Combined Grid Solution inaugurated


On 20 October, the world’s first hybrid offshore interconnector was ceremoniously put into operation: the Danish-German Combined Grid Solution (CGS). This interconnector in the Baltic Sea links the transmission grids of two countries via national offshore wind farm grid connections. For this purpose, two submarine cables with a length of merely 25 kilometres and a capacity of approx. 200MW each were laid between the offshore transformer platforms of the German wind farm Baltic 2 and the Kriegers Flak wind farm in the Danish part of the Baltic Sea, which is currently under construction. The CGS – a joint project of TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), and TSCNET customer Energinet, the TSO from Denmark – thus not only connects the platforms with each other but also the existing onshore connections of the wind farms. This allows the transmission of offshore wind power to Denmark or Germany and also cross-border electricity trading.

The official opening ceremony, which took place on site in the German capital of Berlin as well as digitally, was attended by Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Dan Jørgensen, the Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities, as well as Kadri Simson, EU Commissioner for Energy. With their appearance, these high-ranking political representatives acknowledged the CGS as a technical innovation with model character for future offshore power grids. The hybrid nature of CGS is that it is the first electricity interconnector between two countries, that not only provides capacity for electricity trading, but also transports offshore wind energy onshore – in both directions. The costs of the binational EU-funded project amount to around €300m.

A technical obstacle had to be solved in the realisation of CGS: Because the transmission grids in eastern Denmark and Germany do not operate synchronously, it was necessary to install a back-to-back converter at the 50Hertz substation in Bentwisch near the port city of Rostock in the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The device converts the incoming AC into DC and immediately back. Only in this way is it possible for electricity to flow smoothly from Denmark to Germany and vice versa. But CGS has not only hardware but also software components. The central digital control unit of the system is the Master Controller for Interconnector Operation (MIO), located in the 50Hertz control centre near Berlin. The MIO balances market requirements with offshore electricity production, which depends on wind conditions in the Baltic Sea. Its main function is to ensure optimum use of the CGS while preventing any overload of the line and the operating facilities in the substation.

Stefan Kapferer, CEO of 50Hertz, commented at the inauguration: “With this project, 50Hertz and Energinet are pioneering the efficient integration of offshore wind farms into the cross-border European electricity market. It offers us several effective options to balance the frequency and voltage of our transmission grids at all times, to deal with the integration of renewable energy sources with more flexibility and to increase the stability of the overall system.” Thomas Egebo, CEO of Energinet, added: “The CGS is not only a very important milestone in reaching Denmark’s ambitious goal of a 100 percent green power system in 2030. The groundbreaking project also delivers an important building block for decarbonising the rest of the society.”

The Danish-German Combined Grid Solution has been ceremoniously put into operation (illustration uses photos of 50Hertz, one of which shows Minister Altmeier)

> See 50Hertz press release (html)
> See Energinet news release (html)
> Watch CGS inauguration film (YouTube)

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German field report on underground cabling


The use of underground cables for power transmission in the extra-high voltage three-phase current range is partly still uncharted technical territory for the four German TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW. As most projects are in the planning, approval, or construction phase, no partial earth cabling project is yet in full system operation, let alone a project with exclusive cabling. However, Tennet has commissioned the Wilhelmshaven-Conneforde line as recently as last week: It is the first 380kV line with underground cable sections in three-phase technology connected to the meshed power grid by the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO).

To inform politics and public about the current status of underground cabling in the national transmission system, the four German TSOs have, at the request of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, jointly prepared a field report on the use of underground cables in the extra high-voltage three-phase current range. The 65-page report examines seven different key issues in respective main chapters, covering technical, administrative, economic, environmental, and social aspects: dialogue and acceptance, approval procedures and the environment, design and construction, operation and operational safety, underground cable technology, systems engineering, and finally economic efficiency. Key findings of 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW can be summarised as follows:

  • Partial underground cabling does not per se lead to a greater acceptance of line construction projects – compared to the construction of overhead power lines, the concern merely shifts from the residents mainly to landowners and farmers.
  • As far as planning, approval, and construction times are concerned, current experience shows that partial underground cabling requires at least one to two years more than overhead lines. More extensive implementation planning, intensive soil investigations, and negotiations with the owners consumed a great deal of time in the pilot projects. The construction itself is also more complex due to the necessary crossing of infrastructures, 40 to 60-metre-wide aisles, and major interventions in the soil ecosystem.
  • Regarding operational and system safety, underground cable installations have a lower availability rate than overhead lines, as repair times are significantly longer in case of damage. Moreover, with an increasing share of partial underground cabling, the complexity of grid operation and thus the risk to system stability also rises.
  • In terms of economic efficiency, the costs of partial underground cabling are significantly higher than those of overhead lines, and this applies to planning, construction, and operation. Depending on the project-related terrain and soil conditions, the investment costs are usually six times higher.

The four German TSOs have published their joint “Field report on the use of underground cables in the extra-high voltage three-phase current range” (picture: TenneT)

> See TransnetBW news release, in German (html)
> Open Field Report, in German (pdf, 2.9MB)

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50Hertz joins new UN sustainable economic initiative


With its strategy of 100% integration of renewable energy, 50Hertz, the transmission system operator (TSO) from the north-east of Germany, is deeply committed to a sustainable design of the future energy and economic landscape. For this reason, the TSCNET shareholder, together with a vast number of other international companies, has joined a new UN economic initiative, whose supporters have committed themselves to global cooperation and sustainable development goals. “United in the Business of a Better World” is the headline of the statement by the “Business Leaders for Renewed Global Cooperation”.

The initiative is in the context of the UN Global Compact, a UN pact to stimulate businesses all over the world to pursue sustainable and socially responsible policies. The statement was presented on 21 September in New York at this year’s UN General Assembly. Over 1,000 CEOs of companies from more than 100 countries have signed the declaration, which calls for more cooperation across borders, sectors, and generations: “Public and private institutions need to show they are accountable, ethical, inclusive and transparent. This is the only way to strengthen public trust and achieve a more sustainable future for all.” Therefore, the signatories are obligated, inter alia, to ethical leadership, values-based strategies, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making, accountability and transparency, legal certainty, equality, and human rights.

“From 60 to 100 by 2032”, the TSO’s own sustainability initiative to cover 100% of the electricity demand in the 50Hertz grid area with renewable energies by the year 2032, fully complies with the UN goals. “The transformation of the energy system towards climate neutrality is the central element of a sustainable, global climate protection policy,” commented Stefan Kapferer, CEO of 50Hertz, on the publication of the declaration. “With this new strategic ambition, we are not only contributing to the achievement of climate policy goals, but also quite explicitly to the sustainable strengthening of the industrial sites in our grid area. This is the very concrete contribution of 50Hertz to meeting the Paris Climate Change Agreement and thus the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.”

50Hertz joins the UN initiative “Business Leaders for Renewed Global Cooperation” for sustainable development goals (picture: 50Hertz)

> See 50Hertz press release, in German (html)
> Open Renewed Global Corporation statement (pdf, 847.77kB)

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Delay for Interim Coupling


To introduce single day-ahead coupling in a total of 23 European countries, the so-called 4M Market Coupling Countries (4M MC) – Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia – are to be connected to the Europe-wide Multi Regional Coupling (MRC) of the electricity market. The initiative to implement the MRC extension is the DE-AT-PL-4M project, also referred to as “Interim Coupling Project”. It aims to establish implicit capacity allocation based on Net Transfer Capacity (NTC) at six borders: PL-DE, PL-CZ, PL-SK, CZ-DE, CZ-AT, and HU-AT. The TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, APG, ČEPS, MAVIR, PSE, SEPS, TenneT, and Transelectrica – transmission system operators (TSOs) from Austria, Czechia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia – participate in Interim Coupling.

After the project had completed the design phase and entered the implementation phase at the end of 2019, Interim Coupling was actually supposed to start in September 2020. The TSOs and Nominated Electricity Market Operators (NEMOs) involved have now announced that the kick-off must be postponed. This is due to several project parties experiencing local implementation bottlenecks in the first quarter of 2020 because of interrelations between ongoing parallel projects. This led to a delay of several months in the implementation activities for Interim Coupling. National regulatory authorities have asked the European Commission to provide guidance on how to proceed with this project. Market players will be informed as soon as possible about the next steps.

The start of the AT-PL-4M MC project has been postponed

> See MAVIR press release, html
> See PSE press release, html
> See SEPS press release, html
> Open AT-PL-4M MC information paper provided by Transelectrica (pdf, 262.12kB)

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Excellent supply reliability in Germany thanks to TSO efforts


Given the increasing requirements for the transmission grids in the new energy landscape, a high degree of security of electricity supply can only be maintained with considerable effort on the part of the transmission system operators (TSOs) – in Germany and everywhere else. The four German TSOs and TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW are as aware of this just as their European colleagues. What they also recognise is that grid extension enhances security of supply, reduces the need for TSO interventions and thus also the costs for congestion management, mainly caused by redispatch. This is also confirmed by independent sources, in this case, the statistics on German supply security in 2019 by the Forum Network Technology / Network Operation (FNN) within the German Association for Electrical Engineering, Electronics, and Information Technology (VDE – Verband der Elektrotechnik, Elektronik und Informationstechnik) – one of Europe’s largest technical-scientific associations with corporate and institutional members.

According to VDE FNN, the power supply in Germany has not only become more sustainable and climate-friendly but has also remained exceptionally reliable – thanks above all to the round-the-clock commitment of the grid operators. The new 2019 disruption and availability statistics prove that the high expenditure in grid operation is successful: Calculated over the entire country, an electricity customer was without electricity for only 12.0 minutes on average in 2019 (2018: 13.3 minutes). This means that every household was supplied with more than 99.997%. To achieve this, TSOs make an enormous effort. They operate the grids within the permissible limits of frequency, voltage, and load although operational requirements are growing due to the energy transition and, among other things, the resulting need to transmit electricity over long distances. Since grid expansion is not progressing as fast as the growth in renewables, grid bottlenecks are increasingly emerging, which the TSOs must resolve.

The effectiveness of grid expansion in Germany is particularly evident from one example in the VDE FNN statistics: The completion of the “Südwest-Kuppelleitung” (aka “Thuringian Power Bridge”) on all three sections in the 50Hertz control area in September 2017 has led to a significant reduction in TSO measures since 2018 and consequently to lower costs for redispatch and compensation – a fact that 50Hertz itself has clearly pointed out in 2019.

The Forum Network Technology / Network Operation has published its disruption and availability statistics (picture of the “Südwest-Kuppelleitung”: 50Hertz)

> See VDE press release, in German (html)
> See VDE FNN statistics page, in German

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Increased renewables thanks to high-temperature conductors


The German transmission system operator (TSO) 50Hertz is switching to high-temperature conductor cables on the first section of an important 380kV overhead line between Saxony and Thuringia through the southern part of the state of Saxony-Anhalt, thereby increasing transmission capacity between the major cities of Leipzig and Erfurt by around 40%. This move is in line with German and European plans for the climate-friendly conversion of the energy system. Now the cable pulling work for the 27-kilometre long eastern section of an overall project has begun, which connects the Pulgar substations south of Leipzig and Vieselbach near Erfurt.

The new overhead line cables consist of a special alloy. They can be operated at temperatures above 100 instead of the previous maximum of 80 degrees Celsius without sagging significantly more – if the tensile stress is increased accordingly. Existing pylons only need to be raised at three points to ensure that sufficient safety distance to the ground is maintained.

“With high-temperature conductors, we have an additional technology at our disposal to increase the transport capacity of our transmission grid that enables the secure integration of as much electricity from renewable sources as possible into our system,” explains Dr Frank Golletz, CTO of 50Hertz. “Unfortunately, this additional capacity comes with higher transport losses, so that each use case has to be weighed carefully. For the first section of our line, we have chosen this technology because the tower systems are still far from reaching the end of their life cycle. In such closely defined cases, replacing the conductors is therefore a sensible solution, both in terms of cost-efficiency as well as with regard to the impact on the landscape.”

50Hertz increases the transmission capacity on the first part of an 380kV overhead line by around 40% (picture: 50Hertz / Jan Pauls)

> See 50Hertz press release (html)

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Building permit for the Uckermark line of 50Hertz


Since 2005, 50Hertz, the transmission system operator (TSO) from the north-east of Germany, has been engaged in the planning of the new, higher capacity Uckermark Line (“Uckermarkleitung”). The new 380kv overhead line is to replace the existing 220kv line that went into operation in 1958, whereby the TSCNET shareholder takes account of the growing relevance of renewable energies in its control area. The new Uckermark Line will run from the Bertikow substation near Prenzlau to the Neuenhagen substation in the north-east of Berlin and connect further substations, one of which is an important interconnector to Poland. It will be capable of transmitting up to five times more electricity, so that in future more wind and solar power from the German states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania can be transported to the southern consumption centres.

The start of construction of the 115-kilometre-long new line was delayed for reasons of bird protection: A German nature conservation association had filed a complaint against the planning approval decision granted in 2014. This necessitated a supplementary planning procedure, expert reports on bird protection, consultations, and modifications. The competent authority now granted the building permit, which maintains 50Hertz’ originally planned routing. The future Uckermark Line will no more affect the biosphere reserve Schorfheide-Chorin and thus pays considerable attention to nature conservation. Special permits have been issued for other bird sanctuaries that cannot be bypassed due to their size, including compensation measures to preserve biodiversity. The dismantling of the old power line plays an important role here, but also bird protection markers or special pylons with reduced height.

50Hertz has been cooperating for several years with various nature conservation organisations and ornithological observatories to better assess the possible threats to birds. A nationwide cooperative portal of TSOs and distribution system operators (DSOs) in conjunction with the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI) for data on detected accident birds is particularly noteworthy in this context. To increase acceptance of a project as essential for the energy transition and climate protection as the Uckermark Line, it is important to reconcile the substantial ecological added value of the capacity expansion with other nature conservation interests. Hence, the commitment of 50Hertz both to the ecologically necessary grid extension and to other environmental interests is highly to be appreciated.

50Hertz has obtained construction permit for the new 380kV Uckermark line (symbolic picture: 50Hertz) 

> See 50Hertz press release (html)

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New Local Implementation Project under SIDC


European transmission system operators (TSOs) are committed to the European Energy Union by collectively working towards an integrated European electricity market. A key component for market integration is cross-border Single Intraday Coupling (SIDC), which was introduced as XBID in June 2018. SIDC is designed to increase the overall efficiency of intraday trading through effective competition, increased liquidity, and more efficient use of generation resources. Currently, the markets of 22 countries are coupled through SIDC: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. With the inclusion of the Slovakian Nominated Electricity Market Operator (NEMO) OKTE and TSCNET shareholder SEPS, the TSO from Bratislava, the project also extends to Slovakia.

Within the framework structure of the SIDC, Local Implementation Projects (LIPs) provide for the expansion of the market coupling, and a new project has now been established as LIP 17. The NEMOs and TSOs from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia – the TSCNET shareholders ČEPS, MAVIR, PSE, and SEPS – have proposed to implement SIDC across the borders between Slovakia-Czechia, Slovakia-Hungary, and Slovakia-Poland. The SIDC Steering Committee approved on 7 July and the LIP 17 roadmap will now be elaborated in more detail.

The SIDC solution comprises a common IT system with a shared order book, a capacity management module, and a shipping module. In addition to the TSOs mentioned above, the TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, Amprion, APG, ELES, HOPS, TenneT, Transelectrica, and TransnetBW as well as the TSCNET customers Creos from Luxembourg and Energinet from Denmark are also part of SIDC.

A new LIP for the introduction of intraday trading across the borders of Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia has been established under SIDC

> See MAVIR press release (html)
> See PSE press release (html)
> See SEPS press release (html)

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50Hertz aims for 100% renewables by 2032


50 Hertz, the transmission system operator (TSO) from the north-east of Germany, has launched a climate and economic policy initiative for its control area, which consists of the federal states in eastern Germany and the city states of Berlin and Hamburg. The concrete goal is to cover 100% of the electricity demand in the 50Hertz grid area with renewable energies by the year 2032 and the secure integration of green electricity into the transmission system. As the annual average share of renewables in 2019 was around 60%, the initiative is entitled: “From 60 to 100 by 2032: for an economy with prospects”.

The “100 by 32” initiative corresponds to and exceeds the objectives of the EU Commission’s “Green Deal”, according to which Europe should become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The TSCNET shareholder will focus the entire corporate strategy on the new ambitious target and – in compliance with the legal requirements for safe and reliable grid operation – will mobilise its extensive expertise. Since, according to 50Hertz CEO Stefan Kapferer, further considerable efforts are necessary not only in the own company but also in politics, economy, and society, the TSO offers to support the German federal and state governments in developing suitable areas and potential for wind and solar energy, off- and onshore

Kapferer comments further on the strategy: “The transformation of our electric power supply has entered a new phase. Today’s parallel existence of a conventional fossil generation system and an energy system based on renewable sources is coming to an end. Wind and solar energy must be able to provide ancillary services in the future. We are determined to drive this transition forward, but now with new and full speed.”

50Hertz launches the corporate initiative “From 60 to 100 by 2032” for a complete coverage of electricity demand with renewable energies (picture: 50Hertz)

> See 50Hertz press release (html)

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Successful start of FCR auctions


The cooperation on regional procurement and exchange of frequency containment reserve (FCR) is a voluntary initiative of eight transmission system operators (TSOs): the six TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, Amprion, and TransnetBW from Germany, APG from Austria, Swissgrid from Switzerland, and the Dutch-German TSO TenneT, as well as Elia from Belgium and the French TSO RTE. The FCR project is the first regional cooperation for a common market based on the methodology for the exchange of control reserves set out in the EU Guideline on Electricity Balancing. Within the scope of a cooperation model with Amprion, the Luxembourg TSCNET customer Creos is also involved.

The next milestone in the development of the largest European market for primary balancing power reserve has now been reached, as the first D-1 auction for FCR with 4-hour products was successfully conducted on 30 June 2020. This means, the FCR cooperation reduces the product length from one day to four hours and thus the market for primary balancing power is brought closer to real time.

Due to stronger competition between service providers and technologies, the joint auction allows TSOs to procure FCRs at minimum cost to end-users while offering a large common market for all providers of balancing services. It also increases the market attractiveness for short-term flexibility, limits price volatility and improves the security of grid operation by executing cross zonal procurement of FCR. The FCR market, already the largest in Europe, will be extended to western Denmark and Slovenia in the first quarter of 2021, so that with Energinet and ELES two further TSCNET shareholders will broaden the project.

The FCR cooperation successfully conducted the first D-1 auction for FCR with 4-hour products 

> See Swissgrid news release (html)

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