Europe’s grid expansion out of sync with renewables goals

Chief Europe Correspondent
Source: Ember • Countries include the 27 European Union member countries, Norway, Switzerland and the Western Balkans. "Other" includes the remaining countries not individually represented. Six countries in the "Other" category do not publicly report planned line lengths. Their share was calculated based on the average growth reported by the rest of the countries.

Europe’s plans to grow its grid do not match its ambitious wind and solar deployment goals, which risks leaving countries unprepared for the green transition. 

That’s the key message in a recent report from climate think tank Ember, which analyzed the national grid development plans of 35 European countries (including non-members of the European Union). 

The report found “a high degree of misalignment” between how much and how fast the region’s transmission operators plan to develop the grid and the region’s foreseen installed wind and solar capacity by 2030.  

Clean energy technologies can be deployed much faster than transmission lines can be built or upgraded, according to the report.  

Europe’s national transmission networks today collectively consist of approximately 500,000 kilometers (nearly 310,700 miles) of lines, exceeding the average distance from the Earth to the Moon, Ember found.  

Spain is set to add the most new lines by 2026, reaching a total of over 50,000 km from about 45,000 km today.  

Meanwhile, Denmark — a leader in wind energy deployment in Europe — stands out as the country set to add the most lines relative to its existing grid. It plans to add 3,300 km by 2026 to its current line length of 7,440 km. 

The plans indicate grid expansion is set to pick up significantly after 2026, Ember found.