One of the biggest opportunities provided by the transition to renewable energy is to allow regular energy consumers to become prosumers, who can generate their own electricity and sell it back to the grid if they wish. While consumers can take action by installing PV panels and smart meters, this demand for new connections needs to be met on the other side by large-scale investments in Europe’s electricity grid.
Research for the CLEAR-X project in Slovakia highlighted concerns among distribution system operators (DSOs) that the existing grid infrastructure cannot deal with the high number of prosumers requesting connection to the grid. This in turn has led to general inertia around making new grid connections, which remains a very lengthy process. Similar research conducted by other consumer organisations across Europe has similarly found national electricity grids to be a source of weakness in the transition to renewables.
To overcome the obstacles around grid connection, responsible national authorities should establish controlling mechanisms to identify and prevent obstacles from networks operators, so connection to the grid is simple and quick, with clear rules and financial compensation. Sanctions could also be placed on responsible bodies – i.e. grid operators – for not processing grid connection applications within specified deadlines, as well as similar deadlines for carrying out the connection itself.
Progress on some of these barriers has been seen in Lithuania, for example, where prosumers can connect to the grid within 21 working days, significantly shortened from the previous waiting period of up to 105 days.
Investments in grid improvements should be a priority for Member States, who should closely monitor that distribution system operators use distribution fees correctly. In terms of European legislation, this issue can also be tackled through implementation of the 2019 Electricity Directive, which guarantees consumers the right to become active consumers in the energy market.