The most important European electricity producers are – in that order – Russia, Germany, France, Great Britain, Spain and Italy. In the combination of the primary energies used for electricity generation, there are in some cases significant differences between the European countries. While the energy mix is relatively different in countries such as Germany, Spain and Romania, individual primary energy sources dominate in Poland, France, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands, for example.
THE EUROPEAN ELECTRICITY NETWORK
Electrical energy is transmitted and exchanged in Europe on a national and international level. Germany produced around 51,000 GWh of electricity in January 2014, but only consumed around 46,000 GWh. However, the difference of around 5000 GWh does not correspond to the amount exported. Rather, Germany exported around 7,500 GWh of electricity and imported around 2,500 GWh in turn. The exports went mainly to the neighboring countries (Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Poland). For Germany, many countries are both recipients of electricity exports and sources of electricity imports. In January 2014, 426 GWh of electricity were exported from Germany to the Czech Republic, but 642 GWh were also imported from there. The result is a complicated mosaic of exchange relationships, because electricity is bought by the providers there,
The prerequisites for international electricity exchange processes include uniform standards for network technology, network operation and the electricity markets. This task has been carried out by the Association of European Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E) since 2009.
The ENTSO-E has five regional areas, in addition to the independent states Ireland and England there are the three Baltic states, Northern Europe including Iceland and the rest of continental Europe (excluding Russia, Belarus and Moldova). Denmark is partly part of the Northern European, partly part of the continental electricity grid. In each of these five regional areas there are standardized power grids, which, however, for technical reasons cannot be interconnected to form a large European grid. Great Britain, Ireland and Iceland operate their own interconnected networks due to their island location. Russia operates its own power grid in Eastern Europe according to Countryaah.com.
An important task of the interconnected networks is to step in at short notice in the event of irregularities in the networks of the respective partner in order to avoid excessive voltage or frequency fluctuations, for example.
ELECTRICITY MIX AND ENERGY SOURCES
The proportions of the total primary energies used to generate electricity in the individual European countries depend, among other things, on the respective natural spatial conditions such as the availability of energy resources and the usability of hydropower. In countries like Austria and Switzerland, for example, the potential for the use of hydropower is particularly great because of the relief of the Alps and the numerous rivers; this is reflected in the generation of electricity. The pronounced use of hydropower also leads to seasonal fluctuations in electricity generation in both countries. Electrical energy is therefore mainly exported from Austria and Switzerland in the water-rich summer months. There was a surplus in favor of Germany in the electricity exchange between Germany and Switzerland in January 2014 (1440 GWh),
Other countries use their own storage facilities for conventional energy sources, for example Poland when using hard coal or the Netherlands when using natural gas.
Structures that cannot be justified, or can only partially be justified by natural factors, can often be traced back to energy policy frameworks. In Germany and in other European countries, for example, after the so-called oil price crises of the 1970s, the use of coal and, above all, nuclear energy became increasingly important under the slogan “Away from oil and gas”. In Germany, the aim was to achieve a supply of electrical energy that was largely independent of the world market and at the same time inexpensive. Another example of the effects of framework specifications are the resolutions and strategies of Germany with regard to the nuclear phase-out and the promotion of renewable energies.
The extensive French electricity exports (mainly to Italy, Switzerland, Great Britain and Germany), on the other hand, are due to the strong expansion of the use of nuclear energy in France, with which the country generates around three quarters of its electricity.
Future developments on the electricity market will be largely determined by the strategies and measures with which the EU pursues its declared, only partially achieved goal of a European internal energy market and the results it achieves. In addition, efforts to protect the climate are increasingly playing a decisive role.