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RENEWABLE ENERGY Future EU power systems: Renewables’ integration to require up to 7 times larger flexibility

From European Commission (Press release) Reading Time: 3 min

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A growing share of intermittently available renewable energy in EU’s electricity system will require higher flexibility to ensure functioning grids. Compared to today, flexibility requirements will more than double by 2030 and grow 7 times by 2050.

Today’s flexibility requirements – in 2021, 11% of the total electricity demand in the EU – will grow to 24% in 2030.
Today’s flexibility requirements – in 2021, 11% of the total electricity demand in the EU – will grow to 24% in 2030.
(Source: Max Topchii -

EU’s ambitious targets to achieve the transition to a climate-neutral European energy system by 2050 will drive a large increase of renewable energy sources in the electricity system. The use of renewables - highly variable by nature – in combination with limited storage capacities and variable demand by consumers, will put power system operations under pressure and may cause prices to fluctuate heavily.

A modelling exercise carried out by JRC scientists assesses the flexibility requirements and solutions in the EU power system in 2030 and 2050, and analyses the technologies which contribute to address those flexibility needs. Flexibility requirements are computed for three different timescales: daily, weekly and monthly.

The analysis also looks into the potential role of energy storage technologies to contribute to the flexibility needs, analysing the optimal share of storage solutions in terms of investment and system cost parameters. The results are published in the report Flexibility requirements and the role of storage in future European power systems. According to the report, today’s flexibility requirements – in 2021, 11 % of the total electricity demand in the EU – will grow to 24 % in 2030 and to 30 % in 2050.

Flexibility requirements will significantly increase in all EU countries. Compared to today’s figures, flexibility requirements will more than double by 2030 and be seven times as large by 2050. To put these numbers into perspective, the flexibility requirements in 2030 reach 25 % of today’s total demand for power and a staggering 80 % of today’s demand for power in 2050.

The analysis shows there will be quite a strong link between daily flexibility requirements and the share of solar PV production, while weekly and monthly flexibility requirements are linked to the share of (onshore and offshore) wind production.

Indeed, while electricity generated from solar PV plants typically follows a specific daily generation profile, wind production follows more a monthly seasonality. Efficiently integrating both sources of renewable energy in the power system thus requires an adequate evaluation of the necessary short-term or long-term flexibility solutions.

In terms of technologies offering flexibility solutions, the analysis finds that interconnections play a dominant role in addressing flexibility needs in 2030 on all timescales, but particularly on the longer-term timescales. New flexibility solutions like batteries, electrolysers and pumped hydro also play a role, with the former almost exclusively targeting daily flexibility needs but the latter also targeting long-term flexibility needs.

Moreover, demand response, from households, aggregators or industry, will also play an important role in fulfilling the flexibility needs. Conventional thermal units, of which production can be dispatched, continue however to play a role in the flexibility mix. This shows that to address the identified flexibility needs in the future, a combination of technologies and storage solutions will offer the necessary flexibility to manage the variability in EU power systems.


The report Flexibility requirements and the role of storage in future European power systems stems from a macro-economic modelling analysis co-developed with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for energy. The results fed in the Commission's proposal for a reformed EU's electricity market design which includes provisions to support the deployment of non-fossil flexibility solutions.

The proposal aims to accelerate a surge in renewables and the phase-out of gas, make consumer bills less dependent on volatile fossil fuel prices, better protect consumers from future price spikes and potential market manipulation, and make the EU's industry clean and more competitive.

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