During the summer, a consortium of leading European energy companies and institutes, led by EirGrid Group, was awarded over €20 million by the European Union to fund research and innovation into the deployment of renewable energy. The wide-ranging project, known as EU-SysFlex, is a very public acknowledgement of the ground-breaking work that EirGrid and SONI (the Electricity System Operators of Ireland and Northern Ireland respectively) have carried out in this sector over recent years. EirGrid and SONI engineers have been working to meet the challenges of operating the electricity system while achieving high renewable electricity targets. Running the power system with the current high levels of renewable energy is unprecedented and presents significant challenges for its real-time operation. In 2016, wind energy accounted for 25% of all electricity consumed on the island of Ireland. That is the average figure – on occasion, it increased to over half of electricity consumption. This is a remarkable achievement by the engineers responsible for running the power system in Ireland and Northern Ireland. This level of renewable energy is already one of the highest in the world and is expected to rise to 40% by 2020 in order to meet national and European targets.

EU-Sysflex consortium

The EU-Sysflex consortium will receive the funding under Horizon 2020, the EU’s €80 billion research and innovation programme. EirGrid Group is the overall project coordinator with French electricity group EDF acting as technical co-ordinator. It underpins European Union plans for a greener and more decarbonised Europe by significantly increasing the levels of renewable energy. To that extent, by 2030 it is expected that the Pan- European electricity network is capable of integrating at least 50% of renewable energy sources. It is envisaged that the portfolio of renewable energy will largely be based on wind, solar PV and supplemented by energy storage. Adding to the challenge, the source of renewable energy will become more dispersed across electricity grids and embedded further down the energy chain, in other words energy being provided down as far as residential level. In parallel, it is predicted that consumption of electricity will greatly increase due to the electrification of transport and heat creating further challenges not previously experienced by power system operators. A major reason why EirGrid Group was asked to lead the consortium is its ‘Delivering a Secure, Sustainable Electricity System’ (DS3) programme, which was initiated in 2011. The aim of the DS3 Programme has been to meet the twin challenges of operating the electricity system in a secure manner while achieving 2020 renewable electricity targets. It is designed to ensure that it can securely operate the power system with increasing amounts of variable, non-synchronous renewable generation. The EU-SysFlex project represents the next phase in meeting the operational challenges associated with long term renewable integration. According to John Lowry, project director of EU-SysFlex, “ The overall aim of the EU-SysFlex project is to provide a roadmap for Europe in meeting the challenge of integrating 50% renewables by 2030. This is all in the context of a transformed energy environment and vision of a decarbonised Europe by 2050.” The overarching aim of the project is to meet future system needs by taking a holistic approach to addressing the associated technical challenges. In doing so, the project team aims to identify improvements to technology integration, market design, regulation, transformational operational practices and enhanced system tools.

EU-Sysflex objectives

There are a number of objectives for the EU-Sysflex programme, including:
  • Technical issues Technical issues that could hinder the deployment of 50% renewable energy across the EU in 2030 will be identified. This will be done on a regional basis across the EU – Ireland/Northern Ireland, continental Europe, Nordic and Baltic.
  • Recommendations for market design and regulation A key objective is to identify a framework for the efficient procurement of flexible system services. This includes remuneration schemes that create credible business cases for the provision of the required system service.
  • Demonstration projects This involves the demonstration of new concepts and tools on a wide range of technologies, including centralised pump storage plant, batteries, wind, solar photovoltaic, heat loads, electric vehicles and super-capacitors. Furthermore, the demonstration projects will examine the interaction between system layers and industry participants as well as the replicability of concepts and approaches. The demonstration projects are based across all system levels and a number of European regions.
  • New tools and procedures The project will provide decision support tools, risk management approaches and new operational protocols for dispatchers, including cross border and transmission system operator/distribution system operator co-ordination. These new solutions will be validated through the deployment of real-time dispatcher training provided by PSE, the Polish transmission system operator.
  • A roadmap for Europe The roadmap will be developed aimed at maximising the level of scalability and replicability of solutions developed. It will help facilitate the widespread deployment of solutions across the pan-European system.
  • Maximising the impact of the project EU-Sysflex aims to ensure project results inform the development of new grid codes and policy making, including the next clean energy package. In addition, the roll-out of solutions developed will support the creation of new business opportunities for European companies.


The consortium is composed of 34 partners from 15 countries across Europe with an overall budget of €26 million. It is represented by leading players in the European energy sector, including a number of transmission system operators, distribution system operators, technology providers, technical experts and research and academic partners. The project starts in November and will run for four years. For EirGrid Group, EU-SysFlex represents a very exciting opportunity to lead and participate in a pan-European, strategic project that is aligned with its strategic objective to be a world leader in smart grids and integration of renewables. The project provides a great opportunity to learn from our European partners and to influence European policy direction with regard to integration of renewables.