Powering up the renewable energy revolution 

The electricity grid will need to be upgraded so that more renewable energy can be used ©BELGA/DPA/A.Weigel  

Renewable energy goes easy on the planet, comes without terrifying safety risks, and is by definition never-ending, so why are we not using it more of it? The EU wants renewable energies to account for 20% of Europe's needs by 2020, but for this many obstacles still need to be overcome. A new study on the European Renewable Energy Network sets out how to transform the electricity grid so that more renewable energy can be used and stored.

The study was commissioned by the EP's industry, research and energy committee, which discussed it on Monday. Its main objective is to identify the network infrastructure changes necessary to increase the share of the renewables, including different technologies for storing renewable energy. The analysis covers different scenarios for developing renewable energy sources until 2050.

Renewable energy is often produced far from the main centres of consumption, which means the electric grid will need to be upgraded in order to fully benefit from its potential. Provided there is sufficient support, the report predicts wind power could become cost-effective in Europe by the end of the current decade and solar energy as early as 2015 in Central and Southern Europe.

In addition integrating renewable energy sources into the grid would boost competition between producers and improve the security of supply. But this would require major investments as well as long-term planning.

The study also highlights the important role European institutions have to play in developing the grid. They are needed to set clear long-term goals, provide criteria for the selection of the projects and monitor and coordinate European projects to avoid overlap.