EU Aims for Digital Twin of Power Grid

Why is the European Union in a rush to digitally transform its electricity grid?

The reasons are existential.

A consortium of 76 partners spanning 15 countries have commenced their mission to create a digital twin of Europe’s power grid.

The TwinEU project kicked off in January and is expected to run into December 2026. The end result: a virtual replica that will reflect the energy grid’s state in real time.

With a budget of over 25 million Euros, funded mostly through the European Commission, the project seeks to tackle converging challenges.

Europe’s energy sector, particularly its power grids, has experienced a significant uptick in cyberattacks in recent years. The average number of weekly cyberattacks on utilities doubled globally between 2020 and 2022, according to a recent International Energy Agency report.

Europe’s energy grid has weathered thousands of weekly attacks since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After visiting Poland’s grid operations hub, Polish Deputy Energy Minister Ireneusz Zyska recently told Politico he was alarmed.

He said he observed “thousands of attacks on our energy grid taking place live.”

Digital twins can simulate cyberattacks without real world risks. With predictive maintenance, they can quickly identify and fix vulnerabilities.

By continuously monitoring grid data, digital twins aid in quick response to threats. Simulations can help train staff so they’re more prepared for future attacks. Additionally, digital twins support resilience planning so grids can recover quicker.

But cyber security is just one worry for the aging infrastructure.

Europe’s power grid is undergoing major changes with efforts toward sustainability and efficiency. In 2023, clean power sources like wind, solar, nuclear, and hydro generated two thirds of Europe’s electricity, according to Ember. Of that, 27 percent was generated by solar and wind.

It’s a dramatic shift from 2009 when wind and solar combined contributed to just 5 percent of power generation.

Simulating complex dynamics of power systems, digital twins allow for detailed analysis and optimization for renewable energy integration. Modeling the grid’s behavior under various penetration scenarios can identify essential upgrades to infrastructure to handle new energy flows.

The project’s membership includes system operators, technology providers, market actors, research institutes, and more. The TwinEU project is spearheaded by prominent institutions like the Fraunhofer Society and TU Delft. Key energy market participants include TenneT and Alliander.

Eight pilots are planned across Europe to explore and demo the application of digital twins in the electricity grid.

Pilot locations include the Iberian Peninsula, the Eastern Mediterranean, Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, and a joint Netherlands-France initiative.

Each test case will focus on unique challenges from enhancing grid security to integrating renewable energy sources.

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