Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are playing a major role in helping to transform Europe’s energy systems for a low carbon future. Unfortunately wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine just when needed. This results in a need for a large and variable amount of energy storage as demand will not match supply.
Unfortunately, not all of today’s electricity grids have enough capacity to carry all of the renewable energy produced during strong wind and bright sunshine. This is particularly so in Germany, but also increasingly in the U.K. and elsewhere. The result is that quite often wind and solar generation have to be switched off where the grid is overloaded. At the same time, significant amounts of compensation (M€) are paid to renewable energy generators. This is an unnecessary waste of both resource and money, and the situation will get worse as renewable energy increases its generation share.
Mature gas networks in Europe are typically carrying multiples of the energy being transported as electricity, and often have a lot of spare capacity by design. Given the huge storage capacity of the European natural gas grid, a much smarter approach would be to use the renewably generated (green) electricity to produce renewable or green gas. This can then be transported in the European gas grid.
This is the Power to Gas concept. Technically, the electricity can be converted to hydrogen, using electrolysis of water. In some cases this could also be followed by combining carbon dioxide and hydrogen into methane (the basis of natural gas). Whichever approach is adopted, and both offer their own advantages, Europe can only benefit from using the enormous storage capacity of the European natural gas system. The alternative approach to meeting Europe’s renewable energy challenge is to build vast amounts of new electricity transportation infrastructure and new electricity storage. This has major cost as well as environmental implications. This debate will look at Power to Gas as a means to meet the challenge while working in partnership with renewables . It will launch the GERG Power to Gas Roadmap, which will show how technology needs to develop to make Power to Gas a reality. This Roadmap sets out to identify the bottlenecks, and their solutions, in developing a natural gas infrastructure that can support the storage and transport of hydrogen-natural gas mixtures in a move towards a low carbon economy. It will highlight the R&D that will be necessary to achieve a robust solution based on the existing natural gas grid.
Lambert van Nistelrooij, MEP, Chair of the K4I Forum of the European Parliament
António Fernando Correia De Campos,
MEP, Rapportuer on the Trans-European energy infrastructure
President of GERG
E.ON New Build & Technology GmbH, and GERG
Principal Advisor to the Director-General of DG ENER, European Commission