The French and Belgian electricity transmission system operators have launched two projects aimed at enhancing grid security across Europe.

RTE of France and Belgium’s Elia have signed an agreement to set up a joint regional technical co-ordination centre and have also joined forces with National Grid of the UK to launch a consultation on the need for increased interconnection capacity.

The two companies’ initiative has been welcomed by the European Commission, which wants to see the creation of seven regional electricity markets in Europe as a first step towards the creation of a single market. EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said that he hopes to see similar examples of co-operation between TSOs in the region.

RTE and Elia’s planned co-ordination centre will develop grid forecasts and support real-time monitoring of electricity flows on the grids of Central and Western Europe. The TSOs say that Vattenfall Europe Transmission, one of the German TSOs, has already expressed an interest in joining their initiative.

One of the European Commission’s proposed seven regional electricity markets comprises Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Increased coupling of markets will lead to greater grid security and will help to avoid disruptions such as the major blackout that affected Western Europe in 2006.

One of the main aims of the centre is to enable better regional integration of renewable generation and to guarantee safe management of cross-border flows, which are increasing sharply with the development of intraday markets. RTE and Elia say they will work closely with other TSOs in the region to expand the initiative.

RTE and Elia also want to investigate whether a need exists for greater levels of interconnection between the UK and the continent. RTE and National Grid have been operating the 2000 MW IFA link beneath the English Channel since 1986, while Elia and National Grid are currently assessing the feasibility of a 1300 MW interconnector between Belgium and Great Britain.

National Grid, RTE and Elia believe that the development of new interconnector capacity will not only help in the achievement of EU policy goals, but will also allow the development of long-term capacity products for market participants.

RTE and Elia aim to start operating the co-ordination centre in Brussels by February 2009, when it will supply integrated forecasts related to grid security to national control centres. In a second phase, scheduled to start in July 2009, the centre will be operational around the clock, providing continuous monitoring and analysis of grid security.