Moving toward renewables in Europe

Mar 11, 2016, 1:29 PM EST
(Source: Ian Muttoo/flickr)
(Source: Ian Muttoo/flickr)

Europe is increasingly looking to renewable energy and broad reforms of the energy system, notably through initiatives to establish smart grids and increase public awareness of the need to move away from using fossil fuels. Launched last November, but announced this week, the ERIGrid project is a coalition of European research institutions seeking to make renewable energy profitable and integrate it into European economies without destabilizing the current grid systems.

Of course, moving away from fossil fuels, we now know, does not have to mean the destabilization of energy economies, but it remains a slow-moving process as energy systems of old have a chokehold on most industries. But reports note that the ERIGrid project will combine 18 institutions including the University of Strathclyde, the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and Savings, and the European Distributed Energy Resources Laboratories, to work on enabling the development of commercial smart grids.

Thomas Strasser, a senior scientist at the Austrian Institute of Technology, ERIGrid’s leading group, said in a statement: "We intend to make the innovative methods, concepts and processes developed within this top-class network available to other interested researchers, industrial enterprises, system operators and standardisation institutions. By networking European smart grid research infrastructure through the ERIGrid project, we are driving technological developments and the creation of intelligent networks in Europe."

ERIGrid is not to be confused with EirGrid, an Ireland-based grid-operator that is state-run, and manages the transmission grid across the island. Back in February, the group announced a €17 million pan-European energy research initiative that includes 25 organizations from 13 European countries that aims to “examine how to manage the increasing amounts of renewable energy on real-time European electricity power systems,” according to the group.

EirGrid says that the E.U. has an operational goal of fulfilling 20% of its total energy needs through renewables by 2020, and that its Migrate program will focus on maximizing the amount of renewable energy sources “while maintaining stability.” While EirGrid proposes some controversial power programs, and has come under fire in the past for construction plans, both it and ERIGrid are two examples of how European eyes are turning more towards renewables than ever before. In the wake of Paris talks on climate change earlier this year, the focus is on the changing of the tides, and turning away from carbon emissions.