Keys to a low-carbon future on both sides of the pond
The path to less expensive, lower emissions electricity systems in the US and EU share many basic features, writes Paul Bledsoe of the German Marshall Fund.
This week the European Union approved plans for an ‘Energy Union’ to better coordinate energy policy and markets among its 28 member countries. The effort was initially prompted by the Ukraine crisis, with the goal of reducing EU reliance on Russian natural gas, which remains a key objective. But many analysts believe the most important long-term impact of the Energy Union effort will be to push for integration of Europe’s disparate and disconnected electricity markets in an effort to both reduce retail prices (now twice as high as those in the US) and also meet Europe’s ambitious climate goals.
At the Brussels Forum Energy Dialogues sponsored by the German Marshall Fund, experts noted that increasing electricity integration across Europe is essentially a prerequisite for large scale renewable energy on the continent, a critical step in the decarbonization of the EU economy. For example, the sun shines in Spain and Italy at different times than the wind blows in Denmark, but those sources are currently unconnected and so cannot supplement one another. Meanwhile hydropower in Norway and other sources could be used as base load power (a sort of “battery”) to balance the whole system electric grid system, especially if there were more power line interconnections and more free trading between nations and regions, as envisioned by the Energy Union.