Europe’s Power Sector Calls for Ramping Up Aging Grid Infrastructure

Eurelectric says there is need for an 84% annual investment boost until 2050

September 22, 2023


Europe’s power industry has called for ramping up investments in aging grid infrastructure by 84% every year until 2050.

The grid infrastructure is ill-suited for accommodating decentralized renewables, electric vehicles and smart grids, Eurelectric, which represents the interests of the European electricity industry, said.

In its Power Barometer 2023 report, Eurelectric highlighted the importance of investing in grid infrastructure upgrades to achieve renewable energy objectives.

“Although grid investments saw an 8% increase from 2021 to 2022, the report underscores the need for an 84% annual investment boost until 2050, ideally allocating €0.67 (~$0.71) to grid enhancements for every €1 (~$1.07) invested in generation capacity,” it said.

While some progress has been made in reducing carbon intensity in the power sector, the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and bolster renewable energy sources has become even more pressing. To achieve Europe’s renewable energy goals, the report recommended the following:

  • Tripling the rate of electrification by 2050 (reaching a storage capacity of 191 GW by 2030 and potentially 488 GW by 2050, an increase from the current 6 GW in 2023, alongside adding 605 GW of renewable capacity by 2030)
  • Doubling of installed renewable energy generation capacity (adding 605 GW of renewable capacity by 2030, mostly coming from wind and solar).
  • Increasing the adoption of electric vehicles (reaching a 58% growth rate within 6.5 years to meet 2030 decarbonization targets)
  • Expanding public charging infrastructure by 480,000 units to 3,500,000 by 2030
  • Expansion of energy storage capacity from 6 GW in 2023 to 191 GW by 2030 and up to 488 GW by 2050 to efficiently harness renewable energy sources
  • Investing in grid infrastructure and digitalization for transitioning to a decentralized model, and modernizing outdated infrastructure


Investments in distribution grid

Eurelectric’s Secretary General Kristian Ruby said, “We need more lines, more digitalization and more climate resilience to get our grids fit for net-zero. This requires a change in the regulatory approach. Grid operators must be allowed to make anticipatory investments so we can start preparing for higher electrification.”

The deployment of new generation capacity varied strongly per technology. Whereas solar PV registered record deployment of 41 GW, wind installations were trailing due to a combination of supply chain issues, slow permitting and poor tender design.

Eurelectric said growing variable wind and solar generation requires an increase in firm and flexible technologies to stabilize the system. In addition to conventional plants, storage solutions should massively ramp up. Although installations have increased to 4.5 GW in 2022, around 11 to 14 GW would be needed per year to meet the future system needs.

Early this month, the European Parliament approved an updated Renewable Energy Directive aiming for 42.5% renewable energy in final consumption by 2030, with encouragement for member states to reach 45%.

Europe will need to invest over $32 trillion in energy and related technologies to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050, according to BloombergNEF.