Swissgrid analyses supply disruption in Valais

22.07.2020

On Friday, 17 July, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid carried out check-operations concerning the extension of the 220kV switchgear in the Chippis substation in the canton of Valais. At 4.23 p.m., the protection equipment of the 220kV grid node Creux de Chippis was accidentally tripped, causing the switchgear to lose voltage. As a result of the technical failure at Chippis, the switchgear of the substations in Stalden, Bitsch, and Mörel were also affected by the voltage drop, which led to a regional supply interruption in the distribution system.

The result was a one-hour power outage in a total of 60 municipalities with around 112,000 households as well as trade and industry in the Swiss Sierre district and the largest part of the Upper Valais. By 5.23 p.m., all affected switchgear and lines of the TSCNET shareholder were back in regular operation. Thanks to the good cooperation between Swissgrid and the five affected distribution system operators (DSOs) of the lower voltage levels, it was possible to gradually restore the electricity supply from 5 pm onwards. By 6.15p.m. almost all customers were back on power. Swissgrid immediately initiated a detailed investigation of the incident, which is currently in progress.

Swissgrid is investigating the voltage loss in the switchgear of the Chippis substation in Valais on 17 July (picture: Swissgrid)

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> See Swissgrid news release, in German (html)

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Worldwide unique equipment for TransnetBW substation

18.07.2020

European transmission system operators (TSOs) respond to the increasing need for grid regulation – resulting from the growing share of volatile renewable energies and the proceeding shutdown of conventional power plants – with reactive power compensation measures, such as the installation of shunt reactors. Shunt reactors are absorbers of reactive power and support security of supply and system management by keeping the grid voltage within the specified range, especially during low load periods. They thus stabilise the power grids and increase the energy efficiency of the transmission system.

In the Stuttgart-Mühlhausen substation, TransnetBW, one of the four German TSOs, has commissioned a variable shunt reactor for reactive power compensation developed especially for the TSCNET shareholder. Up to now in the TransnetBW control area, shunt reactors have only been used in the 110kV grid. Compared to customary reactors, the new system provides a much more precise control of the grid voltage. The 360-tonne reactor has a control bandwidth of 50-250MVAr in 33 stages and a permanently permissible system voltage of 440kV. With these specifications, the Mühlhausen shunt reactor is not only a novelty for TransnetBW, but for the entire energy sector.

TransnetBW has commissioned a state-of-the-art shunt reactor in the Stuttgart-Mühlhausen substation (symbolic picture: Siemens)

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“The pan-European market demands flexibility and efficiency”

17.07.2020

The current virus pandemic reminds some people in the energy sector of the 2006 incident, when a rather routine but postponed switch-off of a single power line led to a Europe-wide chain reaction due to misjudgements and lack of communication between energy suppliers and transmission system operators (TSOs). The resulting failure of further lines and under- and over-frequencies affected large parts of Europe and ten million people were without electricity for up to one and a half hours. The Union for the Coordination of Transmission of Electricity (UCTE), the predecessor organisation of the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E), described the incident as one of the most serious failures ever to occur in Europe.

According to Klaus Lucas, Professor Emeritus at RWTH Aachen University and Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, the 2006 blackout was “the prime example of a systemic risk. Like a virus epidemic, a random harmful event can spread in a complex system and, in unpredictable ways, paralyse structures that were actually believed to be stable”. Mr Lucas expressed this view to Zweitausend50, the magazine of the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft – BDEW), a business organisation representing over 1800 companies from the energy and water industry. And since the establishment of the Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs) was a reaction of the European Commission to the 2006 incident, it is plausible that Zweitausend50 also made contact with TSCNET Services and had an interview with Uwe Zimmermann, one of the two Managing Directors of the Munich-based RSC, on this issue.

Europe’s highly meshed power transmission system is one of the most complex critical infrastructures in the world and the more intensive the interconnectedness, the more susceptible the network is to unwanted domino or feedback effects. The strain on the system has recently been further increased by the volatile generation capacities of renewable energy sources. The role of RSCs has thus become all the more important. The five European RSCs forecast the capacity utilisation of power lines based on expected electricity generation and consumption for the following day and determine the extent to which individual lines may be overloaded. In this way, the RSCs identify potential risks in the system, evaluate them continuously and counteract possible bottlenecks and power failures. They do this in support of the respective TSOs within their area of responsibility, in the case of TSCNET Services this is central and eastern Europe.

Uwe Zimmermann compares this function with a navigation system: “Basically, we continuously monitor traffic – i.e. the operational status of the grids, current capacities, consumption and market data – and proactively determine at which points a congestion could occur. Whenever we forecast such a congestion, we provide timely recommendations in coordination with the TSOs on how the traffic can be redirected – like an alternative route.” Zimmermann emphasises, however, that the responsibility for implementing these recommendations remains with the TSOs.

In view of the progressing energy transition in the course of which the number and volatility of generators is increasing and the transmission distances for electricity are becoming ever larger, Uwe Zimmermann does not deny the challenges for RSCs: “As a result, our lead times could become increasingly shorter and this would make it more and more challenging to predict the following day and take timely action.” Nevertheless, the TSCNET managing director remains confident about the performance of the RSCs: “Fortunately, however, we can respond to this. We are getting ready to accelerate our process cycles more and more and to process ever larger amounts of data to continue to ensure reliable forecasts.”

TSCNET Managing Director Uwe Zimmermann is confident that RSCs will continue to provide reliable support to TSOs and guarantee system security

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> Open BDEW Zweitausend50 webpage, in German (html)

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ENTSO-E roadmap for coordinated multi-sectorial planning

17.07.2020

Smart Sector Integration is an important topic on the European energy policy agenda and is recognised as a key factor for a climate-neutral energy system. Smart Sector Integration contributes to cost-effective solutions for system needs, supports system security and resilience, and facilitates the decarbonisation of other sectors through innovative, cross-sector solutions and synergies. For this reason, infrastructure planning for the future power system requires a multi-sectoral approach that includes facilities for electricity and gas transmission as well as for transport and heat. In recognition of and to promote the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) has published a roadmap for the development of multi-sectoral planning support up to 2030.

Multi-Sectorial Planning Support (MSPS) constitutes a long-term, holistic view of system planning. It facilitates coordination and consistency between the different sectors in infrastructure planning. As basis for system and sector development plans, it allows for even more comprehensive and consolidated scenarios compared to the current joint scenarios of ENTSO-E and the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG). In a screening process, projects which have relevant interactions with other sectors, or which compete with projects in other sectors are compared through a transparent cost-benefit analysis, taking the ENTSOs’ Ten-Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) to a new level.

ENTSO-E has published the “Roadmap for a multi-sectorial Planning Support” (picture: ENTSO-E)

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> Open Roadmap (pdf, 2.07MB)
> Open Executive summary (pdf, 362.4kB)

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TenneT installs first TCSC system in Germany

16.07.2020

Series compensation is an innovative technology that significantly increases voltage stability in transmission systems. The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT is constructing Germany’s first series compensation system in the Stadorf substation in the Lüneburger Heath. From 2023, this will prevent grid bottlenecks in the German state of Lower Saxony. On 15 July 2020, the future heart of the upgraded substation reached Stadorf after an intricate transport by ship, rail and road and was placed on its foundation: a direct-coupling transformer with a transport weight of 528 tonnes.

The TSCNET shareholder supplies large areas of the eastern part of Lower Saxony with electricity via the Stadorf substation. Due to the energy transition and the corresponding transmission of wind power from the north of Germany to the consumption centres in the south, the substation will assume a supra-regional and important function in the future. For this purpose, Stadorf is being comprehensively modernised and extended by a so-called Thyristor Controlled Series Capacitor (TCSC) facility, the first of its kind in Germany.

TCSC allows a fast-dynamic modulation of the inserted reactance and in this case specifically to relieve persistently overloaded lines and redirect load flows. The new direct coupling transformer with a transmission capacity of 300MVA connects the 380kV lines of TenneT with the 110kV lines of the regional distribution system operator (DSO). It provides load flow in both directions, so that locally generated surplus green electricity can be transferred if required. As a result of the substation upgrade with TCSC equipment, the disconnection of wind turbines, regulatory intervention in the grid, and the associated costs will be reduced – and overall system security increased. TenneT anticipates annual savings in the double-digit million euro range.

TenneT is implementing a TCSC facility in the Stadorf substation, the first of its kind in Germany (picture: TenneT)

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Swissgrid responds to revised legislation

15.07.2020

With the national “Energy Strategy 2050”, the Swiss electorate decided in 2017 to promote renewable energies. To extend the duration of the correlating support measures, create planning security for the energy market, and eventually achieve Switzerland’s climate policy goals, the Swiss Federal Council has developed a revision of the national Energy Act (“Energiegesetz”). The Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid appreciates that the Federal Council intends to create more incentives for the expansion of domestic renewable energies while at the same time ensuring long-term security of supply.

However, the TSCNET shareholder considers that the legal framework must also contribute to integrating renewable energies into the overall system. According to Swissgrid, this is the current situation in Switzerland: The combination of the absence of an electricity agreement with the EU, a significant increase in renewable energy with volatile generation, and the sluggish expansion of the grid affects the operation of the transmission system. Because even today, the grid expansion is not keeping pace with that of the renewables.

To meet the goals of the “Energy Strategy 2050”, it must first be ensured that approval procedures for grid projects are consistently optimised and accelerated. Secondly, innovative solutions for load management are needed to generate flexibility and provide frequency services to the transmission grid. The crowd balancing platform Equigy – a cooperation of Swissgrid, TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, and the Italian TSO Terna – is one example of such a solution. Thirdly, an electricity agreement between Switzerland and the EU is essential, since import and export capacity will make an important contribution to Switzerland’s supply security given the significant expansion of renewable energies. Finally, Swissgrid considers the non-discriminatory availability, quality, and transparency of data to be increasingly important for secure grid operation. This requires a legal basis for regulating data transfer between TSOs, distribution system operators (DSOs), storage and power plant operators, and other parties involved.

Swissgrid comments on the revision of the national Energy Act by the Swiss Federal Council (illustration based on a picture of Lac de Moiry in Valais, Fotoauge, Pixabay)

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RSC Conference 2020: A focus on digital cooperation

15.07.2020

The vital function of the European Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs) has been and continues to be maintained despite the Corona pandemic. Regardless of the crisis, it is of great importance to exchange innovative concepts, significant insights, and daily practice in securing the European electricity system. For this reason, the annual RSC Conference will also take place in 2020, this time organised by the Baltic RSC and, as always, in cooperation with the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E). However, the pandemic certainly influences the organisation of the event, so that this year’s conference, the fourth in total, will be accessible as a podcast as well as live digital streaming from the Tallinn Creative Hub in the Estonian capital on 24 November 2020. Speakers and participants have the possibility to participate either remotely or physically.

The RSC Conference 2020 is entitled “Securing future power systems with digital cooperation” and thus will focus on the digital aspects of TSO regional coordination. A further emphasis will be given to the challenges of implementing the EU Green Deal, the large-scale integration of renewable energy sources, offshore deployment, and the implementation of the EU Clean Energy Package. A foresighted review of the COVID-9 pandemic and its impact on regional risk preparedness scenarios is also intended.

Baltic RSC and ENTSO-E have confirmed the keynote speech of the conference given by Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy in the von der Leyen Commission, and the participation of Taavi Veskimägi, CEO of the Estonian TSO Elering. Updates on other participants and further information will be made available regularly on the RSC Conference 2020 website, where you can register for the conference already now – for virtual or in person participation.

The RSC 2020 Conference on digital cooperation in electricity security coordination takes place on 24 November 2020 in Tallinn and is hosted by Baltic RSC (picture of Tallinn by Külli Kittus, Unsplash)

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> See Entso-E news release (html)
> See Baltic RSC news release (html)
> Visit RSC 2020 Conference website (html, with access to registration)

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Construction permit for Pradella-La Punt

13.07.2020

As the extra-high voltage line in the Swiss Engadine between Pradella and La Punt constitutes a bottleneck in the Swiss and pan-European transmission system, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid has long aimed to increase its transmission capacity to 2 x 380kV. This will improve import capacity and security of supply in the canton of Graubünden and facilitate the transport of Engadine hydropower. The project is part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, Swissgrid’s ambitious modernisation and expansion plan.

The Swiss Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (Eidgenössisches Starkstrominspektorat-ESTI) now has approved the reinforcement and new construction of pylons between Pradella and La Punt. Swissgrid has already refurbished the pylon foundations in the past two years, so that work can commence soon. Approximately 3500 tonnes of steel will be needed to upgrade the around 50-kilometre-long overhead line. The construction will be carried out in two sections and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

To reduce the overall environmental impact in the region, Swissgrid is supporting a local grid operator in replacing a 60kV overhead line with a 110kV underground cable. As a result, 1100 pylons will be disappearing from the landscape.

Swissgrid can start with the 2 x 380kV upgrade of the Pradella-La Punt line (picture: Swissgrid)

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APG: Resilient and good for economy

10.07.2020

At a press conference, Gerhard Christiner and Thomas Karall – CTO and CFO of the Austrian transmission system operator (TSO) APG, respectively – together with Anna Kleissner, member of the board of the Vienna-based Economica Institute of Economic Research, looked back on the last months of grid operation during the Corona period. COVID-19 confronted the TSCNET shareholder with a number of challenges, each of which had to be met in a short period of time: e.g. the decline in electricity consumption, historically low electricity prices, power plant capacities dropping out of the market, or changes in working methods at the TSO.

“This crisis has shown us that we as a system operator must always be prepared for the unforeseen. This includes supply shortages in cases where too little electricity is generated or the grid capacities are insufficient for electricity transmission,” comments Gerhard Christiner, who also assures: “After four months of the Corona pandemic in Austria, we can conclude that the electricity supply has passed this test and was secure at all times.”

However, for the two APG managing directors, the future is what matters most, and in this respect, the TSO’s investments play an important role for the national economy. The integration of renewable energy requires grid extension, and APG will invest €350m in the Austrian economy this year to increase grid capacities. This supports both, the energy transition and the Austrian economy. “With the decline in economic output at the beginning of the year, investments in the domestic economy are all the more valuable now because they represent a real ‘turbo boost’,” states Thomas Karall. This is supported by a recent independent study carried out by ECONOMICA, which indicates that the investments have a domestic value added of €205.7m. “With every euro generated in the construction industry, a further €2.4 in value added is created in the rest of the economy,” explains Anna Kleissner.

APG reflects on grid operation in pandemic times and announces investments of €350m for 2020 (picture of Gerhard Christiner, Thomas Karall, and Anna Kleissner: APG)

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ACER PCI Report: some delays with less rescheduling

10.07.2020

Europe-wide, there are currently 106 Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) for electricity in the implementation stage. PCIs are identified by the EU as a priority for interconnecting the infrastructure of the continental energy system and are considered worthy of public funding. The European Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) annually evaluates these projects, together with the PCIs for gas (currently 32), for progress, delays, or rescheduling. This year’s “Consolidated Report on the progress of electricity and gas PCIs”, the sixth edition in total, has been published on 9 July.

The report covers the period from 1 February 2019 to 31 January 2020. Of the electricity projects, 79% were already included in the previous list. The ACER report provides an overview of the progress or the lack of progress in the implementation of the PCIs. It does not, however, contain an analysis of the possibilities for facilitating implementation, which would require a more in-depth analysis. To evaluate the status and progress of the respective PCIs, ACER verifies, among other things, the completeness and quality of the transmitted data and whether the projects have been included in the relevant network development plans.

The main result can be summarised as that delays are still very much in evidence – 27% of electricity PCIs are affected – but rescheduling has decreased. As public funding is easier to obtain for PCIs, there is a strong interest in infrastructure projects being classified as such. In this regard, ACER advises the project developers not to concentrate their efforts too much on the inclusion in the list and thus neglect the much more decisive matters like quality planning, permitting, and securing non-subsidised financing.

ACER has published the 2020 “Consolidated Report on the progress of electricity and gas PCIs”

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> Open Consolidated PCI Report (pdf, 1.05MB)

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