Europe is building an ‘electric economy’. Electricity is set to become the dominant source of energy. It will drive transition to a low carbon, high growth future. By 2050, most of our transport could be powered by electricity, with the possible exception of some heavy commercial vehicles.
As part of this transition, electricity grids will no longer be seen as a national resource. They will become international corridors of trade bringing renewable energy generation from northern marine and southern solar generation to European centres of population.
At an average growth rate of 2%, Europe’s demand for electricity will double by 2050. At a 3% growth rate, that demand will more than treble. If we are to reduce carbon emissions by 80% then all of this increased demand will have to be met by renewable energy. Existing coal, oil and gas generation will have to be phased out – completely.
By 2030, there will be no more fossil fuel plant built in Europe. New build will consist only of renewable and nuclear. Already we can see that trend develop with more wind energy installed in Europe in 2008 and 2009 than any other form of electricity generation.
If we are to fully exploit these renewable resources, and deliver power on a continental scale, then the energy sector has to significantly reduce investment costs through a whole series of innovations from plant design to voltage source technology. In offshore wind, scale will come from combining large clusters of simplified turbines into wind-fires power stations. These stations are the modules on which the Supergrid will be built.