E3G’s new discussion paper, Innovation in EU Electricity Grids: linking research and innovation to deployment instruments, reviews the landscape of electricity grid innovation needs, EU funding structures for grid innovation, and EU deployment support for grid innovation. It argues that there is still considerable scope for the connections between EU innovation and deployment funds to be improved. This requires reassessing infrastructure priorities and definitions (which can constrain innovative approaches), as well as updating the rules on how deployment incentives are designed.
Innovation in areas such as advanced transmission and distribution technologies, smart grids, and digitalisation can assist a more rapid and cheaper transition to a zero-emission energy system. To have sufficient impact, the speed at which innovations reach mass deployment (the lab-to-market cycle) must accelerate.
The bulk of grid investment in Europe is funded via regulated tariffs. This means national regulators and regulatory frameworks are the biggest determinants of how swiftly innovative technologies and approaches progress to widespread adoption. But EU policies and funds can also be designed to have greater impact for accelerating grid innovation. Electricity grids are already a significant focus of EU-funded innovation. Meanwhile, other EU funding mechanisms support deployment of new energy infrastructure through grants and loans. However, it is often unclear how the EU’s innovation and deployment strategies fit together.
- The gap between EU funding of infrastructure innovation and infrastructure deployment needs to be closed
- How infrastructure is defined and understood needs to evolve
- There need to be more specific incentives for innovation in the TEN-E
- The criteria for PCI status under the TEN-E regulation should be changed to be more supportive of innovation and new technology