The electricity grid connects producers with electricity consumers. Traditionally the producers were large power plants. However, in recent years the system has become more complex as consumers have also increasingly become small-scale producers. The grid is divided into transmission grids and (regional and local) distribution networks.
The conversion of the European energy system involves increasing the share of renewable energy sources, reducing the CO2 emissions, giving customers a more active role and linking European electricity grids through new transmission connections. The emerging system will be increasingly interconnected, but also more decentralised.
Gas is transported from extraction site via transmission pipelines and later through a network of smaller pipelines to control centres, before being transported to consumers. If the gas deposit is too far away from the users the gas can be converted to its liquid form, LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), and transported by tanker.
The EU aims to create a European gas market and favourable conditions for trade between countries. As with the electricity grid, there is free competition on the gas market between gas suppliers. For practical reasons, however, the actual network is owned by individual companies within each geographic region.
District heating is produced in one or several central production facilities and distributed to various buildings through underground pipelines. As a rule, a district heating consumer may buy district heat only from one supplier. District heating is viewed as a natural monopoly in most countries. Because district heating is local in nature, prices are significantly affected by local conditions and thus vary from place to place.
The principles of district cooling are similar to district heating, but district cooling delivers chilled water to buildings like offices and factories.