performance économique.”

Ben Voorhorst – COO, TenneT: 

“Both the European Union and the Dutch Cabinet ’s have formulated an ambition of realising a sustainable international energy landscape. This ambitious goal can’t be reached without intensive cooperation between many stakeholders. This initiative is an import step in order to help each other to be able to develop and expand the electricity grids to integrate renewables as soon as possible. TenneT as a TSO will make all the necessary preparations to ensure optimum readiness of the electricity grids, for example to connect offshore wind farms, sufficient transport capabilities from large-scale production to area’s of consumption and to keep a reliable security of supply in the future.”