Together with its partners, Swissgrid is exploring the possibilities of a pan-European supergrid taking into account operational, grid planning, socioeconomic and regulatory developments. The project consortium is made up of 15 European transmission system operators, research institutes, universities, industry federations and one NGO.

Over the next two to three years, the project will research the many relevant aspects to a supergrid of the future. The goal of the «e-Highway2050» project is to develop a new methodology to establish the phased grid planning of pan-European supergrid – the so-called electricity highway – for the time between 2020 and 2050. It will be the first time that all relevant aspects of a future pan-European «electricity highways system» are explored and assessed as part of a holistic approach:

  • Technology
  • Operational challenges
  • Socioeconomic aspects (economic benefits compared to a conventional set-up, financing, etc.)
  • Regulatory and legal obstacles (in particular the governance of a supergrid)
  • Environmental protection aspects
  • Acceptance by society
  • Geopolitical challenges
  • New planning methods taking into account grid and market

The role of a European supergrid

Plans envisage the supergrid forming a superimposed grid designed for the long-distance transport of large volumes of electricity. To do this, «electricity highways» – special new high-voltage lines – are required. In the past, power plants were built where consumption was highest, with the focus on transporting power over medium distances. But in future, electricity from renewable energy sources will increasingly need to be produced in places which make the most sense from an economic and technical perspective in order to achieve climate targets set for Europe as a whole. Electricity from renewable energy sources is frequently produced peripherally, for example through the huge potential of offshore wind parks in the North Sea and Baltic. As a result, a sharp increase in north-south load flows is expected. The same thing applies to the increasing production of solar electricity in Southern Europe, which has to be transported to the load centres. Because centres of production and consumption are drifting further and further apart, the future challenges in power transmission will increasingly lie in transporting it across nations and continents.