Key researchers from CEDREN recently travelled to Düsseldorf to meet with German researchers and representatives from energy industry and grid companies. Held 15-16 December, the meeting enhanced knowledge about balance power and contributed to CEDREN’s work on identifying the advantages and drawbacks of Norway’s becoming Europe’s “green battery”.
The workshop confirmed unequivocally that Norwegian hydropower could play a vital role in Europe’s, and particularly Germany’s, path toward a society powered by renewable energy. The German representatives, however, had different opinions on the scale of future energy needs and on the pace of development.Four essential questions emerged from the workshop, and these will be the target for continued efforts by CEDREN:
Europe is in full transition away from reliance on fossil fuels towards utilising renewables-based energy. The bulk of electricity production is to come from wind power and solar energy, both of which are subject to fluctuations in production. Despite low subsidies, the rapid pace of development for wind power and solar energy is expected to continue. This makes energy storage necessary to ensure power for consumers when the wind is still or the sun is not shining.
Fully half of Europe’s reservoir capacity lies in Norway, making the country an attractive partner. A German study on how Germany could procure all of its electricity from renewable resources by 2050 identifies Norwegian dams as the only realistic way to store large volumes of energy. The study, conducted for the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU), estimates that in 2050, Germany will need close to 60 GW of balance power, which far exceeds Norway’s current capacity.Norway’s state-owned Statkraft has carried out a study to quantify the technical potential for pumped storage capacity in southern Norway. This potential depends on how soon energy companies are allowed to manipulate reservoir levels and on the length of time the water is to be stored. Capacity is estimated at 30 GW for a typical scenario that assumes reservoir levels can be changed by up to 50 cm per hour in the dams, and that discharge can be distributed over five days. Under stricter regulation of dams, however, where changes in reservoir levels are limited to one centimetre per hour, capacity is reduced to one-tenth, or 3.2 GW. These calculations exclude any future reservoirs that may be established.SRU regards the linking of German solar energy and wind power with Norwegian hydropower as a win-win situation. German grid companies caution that plans to increase wind and solar production in Germany will be in trouble if national grid capacity is too low – since wind power is produced by wind farms in the north of Germany, while consumption is highest in the south. By 2020, some 4 000 kilometres of new transmission cables will be needed; just 90 kilometres in length has been constructed so far, according to grid company 50Hertz Transmission. Local residents strongly resist grid expansion when it means new power lines in their neighbourhood; many experts consider this the single largest obstacle to developing renewable energy.Poor transmission capacity has already led to periods with negative spot prices in northern Germany, where the proportion of wind power is high. Suppliers have had to pay for delivery of electricity – and this challenge will only intensify with the development of more wind power.Germany was the first country to create scenarios for how Norwegian reservoirs could balance renewable energy, but the UK has now entered the picture as well. England and Scotland are planning to construct a number of large-scale offshore wind farms, dramatically increasing the need for balance power. A recent UK study identifies Norway as the most preferable solution for storing sufficient energy to fill in during periods when winds are still. On the Continent, The Netherlands wants a second transmission cable stretching from its shoreline to Norway, in addition to the one already in place.So Norway could find itself in a very advantageous position as an energy supplier.
From the German viewpoint, Norway has no reason to delay. The first 10 GW of transmission capacity does not require any follow-up expansion of pumped storage power.The choice that the Norwegian authorities and energy companies must make is whether to move quickly to sign bilateral agreements with Germany and the UK in order to secure a competitive advantage, or wait for a multinational agreement with the North Sea countries or the entire EU in order to gain greater security for investors and a larger market.
Contact persons for CEDREN:
Ånund Killingtveit, NTNU - projectleader HydroPEAK
Atle Harby, SINTEF - Centre director CEDREN