Marcello Del Brenna, Chairman of the Board of Friends of the Supergrid, talks about this cross-purpose project.
In 2009 the European Union (EU) and G8 Heads of Government committed their countries to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This commitment implies major development of power generation from renewable sources, in particular wind, solar and - possibly - new energy sources linked to the sea, like tides and waves.
The exploitation of these sources, which are not transportable, is strictly linked to the development of a “Supergrid”, a power transmission network that transports electricity from remote generation sites (e.g offshore wind farms in the North Sea, hydropower in Norway etc…) via various onshore connection nodes to the centres of consumption, usually far away.
By increasing the possible interactions between generation and demand, the variability and unpredictability of renewable sources such as wind and solar are dramatically reduced, thus providing a significant contribution to managing the balance between future electricity demand and supply.
Prysmian, together with nine other major players in the energy sector, is one of the founding members of "Friends of the Supergrid", an organisation aimed at promoting and supporting the development of large–scale power connections in Europe (the Supergrid) as part of the implementation of the European Directive for promoting the utilisation of power from renewable sources.
We interviewed Marcello Del Brenna, CEO of Prysmian Powerlink and Chairman of the Board of Friends of the Supergrid, to obtain a better understanding of the aims and work of this important association.
How do members of “Friends of the Supergrid” (FOSG) work together?
The Friends of the Supergrid are a group of companies who are involved in key sectors for the development of energy infrastructure, and more specifically in the development of renewables generation. Starting with ten initial founding members, the Association now has twenty-three full members, including manufacturers, developers, contractors, consultants and utilities. While the Board meets every two months, three working groups are actively addressing the issues of technology, operation of the Supergrid (financing, management, protocols), and supply chain. Outside the Board, FOSG is extremely active in participating in conferences around Europe and in lobbying the European Union.
What are the aims of this collaboration between different companies that are often competitors?
The members of FOSG have a common interest: the development of a Supergrid in Europe. Some of them compete with one another in day-to-day business. However, we all understand that it is not only a brilliant business opportunity for the Association members, but it is also a priority for Europe in order to achieve its targets in terms of sustainability and energy independence. All members of FOSG adhere to stringent standards of conduct regarding anti-trust regulations, and all the Association’s documentation is completely transparent. The participation of utilities such as National Grid, RTE and REE, among others, also helps ensure that the Association is fully compliant in this area.
Why is it so important to share competencies? How can such sharing contribute to Prysmian business?
FOSG gives us the opportunity to meet several companies involved in the electrical infrastructure supply chain, who we would not necessarily normally deal with. By meeting them and exchanging ideas about the future of electrical infrastructure in Europe, we obtain a more complete picture about trends in the related industry and new technological developments and get useful information for determining our future plans. Also discussion of medium and long-term scenarios with customers allows us to know them better and their points of view. One of the dangers of day-to-day business is of becoming self-referential, and being part of these associations is a way of learning other viewpoints.
What stages will the project involve?
The top priority of FOSG for 2011-2012 is to be known in Europe and to make public our views on the challenges of the Supergrid, in terms of technology but also in terms of its financing, operation and management. In order to achieve this our Working Groups are preparing three position papers on technology, supply chain and operation, which should be ready before the end of the year. Following this first phase, the biggest hurdle of FOSG will be to make clear to the European political community that 2050 is tomorrow in terms of electricity infrastructure, and to bring some sense of urgency to the energy policy discussion in Europe. It will be a long process, but if you think that last year we were barely known, while now we are having difficulty in finding member representatives to attend all the conferences FOSG is invited to, we might be on the right track.