Europe’s electricity grids are facing common challenges: the demand for electricity is increasing, and new production sites are being established further and further away from the major centres of consumption. To jointly tackle these challenges, a new grid level is required: the so-called supergrid. And Switzerland will play a key role in this.

To be able to achieve the climate targets set for the whole of Europe, electricity from renewable energy sources will increasingly need to be produced in places which make the most sense from an economic and technical perspective. Accordingly, wind power will primarily be generated in coastal regions and offshore wind farms, for instance in the North and Baltic Seas. In addition, foundations such as DESERTEC are looking into the option of installing large solar plants in deserts. The upshot of implementing these projects is that production is becoming more and more remote from the end consumer.

In other words, more electricity will have to be transported over greater distances. Europe’s current transmission systems will not be able to cope with these amounts. Even now, we require careful regulation and close cooperation between all transmission system operators to avoid congestion. This is why Europe is developing a new, more powerful grid – the supergrid. We need to break new ground to ensure that Switzerland plays a key role in the supergrid.

An efficient Swiss transmission system will link production sites and consumers throughout Europe.

Energy derived from sustainable sources also means more production fluctuations. Thanks to hydropower-based pumped storage plants, Switzerland will be able to make more storage capacity available.

Production and consumption have to be balanced to enable transmission systems to function in a stable manner. The transmission system operators correct any imbalances by feeding control energy into the grid. The demand for control energy will continue to rise in the future and, being at the heart of Europe, Swissgrid will play a key role here.

The European supergrid is a vision that will enable us to tackle the challenges of the coming decades. Swissgrid represents Switzerland’s interests on a range of committees, and since spring 2010 has also been working on the Renewables Grid Initiative.