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The green transition brings changes to the landscape

Published 28.10.2020 15.01
Renewable energy from wind and solar sources will grow, as we begin to use more and more green electricity in electric cars, heat pumps, etc. in the near future. The current power grid cannot handle this in some places. On the other hand, natural gas consumption will decline, whereas the share of green gases will increase and be used for completely different things than today. This is why Energinet has published two new analyses, that highlight the future needs of the power and gas grids, in preparation for a broad societal dialogue on finding the best solutions.

Production and consumption of green electricity will grow significantly by 2040. The maximum production that wind turbines and solar cells can deliver will increase from 7.4 GW today up to maybe 26 GW. A tripling or quadrupling will create problems for the current high-voltage grid in many places as this is not built to handle such large amounts of energy.

Similarly, the Danish gas system will undergo major changes. In future, gas for energy consumption in Denmark will not flow from the natural gas fields in the North Sea and spread to all branches of the country. Instead, gas will be made at local biogas plants and will be used for energy-purposes locally or transported across the country via the gas grid.

Consequently, Energinet now publishes the two analyses: "Long-term development needs in the power grid" and "Long-term development needs in the gas system".

- Some of these challenges are 10-20 years into the future, but others are just around the corner. We’re already seeing places in Denmark where large-scale local production from wind and solar sources put a strain on the power grid. It’s important that we have a good dialogue with local authorities, communities, companies, the energy industry and everyone else about these challenges and about how we, as a society, achieve the best green transition and work together to come up with solutions that ensure that, for example, a doubling of electricity demand does not mean twice as many power pylons and overhead lines, says Hanne Storm Edlefsen, Head of the Strategic Planning division in Energinet Elsystemansvar, Energinet’s electricity system operator branch.

If power grid expansion is the only solution

The analyses show, among other things, the geographical locations in Denmark where high-voltage grid expansions are needed, if underground cables and new overhead lines are the only tools, we use. But there may also be other solutions, emphasizes Hanne Storm Edlefsen.

For example, if wind farms or large photovoltaic systems are placed correctly, the need to reinforce the power grid can sometimes be reduced and perhaps completely avoided. Or if the electrolysis plants of the future, which will convert green electricity to hydrogen and other green fuels, are located close to large wind farms or photovoltaic plants, power will not have to be transported across the country. This may, however, require new underground hydrogen pipelines.

There may also be completely different solutions, local solutions, market solutions, where it is possible to increase and reduce production or consumption – e.g. in local areas with large-scale wind or solar production that have companies or other large consumers that can absorb production when it's really windy or the sun is shining, explains Hanne Storm Edlefsen.

Dialogue and good ideas required

- We are facing huge changes to the entire energy system, which means that we need to have all the good ideas put forward as soon as possible and to discuss how the green transition may affect the landscape, neighbors, and communities. We will have many more wind turbines at sea and large photovoltaic systems on land. In addition, we will see new biogas plants and hydrogen factories. In some places, the power grid must be strengthened or expanded with underground cables or overhead lines, but in other places, there may be solutions both cheaper for society and less intrusive for the people who live in the area, says Hanne Storm Edlefsen.