At a time when the European Union is on decidedly shaky ground, the electricity sector in Europe stands out as one of the major success stories of European development.
By taking steady steps forward, the European Commission, Member States and grid operators have been able to create a vast interconnected system, stretching from Portugal and Ireland to the borders with Russia. In fifteen years, cooperation between Member States has come on in leaps and bounds.
The European electricity sector is founded on physical infrastructures: 305,000 kilometres of electricity lines, 341 interconnections linking 525 million European citizens. The grid continues to grow each year: according to ENTSO-E estimates, a budget of €150 billion will be required for new constructions between now and 2030.
Located at the heart of this grid, France has some 50 cross-border connections. The most recent links France and Spain, with 65 kilometres of direct current line running entirely underground, a world first.
Boosted by Transmission System Operators (TSO) and power exchanges, cross-border electricity exchange mechanisms are also being set up. Nineteen countries are now part of a single exchange area, with several projects designed to expand the internal market in their early phase of development.
Thanks to these interconnections and market mechanisms, each European consumer has access to the cheapest power generation plants across Europe in real-time. The direction of these exchanges is dictated by price, to such an extent that it is now no longer possible to consume electricity generated exclusively from within our own borders. From one moment to the next, France switches between exporter and importer: electricity without borders.