Effects of a Delayed Expansion of Interconnector Capacities in a High RES-E European Electricity System

In order to achieve a high renewable share in the electricity system, a significant expansion of cross-border exchange capacities is planned. Historically, the actual expansion of interconnector capacities has significantly lagged behind the planned expansion. This study examines the impact that such continued delays would have when compared to a strong interconnector expansion in an ambitious energy transition scenario. For this purpose, scenarios for the years 2030, 2040, and 2050 are examined using the electricity market model PowerFlex EU. The analysis reveals that both CO2 emissions and variable costs of electricity generation increase if interconnector expansion is delayed. This effect is most significant in the scenario year 2050, where lower connectivity leads roughly to a doubling of both CO2 emissions and variable costs of electricity generation. This increase results from a lower level of European electricity trading, a curtailment of electricity from a renewable energy source (RES-E), and a corresponding higher level of conventional electricity generation. Most notably, in Southern and Central Europe, less interconnection leads to higher use of natural gas power plants since less renewable electricity from Northern Europe can be integrated into the European grid.