Challenge: How to define an appropriate assessment framework for the strategic environmental and sustainability assessment of grid reinforcements at a 2050 time horizon?
Background and assumptions
The scenarios for the pan-European transmission system at 2050 have been described here and Europe has been clustered into about 100 different clusters. Then the five energy scenarios at 2050 have been quantified, meaning that demand, storage, exchange and generation have been defined at country and cluster level according to a dedicated approach. Grid architectures and reinforcement options are detailed here.
Description of the result
1. The SESA approach in e-Highway2050
The SESA methodology enables an early assessment of a range of strategies inherent to the e-Highway2050 project using a strategic thinking methodological approach which seeks to establish environmental and sustainability conditions for successful e-Highway2050 project outcomes. A key element in the methodology are the Critical Decision Factors (CDF) , integrated themes that express environmental and sustainability priorities, and which are used as success factors in the assessment framework. The CDF together with assessment criteria and indicators constitute an assessment framework. This framework is built on the integration of three types of frameworks: (i) a problem framework, i.e. map problems and potentials concerning key environmental and sustainability issues; (ii) a governance framework relative to institutional arrangements already in place and additional structures and processes required to support an effective delivery of e-Highway2050; (iii) a Strategic Reference Framework highlighting relevant macro-policies, and its key objectives and targets, that serves as a referential for assessment.
The strategic assessment is structured around the CDF, while the assessment is conducted with reference to the macro-policy objectives and targets as well as in relation to main trends on key environmental and sustainability themes, considering key drivers of change, as well as governance arrangements and policy conflicts that may impact e-Highway2050 decisions. The CDF are the key instrument in keeping the strategic focus in the assessment.
2. Defining the CDF and the strategic options
The four CDF that structured the assessment of the e-Highway2050 strategies for grid architectures are: Social acceptance and acceptability; Energy security and energy technologies; Geo-political economy and regional equity; and European regional governance.
Table 1 – The four Critical Decision Factors (CDF) in e-Highway2050
The strategies underlying the five selected energy scenarios at the 2050 time horizon were interpreted in order to identify the plausible strategic options that could determine the design of an overall grid development considering five different possible futures. When applying the SESA process to the five e-Highway2050 scenarios, 16 strategic options in four strategic themes were identified: 1) Generation and regional balance; 2) Storage; 3) Transmission; and 4) International strategy.
Table 2 – e-Highway2050 Strategic Options
The correspondence matrix between the 16 strategic options and the five scenarios is described in .
3. Assessing strategic options underlining candidate grid architectures
The following risks and opportunities illustrate outcomes from the assessment of the identified strategic options within the e-Highway2050 framework:
- Most identified risks result from a relatively restrictive set of options from which strategic choices are made by considering generation, storage and transmission. As a result of the long-term planning context (2050) of the e-Highway2050 project, the range and type of uncertainties must be considered by resorting to adaptive approaches that can reduce the power system vulnerability to climate change, accidents, political instability, market volatility and other causes.
- Other significant risks are related to specific strategies that, if adopted, may increase some regions/Member States’ energy dependency (such as a highly centralised strategy for both generation and storage or a non-RES dominant energy mix).
- Opportunities could be identified. Most of them relate to the possible deployment of a mixed scale and technological energy system (combining both large-scale and smaller scale solutions in terms of generation and storage) that can foster vast demand-side management deployment and promote overall reduction on energy consumption, and on transmission losses.
- A mix of transmission technologies adapted to local conditions present the highest amount of opportunities for a sustainable grid development. Optimizing the existing AC network with FACTS while developing HVDC links, and combining both underground and overhead lines can deliver the best trade-offs between the security of supply, regional equity and competitiveness, social acceptance and the power system’s governance.
SESA is not an appropriate instrument to deliver yes or no go ahead solutions. These conclusions must be supported by accurate modelling and cost-benefit analysis that consider the land-take and environmental impacts that transmission infrastructure can have on ecosystems, ecosystem services and local communities. Failure to take these into account may lead to difficulties at a later stage, including irreversible losses through social and environmental damages, public opposition and increased costs.
4. Towards guidelines for grid development
The SESA process leads to the following recommendations to guidelines for grid development:
- Large-scale and decentralised, smaller-scale generation and storage solutions must be combined to reduce vulnerabilities (the use of adiabatic CAES should be considered instead of PHS, to enhance the public acceptability of large-scale storage systems);
- Spatial planning and constraints analyses must be used to guide underground lines away from particularly vulnerable locations;
- The loss of biodiversity and other ecosystem services essential to local development must be avoided first, then reduced and only as a last resort compensated for;
- Technologies with low technology readiness level and Key Enabling Technologies must be promoted to keep future options open;
- Alternative solutions for energy imports must be identified and developed, and energy import dependence and vulnerability, at country and regional level should be monitored;
- Market coupling projects and agreements should be implemented within a technological framework (i.e. accounting for technological progress of the power system);
- Enhance interconnections by ensuring the speed-up of authorization processes (simplification of administrative procedures).
At last, energy infrastructure development entails public acceptance issues: it is critical that relevant stakeholders are engaged early on in the planning process. It is also essential to consider, and clearly expose the costs and benefits of selected strategic options, not only from an economic and financial perspective but also considering social and environmental issues, to allow informed participation by regional and local stakeholders – while reducing public opposition. Governance and market development mechanisms must also be enhanced to support MS cooperation and coordination, regulate the energy system and promote technological development and market integration, while considering regional equity as a baseline.
The methodology developed to implement the SESA process can be used to assess 2030 and 2040 scenarios, as well as other strategic-level decision-making processes during grid planning. However, it is essential that a strong interaction exists between strategic assessment and grid development in order to adapt to an evolving decision-making context. This will enable a continuous improved integration of environmental and sustainability issues during grid planning processes.
This article is connected to the following e-Highway2050 knowledge articles:
· e-Highway 2050: Challenging energy scenarios for the pan European transmission system by 2050
· e-Highway 2050: Approach towards a European cluster model
· e-Highway 2050: Grid architectures for 2050
 e-Highway 2050: http://www.e-highway2050.eu
 Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente e Redes Energéticas Nacionais. Lisboa. 2012. (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eia/pdf/2012%20SEA_Guidance_Portugal.pdf)
 Maria Partidário et al. Deliverable D4.2 of e-Highway2050 project. Environmental validation of the grid reinforcements for 2050
 G. Sanchis, RTE et alia, “A methodology for the development of the pan-European Electricity Highways System for 2050”, CIGRE Paris, August 2014
 B. H. Bakken, M. Paun, R. Pestana, G. Sanchis, “e-Highway2050: A Modular Development Plan on Pan- European Electricity Highways System for 2050”, Cigre Lisbon, April 2013
Maria Partidário (IST), Rita B. Soares (IST), Margarida Monteiro (IST), Nuno Oliveira (IST),
Peter Phillips (CEP), Steven Forrest (CEP), Katya Brooks (CEP), William Sheate (CEP).
Rui Pestana , REN - Rede Eléctrica Nacional, S.A., Rua Cidade de Goa,4. 2685-038 Sacavém, Portugal
Phone: +351. 21 001 14 38 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Maria Partidário, Centre for Management Studies of Instituto Superior Técnico (CEG-IST) Universidade de Lisboa, Av. Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal, e-mail: email@example.com
Gerald Sanchis, Nathalie Grisey, RTE
e-mails: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com