Amprion: “Smart Valve” for flexible power flow control

05.08.2020

To maintain the stability of the transmission grid despite the current increase in decentralised and volatile generation, the German transmission system operator (TSO) Amprion – like many other TSCNET shareholders – is already using a wide range of innovative technologies, for instance Phase-shifting transformers (PSTs) or reactive power compensation systems such as Statcom. A promising pilot project has now additionally been launched, for which Amprion has signed a cooperation agreement with the US Silicon Valley company, Smart Wires. In the three-phase project, the mobile modular static-synchronous series compensator (mSSSC) developed by Smart Wires, the so called SmartValve, will be deployed in the Amprion grid.

The aim of the project is both to increase the transmission capacity of Amprion’s transmission grid and to maintain its high level of system stability. SmartValve is designed for a more balanced and thus more efficient use of power lines. By actively changing the power flows, it enables better control of the transmission system and minimises redispatch. Due to its modular structure, SmartValve is easy to transport and can be operated flexibly at different locations. This distinguishes the new technology from conventional PSTs, for example, making it an ideal complement to support the system from a stability perspective.

Dr. Klaus Kleinekorte, CTO at Amprion, refers in this context to the significantly increased costs for redispatch in Germany in recent years due to the changes in the energy landscape. This is where the SmartValve project comes in: “We see this innovative technology as having the potential to allow us to use the network more efficiently and reduce the need for redispatch.” The two partners expect the project to span two to three years to verify the added value of the new technology in the Amprion grid.

Amprion and Smart Wires launched a pilot project to implement the SmartValve solution in the transmission grid (picture: Smart Wires)

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ENTSO-E Annual Report 2019 released

01.08.2020

For transmission system operators (TSOs), Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs), and other players in the energy market alike, last year was marked above all by the entry into force of the EU “Clean Energy for all Europeans Package” (CEP). Actually, the TSOs and the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) were still in the process of implementing the Third Energy Package, but work on meeting the requirements of the CEP has already commenced in 2019.

This is also reflected in the recently published ENTSO-E Annual Report 2019, which describes activities related to the legal mandates given to ENTSO-E. The report divides these activities into seven chapters: 1. System Operation; 2. Market; 3. System Development; 4. Transparency Regulation; 5. Research, Development and Innovation; 6. Cybersecurity, Interoperability and Data; 7. TSO-DSO partnership and demand side flexibility.

Prior to its release, the Annual Report was subject to a public consultation with stakeholders from 22 June to 20 July 2020, whereupon the comments received were taken into account and the Annual Report was submitted to the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER).

ENTSO-E has published its Annual Report 2019 (picture: ENTSO-E)

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TenneT to invest up to €5bn p.a. for the energy transition

31.07.2020

The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT has just published its first-half 2020 report. Needless to say, the second quarter of 2020 was characterised by the corona pandemic and the extensive measures taken to ensure a safe and healthy working environment, but despite this, the TSO has made significant progress in developing the transmission grid onshore and offshore and in integrating growing amounts of renewable electricity. At the same time, TenneT has maintained a high level of supply security of 99.99% for 42m end consumers in Germany and the Netherlands.

As Europe’s first cross-border TSO, TenneT promotes the European market integration. The TSCNET shareholder increasingly benefits from its binational integrated approach to grid planning, management, and operation. Manon van Beek, TenneT’s CEO, comments: “Sharing best practices and lessons learned between our German and Dutch operations is paying off more and more in terms of an integrated approach to offshore and onshore grid expansion, better grid utilisation due to European innovations and cross-border energy system planning.”

TenneT currently operates 14 offshore grid connections, twelve in the German and two in the Dutch North Sea. The twelfth offshore grid connection in Germany, BorWin 3, was handed over to TenneT in the first half of 2020. In Dutch waters, the Borssele Alpha grid connection recently transmitted offshore wind power for the first time and the Borssele Beta grid connection has now been commissioned well ahead of schedule. While in the offshore sector experience from the German market is used for the Dutch, the situation is the other way round when it comes to underground cabling. Here, expertise from the Dutch Randstadt project is applied for the DC connections SuedLink and SuedOstLink. These two largest projects of TenneT, which are being entirely installed underground, will be essential for the transmission of wind energy from northern to southern Germany.

Such efforts require huge investments – facilitated by solid financial results: The underlying operating result (EBIT) increased to €414m in the first half of 2020. During the same period, investments in the German and Dutch high and extra-high voltage grids also increased by approximately 30% compared to the first half of 2019, but will do so much more in the future. TenneT expects a further rise in the annual investment volume to €4 to 5bn in the next years. Otto Jager, CFO of TenneT, explains: “We are going to connect growing amounts of renewable electricity to the grid while facilitating the development of a borderless European electricity market. In light of future equity funding needs, the ongoing talks with the German government about a possible equity participation, next to the Dutch State, are welcomed by TenneT.”

TenneT presents Half-year Report 2020 (picture: TenneT)

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Borssele Beta is ready for the grid

31.07.2020

Borssele Beta is the second high-voltage grid connection for offshore wind farms in Dutch territorial waters of the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT. Like Borssele Alpha, the first Dutch offshore connection, it transmits green electricity generated in the Borssele wind farm area ashore, in this case from the Borssele III, IV and V wind farms. The operators of these three farms can hook up their wind turbines to the high-voltage grid one month earlier than scheduled, as TenneT has just received the “Grid Readiness” certification from the internationally accredited registrar and classification society DNV GL. This means that Borssele Beta fully complies with the criteria of the “Ontwikkelkader windenergie op zee”, the Offshore Wind Energy Development Framework of the Dutch Government.

The Borssele III, IV and V wind farms will have a total capacity of 700MW. The electricity generated here is collected by the offshore transformer platform, which converts the voltage from 66kV to 220kV for transmission via submarine cables to the onshore substation in Borssele. For feeding into the high-voltage grid, the voltage is then converted to 380kV. Marco Kuijpers, Director Offshore Projects at TenneT, comments on the rapid realisation: “We are proud of the fact that the second part of the Borssele high voltage connection is already complete and was realised within budget. Despite all the Covid-19 challenges, we were successful in continuing with the works; a huge achievement from all the contract parties involved.”

By the end of 2023, TenneT will have installed 3.5GW of offshore grid connections in the Netherlands, of which the first 1.4GW have already been achieved with Borssele Alpha and Beta. The next projects are Hollandse Kust (zuid) Alpha and Beta, followed by Hollandse Kust (noord). For these wind farms, TenneT will deploy five identical 700MW transformer platforms and identical 220kV cable connections. This standardisation allows TenneT to realise these projects faster, more efficiently, and more economically. The governmental Dutch follow-up roadmap for offshore development provides for an additional 6.1GW of offshore wind farms from 2024 to the end of 2030, located in the wind energy areas Hollandse Kust (west), Ten Noorden van de Waddeneilanden and IJmuiden Ver. Only for the first two, TenneT will again use standardised 700MW platforms. The efficient connection of IJmuiden Ver, located further out in the North Sea, partly requires other technologies based on DC instead of AC. IJmuiden Ver will have two offshore transformer platforms with a capacity of 2GW each, which is unique in the offshore wind industry.

The Borssele Beta offshore grid connection of TenneT is ready for transmission (picture: TenneT)

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Awards for ELES smart grid projects

30.07.2020

The International Smart Grids Action Network (ISGAN) is a technology cooperation programme on smart grids by the International Energy Agency (IEA). ISGAN provides a strategic platform to raise awareness and to stimulate action by high level governments for accelerated development and deployment of smart and clean electricity grids around the world. ISGAN initiatives include the annual ISGAN Award of Excellence in “Digitalization Enabling Consumer Empowerment”. On 28 July, the jury announced the winners of the 6th ISGAN Award, which focuses on digitisation at global level and for which nominations have been received from around the world. The first and second prizes were awarded to two projects in which TSCNET shareholder ELES, the Slovenian transmission system operator (TSO), is significantly involved.

The first place goes to the NEDO project, a Japanese-Slovenian initiative whose main partners, besides ELES, are the Japanese New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) and the multinational conglomerate Hitachi. The NEDO project introduces integrated and centrally managed cloud-based solutions to make better use of the existing network and provide customers with a higher quality electricity supply and the opportunity to actively participate in electricity markets and systemic services. ELES decided at the end of 2015 to participate in the project, whose main responsible partner, the namesake agency NEDO, received the award on behalf of the consortium.

The award for FutureFlow, which took second place, was received by ELES itself. The international project was conceived by ELES experts and involves twelve partners from eight European countries. The project implements innovative e-trading solutions for smart cross-border balancing and redispatching in the control areas of four central and southern European TSOs, which are all shareholders of TSCNET. Besides the project leader ELES, the other TSO participants are APG from Austria, MAVIR from Hungary, and Transelectrica from Romania. FutureFlow was launched in 2016 and successfully concluded in December 2019. Pilot tests in real time have proven that also small businesses and power generation units can be a reliable source of flexibility to maintain the balance in the electricity system. The project was funded by the EU under the Horizon 2020 programme, in fact, it was the largest research project financed under Horizon 2020.

The ISGAN Award 2020 is exceptional in that it is the first time that one company receives two awards. After the announcement, the CEO of ELES, Aleksander Mervar, commented that with these two awards, ELES has obtained great international recognition for its activities in the field of innovation and development of smart networks. Mr Mervar complimented the partners in both consortia. By dedicating the two awards to all those who participated in both projects, he acknowledged their outstanding performance.

ELES received two ISGAN Awards 2020 for the smart grid initiatives FutureFlow and NEDO Project (picture: ELES)

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Way is paved for 400kV line in western Romania

29.07.2020

For more than ten years, the completion of the 400kV Oradea-Békéscsaba overhead line in the far west of Romania has been prevented due to unresolved ownership issues regarding the section Oradea South-Nădab. Because of this, the line could only partially be put into operation, that is between the Romanian town Nădab and the Hungarian town Békéscsaba, near the Romanian-Hungarian border. Now the property situation has been clarified and the Romanian transmission system operator (TSO) and TSCNET shareholder Transelectrica was able to award the building contract for the missing section.

Transelectrica expects the construction work to be completed within twelve months. The commissioning of the last 72-kilometre section and thus the completion of the Oradea-Békéscsaba overhead line will contribute to the closure of the “400kV Ring” in the west of Romania. This project is a priority energy target for Romania, which will significantly improve the operational reliability of the national transmission system and security of electricity supply in the north-west of the country. The new Oradea-Békéscsaba line will also enable Transelectrica to eliminate congestions and thus save considerable costs for grid interventions. Finally, Romania’s interconnection capacity will be increased by 100MW in export and 300MW in import direction, which will not only contribute to compliance with EU regulations, but also make a sustainable contribution to the integration of the European electricity market.

Transelectrica has awarded the building contracts for the last section of the 400kV Oradea-Békéscsaba overhead line (picture of Oradea: Marculescu Eugen Iancu, Creative Commons)

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TSOs of the Central SOR submit RCC proposal

29.07.2020

The EU Regulation on the internal electricity market (2019/943) calls for a higher degree of coordination between transmission system operators (TSOs) at regional level. This is to be achieved through the establishment of Regional Coordination Centres (RCCs). Regulation 2019/943 provides that the future RCCs will act more autonomously in terms of risk prevention than the current Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs) like the Munich based TSCNET Services. On 6 April 2020, the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) published a decision on the geographical scope of the RCCs (ACER Decision 10/2020) and defined the so-called System Operation Regions (SORs). The TSOs of each SOR were invited to submit a proposal on the establishment of RCCs to the relevant national regulatory authorities (NRAs).

The 19 TSOs of the Central SOR – including all TSCNET shareholders except the non-EU TSO Swissgrid from Switzerland and also three TSCNET customers – now have submitted their joint proposal for the RCC establishment in accordance with Article 35 of Regulation (EU) 2019/943. It was published by the German Federal Network Agency (“Bundesnetzagentur“).  The TSOs’ suggestion is to develop existing RSCs into RCCs by adapting them to comply with the requirements of the EU Regulation. The TSOs are of the opinion that despite their increased autonomy, the future RCCs should have their grid stability measures confirmed by the TSOs. The respective TSOs concerned should be able to carry out reviews where appropriate and to oppose RCC measures on well-founded reasons. This requires an intensive exchange of information between RCCs and TSOs.

The paper proposes working agreements and service contracts as basis for the TSO-RCC cooperation. The core tasks of the RCCs should remain those of the RSCs, such as security analysis, outage planning coordination, capacity calculation, adequacy forecasts, or grid modelling. In addition, the RCCs should assist TSOs in identifying transmission system extension and modernisation priorities. RCCs should also be involved in assessing the extent to which foreign capacity may participate in national capacity mechanisms. A proposal from the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E), which is still pending, shall define which tasks the RCCs will perform in determining regional reserve capacity and in the regional procurement of balancing power.

The 19 TSOs of the Central SOR have published a joint proposal on the establishment of RCCs (picture: ENTSO-E)

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Southeast RSC established in Thessaloniki

28.07.2020

The four transmission system operators (TSOs) of the South-East Europe and Greece-Italy Capacity Calculation Regions (CCRs) – which are ESO-EAD (Bulgaria), IPTO (Greece), Terna (Italy), and TSCNET shareholder Transelectrica, the TSO from Romania – have established the sixth European Regional Security Coordinator (RSC) in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. The new RSC goes by the name of Southeast Electricity Network Coordination Centre (SEleNe CC). Each TSO participates equally in the share capital of the new company.

SEleNe CC provides all regional RSC services for both CCRs according to the requirements of the EU guideline on capacity allocation and congestion management (CACM). The main tasks of SEleNe CC – just as with Baltic RSC, Coreso, Nordic RSC, SCC, and the Munich based RSC TSCNET Services – are: coordinated security analysis, outage planning coordination, coordinated capacity calculation, (very) short-term adequacy forecasts, individual and common grid modelling, and data set delivery. The Board of Directors of SEleNe CC consists of one member from each TSO with Ioannis Kampouris from the Greek TSO IPTO as Chairman and CEO.

Catalin Nitu, CEO of Transelectrica, comments on the establishment of SEleNe CC: „Improving energy security and cooperation at both organisational and technical level brings us one step closer to an energy-integrated Europe. This step is part of a normal and necessary evolution for regional energy security, in the light of the implementation of the common electricity market’s new model. I express my gratitude to our colleagues and partners who have consistently shown professional excellence and commitment to establish this security centre.”

The four TSOs from the South-East Europe and Greece-Italy CCRs have established SEleNe CC, the new RSC based in Thessaloniki (picture of Thessaloniki: Digio Lab on Unsplash)

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TenneT records 21% increase in offshore transmission

28.07.2020

In the first half of 2020, the wind energy transmitted from the North Sea ashore by the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT rose to 11.51TWh. This represents an increase of 21.1% compared with the 9.51TWh in the first half of 2019, bringing the North Sea’s share of total wind power generation in Germany to 15.6%. The maximum feed-in volume from offshore wind farms in the German North Sea was 6,035MW on 2 January 2020. By 30 June, the generation capacity of the German North Sea wind farms reached 6,679MW, a volume which is exceeded by TenneT’s offshore transmission capacity of 7,132MW. This amount, which is higher than the German government’s 2020 target (6.5GW for the North and Baltic Seas combined), is currently being achieved with twelve German offshore grid connections.

Tim Meyerjürgens, COO of the TSCNET shareholder, comments on the impressive figures: „The expansion and integration of offshore wind energy is of central importance for the European energy transition.” And offshore development is also keeping pace in the Dutch market: “With Borssele alpha and – from mid-August – Borssele beta, we have now also successfully completed the first two offshore connections in the Dutch North Sea.” TenneT promotes capacity expansion with technical innovations and, according to Meyerjürgens, wants to remain a driving force in the offshore sector: “Ever since TenneT set the standard for plastic-insulated DC cables at 320kV in the offshore sector around ten years ago, we have been defining a new global benchmark for the future with our 525kV DC subsea cable system and its transmission capacity of two GW.”

The 525kV development programme should lead to a standardised cable system that the TSO can employ by 2030 for the three German North Sea projects BalWin1, BalWin2, BalWin3 and the two Dutch projects IJmuiden Ver alpha and beta as well as in potential further projects of equal power and voltage. TenneT is expecting lower costs, greater security of supply and less impact on the environment. These efforts require considerable investment: “We have an investment programme of around €20bn earmarked for connecting offshore wind energy in the Netherlands and Germany by 2030,” explains Meyerjürgens. Important in this context are also hydrogen and hybrid initiatives. The North Sea Wind Power Hubs proposed by TenneT explicitly include power to gas concepts. Furthermore, in June, TenneT proposed to the EU and the Dutch and German governments an integrated energy system approach for the international offshore development.

TenneT increased its transmission of offshore wind energy by 21% in the first half of 2020 (picture: TenneT)

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Renewables surpass fossil fuels

27.07.2020

Analysts from the London-based think-tank Ember have for some time now been preparing annual reports on the European energy sector by collecting grid data from the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E). The mid-year analysis for 2019 has identified a positive trend for achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the European Commission’s Green Deal, which, however, also poses considerable challenges for European transmission system operators (TSOs): For the first time ever, electricity generation from renewable sources has exceeded that from fossil fuels. In the first half of 2020, wind, solar, hydro and bioenergy generated 40% of the electricity in the EU Member States, while fossil fuels accounted for 34%.

Europe’s power industry faced a dramatic first half of the year and it should not go unmentioned that the substantial decline in electricity demand across the continent because of the COVID 19 pandemic also has an impact on the development in 2020. Nevertheless, this is a symbolic moment for the transition of the European power landscape. Renewable energy generation increased by 11% in the first half of 2020, mainly because more wind and solar facilities have been installed. In addition, conditions were also quite favourable with a sunny second quarter and a very windy February. In contrast, fossil generation fell by 18% over the same period, forced by falling demand and the growth in renewable energy.

With their committed responses to increasingly decentralised and volatile generation – such as grid extension and modernisation, technological compensation for the loss of reactive power, smart grid control, or cross-border cooperation – European TSOs are supporting this development sustainably.

In the first half of 2020, European electricity generation from renewable sources has exceeded fossil generation

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