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https://setis.ec.europa.eu/system/files/Setis_magazine_05_2014_web.pdf

The European grid was not designed with intermittent energy sources in mind. What is being done to ensure that the grid becomes sufficiently reactive to accommodate the levels of renewable energy foreseen in the SET-Plan?

The management of electricity networks under stable frequency and voltage conditions implies a continuous exact balance between power generation and load consumption. Any unbalance, if not properly managed, can evolve into unstable conditions, potentially opening the way to blackouts.

Up to a few years ago, the only variable in the electricity system was the load. Hence, generators were operated to follow load variations closely in order to maintain equilibrium with the required safety margin to ensure secure operation of the system. More recently, nearly all European countries experienced abrupt growth in renewable energy sources (RES) such as wind and photovoltaic, which are intrinsically variable and, to a certain extent, difficult to predict. This fact has increased the level of complexity of system management and, to avoid dramatic consequences, there is an urgent need for increased system flexibility.

The only way to cope with this new situation is to implement smart grid solutions.

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Smart grids are electricity grids in which computer intelligence and networking capacity have been added to a ‘dumb’ electricity distribution system. This enables greater consumer involvement in managing their consumption patterns, giving them access to the information required to make informed choices. A smart grid also provides the capacity to accommodate intermittent energy from renewable and decentralised sources.

Meter-ON is a project financed under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) that aims to foster and support the implementation of smart metering solutions throughout Europe. By providing clear recommendations to stakeholders on how to tackle technical barriers and regulatory hurdles...

In 2006, the European Commission issued guidelines concerning trans-European energy networks (TEN-E)1 which stated that, for the European internal energy market to operate effectively, it would be essential to build power grid infrastructure to ensure the interconnection and interoperability of electricity networks.

New interconnectors are needed throughout the Mediterranean region to facilitate large-scale electricity trading between the north and south, in addition to inter-grid trading throughout the region. To address this need, the Medgrid industrial initiative was set up to design and promote a Mediterranean transmission network capable of transporting 5 GW...

Demand response is the intentional modification of normal consumption patterns by end-use customers in response to incentives from grid operators. It is designed to lower electricity use at times of high wholesale market prices or when system reliability is threatened. Demand response requires consumers to either actively respond to signals from the operator or, in what may be a more appealing option, to make use of automated solutions...

Just after 4 pm on Thursday 14 August, 2003, a power outage cascaded through the north-east and mid-west of the USA and Ontario (Canada), leaving over 50 million people without electricity. Communications, transport and industry were all disrupted, with power only being restored in some areas two days later. Although the blackout was essentially a result of systems shutting down to protect the grid and its infrastructure, it was a dramatic illustration of what can happen if minimum and common standards of reliability are not in place and enforced.