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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> See Amprion press release (html)

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New Local Implementation Project under SIDC

09.07.2020

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

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

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Successful start of FCR auctions

01.07.2020

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 

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> See Swissgrid news release (html)

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Redispatch harmonisation in Germany

26.06.2020

Up until now, redispatch measures between the four German transmission system operators (TSOs) – 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW – and the operators of power plants and storage facilities with a capacity of more than 10MW have been carried out on the basis of IT tools specific to the particular TSO control area. In order to align the individual procedures nationwide, the four TSCNET shareholders on 26 June successfully put the first component of their joint redispatch platform into operation, the “Redispatch Settlement Server” (“Redispatch-Abwicklungsserver” – RAS).

The German electricity market is increasingly characterised by volatile generation and RAS is an instrument to initiate redispatch measures both faster and more flexibly. With harmonised data formats and processes, the redispatch platform, of which the RAS is the first part, provides the basis for the integration of renewable energies into the existing redispatch processes, that is, for future-proof congestion management. In concrete terms, RAS allows TSO control centres to monitor and process all relevant power plant interventions. As a result, TSOs can coordinate their redispatch decisions and activities more efficiently. Moreover, the central management introduces frictionless settlement and transparency processes.

The second part of the redispatch platform is the “Redispatch Determination Server” (“Redispatch-Ermittlungsserver” – RES). RES will complement or replace existing forecasting tools for expectable grid situations such as imminent bottlenecks. It will identify those options for action that are compliant with the regulations and most cost-efficient. Based on RES calculations, TSOs can resolve both predicted and existing grid congestions more efficiently than today. RES is scheduled to go into operation in 2021.

The four German TSOs have succesfully launched RAS, a joint server for redispatch settlement

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> See 50Hertz press release (html)
> See Amprion press release, in German (html)
> See TenneT press release, in German (html)
> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

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ALEGrO: Civil engineering concluded

26.06.2020

The cable laying work for the “Aachen Liège Electricity Grid Overlay” (ALEGrO) started in October 2018. The DC interconnector with a transmission capacity of 1,000MW will be the first direct link between the Belgian and German electricity grids and is being implemented as a joint venture by TSCNET shareholder Amprion, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), and the Belgian TSO Elia. The European Project of Common Interest (PCI) provides much needed grid capacities for cross-border electricity flows and at the same time strengthens supply security in the Aachen-Cologne region in Germany and in the Belgian Liège Province. The entire binational power bridge is being realised with underground cabling exclusively.

After twenty months of construction, Amprion now has concluded the civil engineering work on the 41-kilometre-long German section of ALEGrO between the substation in Niederzier and the border to Belgium. “We have reached an important milestone even ahead of schedule,” explains Rainer Millinghaus, Head of Cable Civil Engineering at Amprion. Most of the underground cables have already been drawn into the conduits and only in some sections this still needs to be done. The converter construction site in Niederzier is also making great strides. Here, the DC from the underground cable will be converted into AC to allow connection to the German grid.

The challenging project required different types of cable installation. About 75 percent of the line was built in conventional open construction. However, obstacles like roads or railway tracks were passed with trenchless embedding techniques like horizontal thrust boring or pipe jacking. Also, a modified flush drilling method was used for the first time, which will be beneficial for Amprion in further cable projects, too. Besides these technical aspects, the implementation of ALEGrO is also state-of-the-art in terms of environmental protection: Careful handling of the soil and its hydrologic balance is ensured until the entire installation is completed. An independent soil expert accompanies the construction and recultivation, and there is also an ecological supervision.

Amprion has finished the civil engineering works for the ALEGrO interconnector (picture of Rainer Millinghaus and Theo Heitkamp from ARGE Amprion ALEGrO Aachen welding the last sleeve joint of the conduit system: Amprion)

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> See Amprion press release, in German (html)

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Amprion: Transformation everywhere

25.06.2020

On 24 June, the German transmission system operator (TSO) Amprion presented its Annual Report 2019, due to the corona pandemic, this time as live stream instead of a press conference. The TSCNET shareholder not only reported on its financial figures and innovative concepts – such as Eurobar for offshore integration – but also announced investments of €15bn for achieving the company’s ambitious goals. To this end, Amprion intends to become active on the capital market.

The financial background for the demanding investment plans is excellent: In 2019, TSO was able to increase its revenue by a good four percent to €14.4bn and its net profit by over eight percent to €220m. “We plan to invest €15bn over the next ten years. That means the volume will triple,” stated Amprion’s CFO Peter Rüth during the presentation livestream. As far as capital market activities are concerned, Rüth expects to issue the first bonds in the middle to end of 2021. However, as Dr Hans-Jürgen Brick, CEO of Amprion, explains, the success of the plans also depends on the regulatory environment and the level of remuneration for grid operation.

Amprion recognises its specific responsibility to ensure a climate friendly, secure, and efficient energy system. The TSO’s innovation and infrastructure projects are a contribution to the sustainable transformation of the European energy landscape while maintaining security of supply. In connection with the presentation of the report, Amprion also introduced its new brand identity and new brand claim: “Amprion connects” (“Amprion verbindet” in German). The claim represents the changed self-perception: “We are paving the way for a climate-compatible energy system – and combine this with our responsibility for a stable and secure grid,” comments Dr Brick.

Amprion has presented its Annual Report 2019 and announced investments of €15bn over the next ten years (picture: Amprion)

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> Visit Amprion Annual Report website (html)
> Open Annual Report 2019 (pdf, 828kB)
> Open Annual Report Magazine (pdf, 11.04MB)
> Visit Eurobar website with live stream recording, in German (html)

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Eurobar for offshore integration

24.06.2020

Those involved in European electricity transmission have clearly understood that the common climate targets up to 2050 call for suitable and forward-looking concepts already today. Although the control area of TSCNET shareholder Amprion is not directly bordering a seashore, the German transmission system operator (TSO) shares nonetheless responsibility for transporting green electricity generated offshore to the consumption centres. Amprion thinks in a pan-European dimension and has developed a concept to integrate offshore electricity into the European power grid in a way that makes an optimal contribution to the European climate goals: The European Offshore Busbar (Eurobar) responds to the fact that the North Sea countries alone want to exploit an offshore potential of around 200GW by 2050.

The concept provides for the new generation of offshore facilities in the North Sea to be designed for connection to an offshore grid already during the early planning stage. Later, they can be gradually interconnected – first at national level and then between the North Sea countries. Through this integration, wind power can be transported flexibly and across borders to where it is needed, thus increasing efficiency and reducing costs as well as the need for additional grid expansion onshore. Dr Hans-Jürgen Brick, CEO of Amprion, emphasises the key role of the trans-European integration of offshore wind power for the future climate-neutral energy system: “Eurobar aims to make a constructive contribution to European plans for offshore development.”

Amprion has benefited from the advantages of an integrated power system for many decades and now, with Eurobar, intends to transfer this integration concept to the offshore grid to create an overall system for onshore and offshore energy. “Eurobar will intensify European collaboration in offshore development,” believes Dr Klaus Kleinekorte, CTO at Amprion. Peter Rüth, the CFO of the TSO, adds: “Eurobar is designed as a partnership.” Consequently, the implementation can be carried out by the respective partners, be it states or grid operators, autonomously. The only condition is, that the technical standards yet to be developed are applied when installing future offshore systems. “We will now be working together with our partners in industry and among network operators on resolving the technical issues and advocating standardisation on a European level,” concludes Rüth.

Amprion has presented the Eurobar concept for integrating European offshore systems (picture: Amprion)

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> See Amprion press release (html)
> Open Eurobar presentation (pdf, 829.2kB)

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Luxembourg integrated into FCR cooperation

01.06.2020

Eight central European transmission system operators (TSOs) cooperate in the regional procurement and exchange of Frequency Containment Reserve (FCR). Their joint FCR project is the first regional cooperation in Europe to implement market harmonisation in accordance with the EU Guideline on Electricity Balancing. The participating TSOs are APG, 50Hertz, Amprion, TransnetBW, and Swissgrid – the Austrian, German and Swiss TSCNET shareholders –, the Dutch-German shareholder TenneT as well as the Belgian TSO Elia and the French TSO RTE. It is intended to extend the joint FCR procurement towards western Denmark, so that the central European TSOs are supplemented by Energinet from Denmark as a non-active member.

Luxembourg was missing in the cooperation so far, but cross-border primary control reserve (PCR) between Germany and Luxembourg is now also possible: Since 1 June 2020, balancing service providers (BSPs) from Luxembourg are participating in the joint tender for FCR cooperation. For this purpose, the TSO Amprion, whose German control area is bordering the Grand-Duchy, and the Luxembourgian TSCNET customer Creos have developed a cooperation model. Under this model, Amprion assumes the role of the connecting TSO, carries out the prequalification of the BSPs, concludes the framework agreement for PCR, and takes over the settlement with the BSPs from the Creos control area.

Since Amprion and Creos operate a joint load-frequency-control area, a pooling of technical units within this common area is permissible. Thus, a pool can include Luxembourgian as well as German units that provide balancing services. This means that a BSP may combine generation units or controllable consumer loads from both countries and offer them collectively on the PCR market.

The central European FCR cooperation was extended to Luxembourg (picture: Cedric Letsch)

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> See Amprion press release, in German (html)

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Amprion Market Report shows encouraging trends

27.05.2020

The intermeshed European electricity market today requires constructive cooperation between all actors and organisations. Amprion, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), considers the efficiency of cooperation at European level a key prerequisite for continental security of supply and the success of the energy transition. For this reason, the TSCNET shareholder was and is involved in numerous regional and European initiatives on system operation, network planning, and market integration. Also, Amprion is an observant analyser of the European market development, especially in the Central Western Europe (CWE) region and annually provides the Market Report for the CWE countries. The 2020 edition for the period 2015 to 2019 has just been released.

The Market Report is based on data from Flow-Based Market Coupling (FBMC) introduced by the six CWE countries (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium) in May 2015. By involving the entire regional network in the coupling of electricity markets, FBMC allows TSOs to allocate cross-border capacity and maximise market efficiency without jeopardising grid stability. The Amprion report clearly indicates the progress of the CWE market integration, especially with the following figures: In 2019, price convergence on the day-ahead markets increased by a further 10%, reaching 42%. In other words, in almost every second hour, day-ahead prices in the CWE have been equal because the TSOs succeeded in making sufficient power transmission capacity available to meet the demand of the entire region at the same prices.

Dr. Hans-Jürgen Brick, CEO of Amprion, comments on the positive development: “The Market Report furnishes proof that trade barriers could be decreased during the course of 2019.” Dr Brick places particular emphasis on the efficient and highly interconnected power grids in the CWE region and their “key role in ensuring Europe’s stable and secure energy system”. As regards Amprion’s individual contribution, the TSO was able to further improve the efficiency of its grid and thus strengthen European electricity trading. Whereas in 2018 the share of all active trade constraints caused by Amprion internal elements was 13.7%, in 2019 it was only 7.8%. This is due not only to the ongoing grid expansion measures, but also to the monitoring of overhead lines, which allows more efficient utilisation of the most important power lines.

Amprion has published the Market Report 2020 for the CWE region (picture: Daniel Schumann / Amprion)

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> See Amprion press release, in German (html)
> Open Amprion market report (pdf, 6.97MB)
> Open Amprion market report summary, in German (pdf, 524.8kB)

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Generation adequacy in the CWE region within standards

22.05.2020

The Pentalateral Energy Forum (PLEF) provides the framework for regional cooperation in Central Western Europe (CWE) to improve electricity market integration and security of supply. The initiative aims to give political backing to a process of regional integration towards a European energy market. As far as the concrete implementation of impulses from the initiative is concerned, eight transmission system operators (TSOs) of seven countries cooperate in the PLEF, including the TSCNET shareholders APG from Austria, Amprion and TransnetBW from Germany, Swissgrid from Switzerland, the Dutch-German TSO TenneT, and TSCNET client Creos from Luxembourg as well as the Belgian TSO Elia and RTE from France.

The PLEF is subdivided in so-called Support Groups, e.g. covering work on market integration (SG1) and on security of supply (SG2). Within the scope of the SG2 group, the eight TSOs have worked out the third edition of the Pentalateral Generation Adequacy Assessment (PLEF GAA 3.0) and have just published a corresponding report, which summarises the main findings in 71 concise pages. The study, which examines the adequacy of electricity generation in the PLEF region up to the medium-term time horizon (2025), can be considered as significant result of TSO cooperation at regional level.

The main findings are that, under base conditions, sufficient production capacity is available, so that a breach of reliability standards is not to be expected and the adequacy of production in the CWE region will be up to standard by 2025. However, adequacy simulations have also shown that adequacy risks can occur. The electrical system may be exposed to specific situations in which the system safety is under strain. Additional unforeseen events in such situations can put even greater pressure on daily system operation, which may require the activation of special measures.

The eight TSOs cooperating in the PLEF have published their joint report on regional generation adequacy assessment in Central Western Europe

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> See TenneT press release (html)
> Open PLEF GAA 3.0 Report (pdf, 2.94MB)

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