Germany wants to speed up grid expansion


Germany’s electricity transmission system operators (TSOs) repeat it like in prayer mills: If the energy transition in Germany is to succeed, the extension of the supraregional transmission system must keep pace with the expansion of renewable energy generation. This is mainly due to the special conditions in Germany, where the major renewable generation sites lie in the north of the country and thus far from the main consumption centres in the south and southwest. To ensure security of supply for the future, electricity must be transported reliably from north to south. This requires efficient power lines, such as the well-known line projects “A-Nord”, “SuedLink”, “SuedOstLink”, and “Ultranet”, or the “Südwest-Kuppelleitung”, which was completed in 2017.

Unfortunately, the expansion is lagging behind the set goals. The Power Line Expansion Act (EnLAG), which came into force in 2009, provides that by 2015 the transmission grid should have been extended by around 1,800km. Three years later, not even half of the total length has been realised: Of the 1,800km of power lines under EnLAG, around 1,150km have been approved and only about 800km have been completed. The German TSOs expect about 70 percent of EnLAG line kilometres to be completed by the end of 2020. There are many reasons for the delay, such as lack of political support, long approval procedures, complaints from citizens, or environmental issues. Already at the beginning of last year, the four German TSOs, 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW, submitted revised network development plans to the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), the competent German authority in terms of grid extension.

Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, has now expressed the political goal of significantly accelerating grid extension in order to guarantee a secure and affordable energy transition. The Minister took a visit to the Bundesnetzagentur on 14 August as an opportunity to declare the grid extension a top priority and to present the Ministry’s “Aktionsplan Stromnetz” (“Power Grid Action Plan”). Mr Altmaier added: “For a successful energy transition we need a modern and well-developed transmission system as well as the expansion of renewable energies. The power grids are the cardiovascular system of our power supply. This must function reliably from the wind turbine in the North Sea to the charging station in Bavaria.”

With his action plan, Altmaier is pursuing a double strategy: On the one hand, existing lines are to be optimised with the help of new technologies and operating concepts: e.g. line monitoring, new conductor cables, phase shifters, controllable transformers, or improved redispatching. Also the digitisation should help to enhance the grid capacity. On the other hand, the grid extension is to be accelerated. For this purpose, the so-called “Netzausbaubeschleunigungsgesetz” (“Grid Extension Acceleration Law”) is to be amended in autumn to facilitate approval procedures. In addition, effective and forward-looking controlling should be established for all grid projects.

According to a press release, TSCNET shareholder Amprion welcomes the efforts. “To speed up network expansion, we need a common understanding from Berlin to the local city halls,” said Dr. Hans-Jürgen Brick, Chief Commercial Officer of Amprion. “This is the only way we can solve the complex challenges of the projects.” Moreover, no fundamental new laws were needed to accelerate network expansion, but less bureaucracy. If the approval processes were made more efficient, more time would remain to develop the best possible solutions for new routes in dialogue with the citizens.

When designing the network expansion, Amprion focused on innovations – both in transmission and construction technologies as well as in system management. Nevertheless, not all the wishes of residents and interest groups could be fulfilled – for example, where physics or laws set limits. “We need demand-driven grid expansion in order to continue to operate the energy system in a stable manner in the future. At the same time, we are exploiting all possibilities to make our network even more flexible and efficient,” said Dr. Klaus Kleinekorte, Chief Technical Officer of Amprion.

Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, presents a Power Grid Action Plan (illustration using a photo © German Federal Government / Kugler)

> Open Power Grid Action Plan, in German (pdf, 1.47MB)
> See Amprion press release, in German (html)

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ENTSO-E report on market coupling and capacity allocation


The European Commission Regulation establishing a guideline on Capacity Allocation and Congestion Management (CACM) obliges the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) to monitor the progress and potential problems with the implementation of the day-ahead and intraday coupling. The same applies to the respective Regulation guideline on Forward Capacity Allocation (FCA) which requires ENTSO-E to monitor the FCA implementation with regard to a fair and transparent access of market participants to long-term transmission rights.

In line with its monitoring plan, ENTSO-E, in cooperation with the member transmission system operators (TSOs) and several Nominated Electricity Market Operators (NEMOs), has now published the “First Joint Report on the Progress and Potential Problems with the Implementation of Intraday and Day-ahead Coupling as well as Forward Capacity Allocation”. The comprehensive report covers the period from August 2017 onwards and will be submitted to the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER).

ENTSO-E publishes first joint report on the implementation of intraday and day-ahead coupling as well as forward capacity allocation

> See ENTSO-E press release (html, with access to report)

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Continuing EIB support for NordLink


The Nordlink interconnector between Germany and Norway is a lighthouse project for the European market integration and energy transition. By coupling Norwegian hydropower capacities with renewable energy from Germany, the high voltage DC line with a capacity of 1,400MW and a total length of 624km (516km of which are submarine cables) is in the truest sense of the word a “green link”. The two transmission system operators (TSOs) involved in the European Project of Common Interest (PCI) are TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, and its Norwegian equivalent, Statnett.

The European Commission (EC) as well as the relevant European institutions are highly aware of NordLink’s significance for the future energy infrastructure of the continent. The European Investment Bank (EIB) is funding NordLink since last year and has now reaffirmed its commitment to the project by closing a single investor tap of TenneT’s 2017 hybrid bond. The EIB has purchased €100m hybrid securities. This transaction ‒ incidentally the bank’s first ever stake in a market hybrid bond issuance ‒ is backed under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).

Maroš Šefčovič, the EC Vice-President for the Energy Union, welcomes EIB’s support for NordLink as a “forward-looking investment into modern energy infrastructure” and identifies the interconnector as a “smart combination of renewable power generation”. EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle assures that “the security of supply and effective use of renewable energy remain high on the agenda for EIB financing”. Mr Fayolle calls NordLink “exactly the type of project the EIB was set up to do sixty years ago”. And also Otto Jager, CFO at TenneT, is very happy with the development of the project: “We are proud that we are the first issuer of a market hybrid bond with the EIB as participant.”

In support of the construction of NordLink, the EIB closes a €100m single investor tap of hybrid bonds issued by TenneT (picture: TenneT)

> See TenneT press release (html)

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Welcome, Miloš! “This time next year…”


It is a pleasure to adorn oneself with the light figures of an entire guild. In our case there is one at the very top: the inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, according to “Encyclopedia Britannica” one of the ten most fascinating personalities in human history and for many “The Genius Who Lit the World”, as a documentary film about him was called. With Miloš Stojković, the new Senior IT Application Manager in our IT Services team, comes another pinch of Tesla to TSCNET Services. Miloš finished the Electrotechnical High School “Nikola Tesla” in Belgrade, Serbia, before completing his studies at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering / Power Systems at the university there.

He also shares something else with the legendary electricity pioneer: Miloš got around a lot in his profession – since the end of his studies in 2004 he has worked in a total of 15 different countries on almost 60 projects ranging from the “Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey Power Bridge Project” via “System Analyses for Connection Study of a Thermal Power Plant” through to the “Study of Technical Solution for the Connection of a Wind Farm”. The past seven and a half years he worked with the Electricity Coordinating Center in Belgrade. IT and software usually played a central role. He should therefore have all the necessary prerequisites for his new role in our company as one of the product owners for the new system tools development. And he has ambitious goals: Miloš chose TSCNET because “here I can put most of my expertise into the balance to bring about a real improvement in an eclectic way”.

This leads us straight to Miloš’ favourite TV series: “Only Fools and Horses”. The sitcom is considered the most popular British series of all time. It is about two brothers and their grandfather and their not that successful attempts to earn as much money as possible with dubious businesses in the shortest possible time. A standard phrase of Derek „Del Boy“ Trotter, one of the three shady-looking characters, is one of our new co-worker’s favourite quotes: “This time next year…” We look forward to seeing what Miloš and his colleagues can achieve in the next 12 months in terms of tangible improvements for TSCNET customers and the European power transmission grid. “Only Fools and Horses” again comes with a suitable quote that became commonly used: “He who dares, wins!” – for this maxim also applies to completely serious and righteous undertakings.

TSCNET Services has welcomed Miloš Stojković as the new Senior IT Application Manager in the IT Services team

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Second transformer for Pleinting substation


The substation in Pleinting near Vilshofen is one of the central hubs of the Lower Bavarian power supply, for which TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), is responsible. Also in terms of the energy transition and cross-border electricity exchange, the substation close to the Austro-German border is significant. This applies in particular to the transmission of surplus electricity from Lower Bavarian solar power generation and for the connection of Austrian pump storage power plants to the German grid.

A total of three new transformers will be installed in Pleinting, the first of which was delivered already in February 2017. The second transformer, manufactured in the Dutch town of Nijmegen, now has arrived at a nearby train station. On 6 August, the 286-tonne transformer will be delivered to the substation with a heavy-duty road transportation unit of around 45 meters in length and a total weight of 500 tonnes. The following assembly work at the substation will probably take three months.

After commissioning, the transformer will have an operating weight of 417 tonnes. It also offers an extended scope of possible applications, as it can be switched over on the high-voltage side. This means that the transformer works between the 380kV and 110kV voltage levels as well as between 220kV and 110kV. Thus it can immediately be integrated into the existing 220kV systems of the Pleinting-Pirach power line. After the completion of the planned 380kV Pleinting-Pirach line, the transformer will subsequently supply the region on this higher voltage level. By 2020, all modernisation and extension works in an around Pleinting are expected to be completed.

TSCNET shareholder TenneT is supplied with the second of a total of three new transformers for the Pleinting substation (picture of a previous transformer transport: TenneT / Screenshot taken from video “TenneT Trafo Schwertransport”, YouTube)

> See TenneT press release, in German (html)

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ACER consultation on fallback procedures


The relevant regulatory authorities have asked the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) to review the fallback procedures in the Core Capacity Calculation Region (CCR) with regard to the European Regulation on Capacity Allocation and Congestion Management (CACM). The Core CCR consists of sixteen central European transmission system operators (TSOs), eleven of which are TSCNET shareholders: APG (Austria), ČEPS (Czechia), ELES (Slovenia), HOPS (Croatia), MAVIR (Hungary), PSE (Poland), SEPS (Slovakia), the Dutch-German TSO TenneT, and the three further TSOs from Germany, 50Hertz, Amprion, and TransnetBW.

The Core TSOs prepared an amended proposal for the CCR fallback procedures. ACER now has been given the task of verifying that this proposal complies with the respective guideline on CACM Regulation of the European Union. Since ACER has to adopt a profound decision on this matter, the Agency takes interest in the comments from different parties on some elements of the amended proposal in order to substantiate this decision. The related public consultation is open til 24 August and all interested stakeholders, including regulatory authorities, nominated electricity market operators and TSOs, are invited to submit their comments.

ACER opens public consultation on the compliance of the fallback procedures proposed by the TSOs of the Core CCR with the CACM Regulation.

> See ACER press release (html, with access to consultation document)

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First Borssele jacket ready for shipping


A height of 55m, a length of 50m, a width of 28m, and a total weight of about 2730t ‒ these are the stately specifications of the jacket for the first transformer platform in the Borssele offshore wind farm zone. The connection of this area in the Dutch part of the North Sea to the onshore grid is the first large-scale connection project of TSCNET shareholder TenneT, which is being implemented under the Dutch National Energy Agreement for offshore wind farms. With the completion of the first platform substructure in a shipyard in Schiedam in greater Rotterdam, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) has reached the first milestone in the realisation of the Borssele connection project.

During the so-called load out, a time-consuming precision procedure, the jacket was lifted onto a seagoing barge. On Sunday 5 August, the heavily laden barge will start its journey through the Nieuwe Waterweg canal to the Borssele I wind farm area. Here, a special crane vessel will install the jacket on the seabed, which is planned for the period from 6 to 16 August. Wilfried Breuer, member of the TSO’s Executive Board and Managing Director TenneT Offshore, comments on the progress of the Borssele project: “I am proud that we can make such a major contribution to the energy transition, in which offshore wind energy plays a crucial role.”

The jacket for the first platform of the Borssele grid connection, a project of TSCNET shareholder TenneT, is ready for transport (picture: Robert Nagelkerke / TenneT)

> See TenneT press release (html)

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KfW new minority shareholder of 50Hertz


In a press statement, TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), welcomes the German KfW Bankengruppe as new minority shareholder. The KfW is a development bank under public law and has acquired 20% of shares in Eurogrid International SCRL, the holding company of 50Hertz, on behalf of the German Federal Government (a so called “mandated transaction”). This means that the shareholder rights are exercised by the German Federal Government. The transaction was made possible by the majority shareholder of 50Hertz, Elia System Operator SA, which holds 80% of shares and has taken over the remaining 20% from the IFM Global Infrastructure Fund for immediate resale to the KfW.

Boris Schucht, CEO at 50Hertz, explicitly thanks Elia as well as IFM for their constructive support and reliable partnership. With regard to the TSO’s path towards a successful energy transition, Mr Schucht appreciates the new shareholder: “The entry of the KfW as a minority shareholder of 50Hertz underlines the elementary importance of the transmission system as part of our country’s critical infrastructure. We welcome this commitment, which in our view is also a strong signal for the energy transition.”

KfW Head Office Frankfurt am Main, Germany, outdoor shot Westarkade (source: KfW Photo Archiv / Rüdiger Nehmzow)

> See 50Hertz press release (html)

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“E&M Powernews”: “Excellent overview of the grid”


Largely unnoticed by the broad public, five European regional security coordinators (RSCs) are working on what is arguably the most important task for ensuring the security of electricity supply at continental level: a stable and secure transmission system. RSCs analyse critical grid situations from a regional perspective and advise their customers in order to avoid bottlenecks or even blackouts. One of them is TSCNET Services. A detailed background article published by “Energie & Management”, a renowned daily German print and online newspaper for the energy market, portrays the company and presents the special challenges that an RSC has to face every day.

For example, a critical situation occurred in the very cold January 2017. “Even though the redispatch coordination functioned well at that time, the emergence of grid bottlenecks has shown that in the course of the expansion of renewable energies in Europe, we need to identify critical conditions and developments even faster”, explains Maik Neubauer, one of the two managing directors of TSCNET Services. For this reason, TSCNET, in close cooperation with the partner TSOs, has established the “Critical Grid Situation Service” to facilitate communication between the RSC and the TSOs.

Close and seamless communication is crucial for TSCNET Services, because the RSC does not intervene in the transmission network itself, but gives recommendations for action. The final decision, however, lies with the responsible TSO, which can always rely on the validity of the information provided by TSCNET. To ensure this reliability, the specialists at TSCNET monitor the network flows in Central and Eastern Europe. This involves a lot of data: More or less 600,000 data series with a volume in the double-digit gigabyte range yield around 300 prognoses every single day – a “big data company with top advisory expertise”.

Still, the volume of data will continue to increase, especially in view of the implementation of the Common Grid Model (CGM) under the EU network codes. “Today, we still lack some data, especially about the situation at the interfaces to the distribution grids”, states Maik Neubauer. Once the individual grid models of the respective TSOs and the CGM have been established, the additional data also flows into the calculations of TSCNET. This will expand the RSC’s perspective and further optimise system operation. While critical situations affecting only two TSOs can be resolved bilaterally, it becomes more difficult, if several parties are involved. An incident in Poland, for instance, may well affect not only Germany but also the Czech Republic. In such a case, the central coordination provided by TSCNET is essential to anticipate problems or to calculate short-term effects.

Every day at 9:00 pm, TSCNET’s Daily Operational Planning Teleconference (DOPT) with the TSOs’ experts will be held to summarise system occurrences and to coordinate possible compensation measures for the next day. Though everyone involved is quite satisfied with this daily routine, the EU is also pursuing divergent plans. In the context of the European Commission’s “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package, the idea of Regional Operational Centres (ROCs) came into being, which would extend the role of current RSCs by giving them operational responsibility. The TSOs – who would have to hand over competences – are sceptical, and also Maik Neubauer has clear positions in this regard. He points out the complexity of the European power system and the valuable experience of national TSOs. Mr. Neubauer therefore prefers to further improve regional coordination and to leave the operational business to the TSOs: “A Europe-wide centralisation of grid control would be a mammoth project with many risks and unknowns.”

“Energie & Management”, the well-esteemed German trade magazin for the energy market, released an article on the Munich-based RSC TSCNET Services.

> Visit “E&M Powernews” website, in German (html)
> See “E&M Powernews” article, in German (pay to read the article)

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Investing in energy transition – TenneT report


The Half Year Report of the Dutch-German TSCNET shareholder TenneT does not only provide satisfactory figures, but also shows that the business of a transmission system operator (TSO) with a control area from the seashores to the Alps is essentially divided into two parts: connecting offshore wind energy capacity to the onshore grid and ensuring the transport of sustainable generated electricity to wherever it is needed. To further support the energy transition, TenneT is accelerating the realisation of large-scale projects in the Dutch sector of the North Sea and on the German mainland. The TSO’s commitment to the European energy future is reflected with a total of €904m of investments in the transmission systems in the first half of 2018 ‒ not only impressive compared to the first half of 2017 (€750m).

By 2030, TenneT plans to have connected a total of 11.5GW of offshore wind energy to the grid in the Netherlands. Three years earlier, in 2027, the TSO aims to achieve a total transmission capacity of 11GW for the German North Sea. The most outstanding onshore infrastructural projects are the German supraregional extra-high voltage lines SuedLink and SuedOstLink with a length of 700km and 580km, respectively, and a combined capacity of 6GW. Both DC lines will partially be realised by means of underground cabling and are joint ventures of TSCNET shareholders. On SuedLink, TenneT cooperates with TransnetBW, and on SuedOstLink with 50Hertz. To help financing its investments in the transmission of the renewables, TenneT in March 2018 again has issued long term green bonds in two tranches with a nominal total value of €1.25bn. Altogether, TenneT has issued €6.25bn in green bonds to date.

Mel Kroon, CEO at TenneT, emphasises the company’s “central position in the energy transition” and considers that the construction of new infrastructure alone is not enough to meet the challenges of the future, “but also the development of innovative hard- and software systems for real-time coordination of the variable supply of green electricity.” Mr Kroon expresses the need for a new energy system, and points out the unexploited potential of green hydrogen for flexibility and storage solutions: “Following the successful development of offshore wind energy, we now need to focus on promoting the production of green hydrogen in order to facilitate long-term energy storage and make the industrial and transport sectors far more sustainable.”

TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, presents the Half Year Report 2018

> See TenneT press release (html)
> Open Half year report 2018 (pdf, 803kb)

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