Final court confirmation for Salzburg Line

21.10.2020

From the first submission of the project to the Salzburg state government in September 2012 until the approval of the construction of the second section of the Salzburg Line (“Salzburgleitung”) by the court of last instance, the beautiful Austrian state of Salzburg has certainly seen many sunsets. The Austrian transmission system operator (TSO) APG is now all the more content with the definite legal groundwork for Austria’s most important infrastructure project. Although the legally valid building permit for the Salzburg Line had already been granted by the Austrian Federal Administrative Court in March 2019, there were still final legal details in connection with the project, which the Supreme Administrative Court has now clarified on 20 October 2020, thus confirming the permit.

The new 380kV overhead line will replace the old 220kV line from the 1960s and will be capable of transporting seven times more electricity than the current line. To improve supply security in the city of Salzburg, the first 46-kilometre section of the Salzburg Line from the St. Peter grid node near the German border to the newly constructed Salzburg substation near Elixhausen was already commissioned in January 2011. The second section of the Salzburg Line, from Elixhausen to the Tauern grid node near Kaprun, will now close the western gap in the Austrian “380kV Ring”. This ring-shaped extra-high voltage grid is the backbone of the national electricity supply and crucial for the integration and transmission of renewable energies.

The total length of the new line, which has 449 pylons, is 128 kilometres. However, as old lines will be dismantled when the Salzburg Line is completed and some of them will run jointly on the new line, there will be 229 fewer masts in Salzburg than before. Commissioning of the Salzburg Line is planned for the year 2025, dismantling will be completed by 2026. “With €890m to be invested, the Salzburg Line is by far the most important investment project in the Austrian electricity infrastructure. Of the approx. €350m that APG is investing in the expansion of the electricity grids this year, the Salzburg Line alone has a share of €125m for the domestic economy,” comments Gerhard Christiner, CTO of the Austrian TSCNET shareholder, who also praised the day of the court ruling as a “good day for the energy transition and for the secure supply of electricity in Salzburg and Austria”.

The Austrian Supreme Administrative Court has definitively confirmed the construction permit for the 380kV Salzburg Line of APG (picture: Martin Lugger / APG)

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> See APG press release, in German (html)

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Aviation history for grid maintenance

09.10.2020

The Austrian transmission system operator (TSO) APG, the Austrian IT company SmartDigital, and Austro Control, the Austrian air traffic control authority, jointly carried out the first civilian test flight in which an unmanned drone completed a long-range flight of over 100 kilometres. The maiden flight indicates in which areas of the economy drones can be usefully employed.

However, the TSCNET shareholder did not only carry out the flight to explore the technical possibilities of drone flight, but rather to demonstrate potential applications for monitoring the electricity infrastructure. After all, secure power supply is one of the most important foundations of contemporary society, making it so important that the hardware and software of this infrastructure is fully efficient and intact. To ensure this, it must be regularly monitored. In future, overhead line inspection flights could be performed by unmanned drones, especially in weather conditions where conventional helicopter flights are not possible, e.g. at night or in fog.

After an intensive preparation phase and a comprehensive risk assessment, Austro Control granted permission for this first civilian long-range drone flight without visual contact. The drone surveyed the 380kV line leading from the South-East substation in Vienna to Burgenland, more precisely the section from Vienna to Rotenturm an der Pinka. Gerhard Christiner, CTO of APG, comments: “This pilot project shows how we will be able to inspect lines even better in future, for example in the event of disruptions. This will allow us to find and eliminate malfunctions more quickly. This is an important contribution to security of supply and saves costs.”

Thomas Karall, CFO of APG, adds: “On high and extra-high voltage lines, failures, which we cannot clearly assign, occur time and again. A short-term inspection by means of drone flight would be of great help to us here, because it is often only a matter of verifying whether everything works properly after a short power interruption of a line has occurred.” However, many test flights and legal regulations are still needed before this vision can become reality. In the near future, APG intends to further develop its know-how and use the latest technical possibilities for inspections.

APG has successfully completed the first unmanned drone flight over a 100-kilometre power line (picture: Carolina Burger / APG)

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> See APG press release, in German (html)

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Automated intraday capacity allocation at Austrian-Swiss border

05.10.2020

The separation of the bidding zones of Germany (including Luxembourg) and Austria on 1 October 2018 has imposed additional tasks on the transmission system operators (TSOs) directly concerned and also on neighbouring TSOs, notably as regards congestion management. Bidding zones are areas where a wholesale electricity market price applies, and the AT-DE/LU separation resulted in increased demand for intraday cross-border capacity at the Austrian-Swiss border. The two TSCNET shareholders APG from Austria and Swissgrid, the TSO from Switzerland, have reacted to this changed market situation and introduced automated, platform-based intraday capacity allocation.

A border-specific solution was necessary because the Austrian-Swiss border cannot be integrated into Single Intraday Coupling (SIDC, originally introduced as XBID in 2018). Therefore, the intraday allocation of cross-border capacities is still carried out via explicit allocations, but now in an automated process. On 23 September 2020, with the first delivery on 24 September, telephone allocation was switched to a platform-based allocation. The IT platform used – Intraday Capacity Service (ICS) – allocates capacities in accordance with the “first come, first served” principle. After almost two weeks of automated allocation, the two TSOs consider the new, easier intraday trading procedure a success. Swissgrid has already been applying this more efficient allocation of cross-border volume on the Swiss borders with Germany and France.

APG and Swissgrid have successfully introduced automated intraday capacity allocation at the Austrian-Swiss border (picture of the Austrian-Swiss frontier at Diepoldsau/Lustenau: Rikki Mitterer on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

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> See APG market information, in German (html)
> See Swissgrid news release (html)

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€30m for secure electricity supply in East Tyrol

28.09.2020

Since autumn 2016, the Austrian transmission system operator (TSO) APG has been gradually renewing the 220kV switchgear at the Lienz substation in the eastern part of the Austrian state of Tyrol. The substation in Nußdorf-Debant near the medieval town of Lienz is of particular importance for the region’s electricity supply, as it is the only feed-in point from APG’s 380/220kV high-voltage grid for the whole of East Tyrol. For this reason, the TSCNET shareholder is pursuing an extensive investment programme of €30m for the substation to improve the electricity supply in East Tyrol and to enhance the integration of green electricity into the Austrian transmission grid.

The upgrade project also includes a new 380/220kV transformer. Due to its dimensions, it was transported by rail in three individual parts of 167 tonnes each from the Styrian Siemens plant in Weiz via an individual siding directly to the substation. Now the last part has arrived in Lienz and has been placed on its foundation. The total weight of the finished system is 816 tonnes. The state-of-the-art device will be operational from June 2021 and APG expects the upgrade of the entire substation to be completed in autumn 2022.

The Lienz transformer is of supra-regional relevance as it increases system security in all of Austria and also facilitates the country-wide use of climate-friendly wind energy. This is because the transformer strengthens the connection between the pumped storage power plants in the west of the country and the wind turbines in the east. With its investments, APG thus supports the national goal of covering 100% of the electricity consumption in Austria with green electricity by 2030. Company spokesperson Christoph Schuh comments: “All APG grid expansion, modernisation and maintenance projects are crucial for reaching Austria’s climate targets and indispensable cornerstones for guaranteeing the republic’s security of supply.”

APG is investing €30m in the upgrade of the Lienz substation in East Tyrol (picture: Michael Stabentheiner / APG)

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> See APG press release (html)

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Delay for Interim Coupling

11.09.2020

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

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> 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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“Renewables need grid expansion”

28.08.2020

To reflect on the experiences from the corona pandemic and to present resulting conclusions for the Austrian (and European) energy future, the Austrian transmission system operator (TSO) APG held a press conference entitled “Electricity grids at the limit” (“Stromnetze am Limit”). Gerhard Christiner and Thomas Karall, CTO and CFO of APG respectively, are convinced that the future of secure electricity supply is being decided now. At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a significant drop in electricity consumption combined with a high level of renewable generation. This could actually be an ideal development for the energy industry, if it was not for the lack of efficient electricity grids.

Due to the inadequate infrastructure, the TSCNET shareholder was only able to cope with the situation by taking numerous emergency measures, on which Gerhard Christiner comments: “We have a massive problem. We are currently stabilising the electricity system by starting up gas-fired plants in Austria. This is as if we had a modern electric vehicle and had to install a petrol engine to help us driving. This is not only grotesque – it is also expensive. The ‘fuel bill’ already now amounts to around €100m this year. These are the costs we have incurred this year for starting and running the gas plants.” Christiner’s conclusion is therefore: “Without grid extension, renewable energy is pure lip service.”

APG calls for grid expansion to make the renewables and the energy transition a success (picture of Gerhard Christiner on the left and Thomas Karall: APG)

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> See APG press release, in German (html)

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First successful device installation within FARCROSS

28.08.2020

The FARCROSS (FAcilitating Regional CROSS-border Electricity Transmission through Innovation) project, which started in October 2019, is a four-year project funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 programme. The objective of FARCROSS is to find solutions for increased regional cross-border cooperation in electricity transmission. The connection of regional key players in the energy value chain and the introduction of integrated hardware and software solutions are intended to tap additional resources for cross-border electricity flows. The FARCROSS consortium of 31 partners includes the transmission system operators (TSOs) from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and Greece together with the TSCNET shareholders APG (Austria), Hops (Croatia), MAVIR (Hungary), and Transelectrica (Romania).

The three demonstration areas of FARCROSS are smart grid innovations, the development of regional system operations platforms to allow improved system operation forecasting on TSO level, and the optimisation of capacity allocation for regional cross-border trading. The technical grid solutions involve special line monitoring sensors, which are based on the Dynamic Line Rating (DLR) technology for real time overhead line monitoring. These sensors enable TSOs to optimise the utilisation of their transmission lines. The installation of DLR sensors is intended for four countries, and the Croatian TSO HOPS was the first to install such devices on the 220kV Senj-Melina transmission line a month ago. Since then, the sensors have been operating smoothly and the HOPS team of experts is pleased to have taken the first step towards the ambitious FARCROSS goals.

As part of the FARCROSS project, HOPS has installed monitoring sensors on the Senj-Melina overhead line to improve capacity utilisation (illustration using pictures by HOPS and FARCROSS H2020)

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> See HOPS press release, in Croatian (html)
> Visit FARCROSS website (html)

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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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> See ELES press release (html)
> Visit ISGAN Award 2020 website (html)

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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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> See APG press release, in German (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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