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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Karall: “All-time high for Austrian power exports”

30.06.2020

An exceptionally good water supply and wind peaks combined with low consumption during the night hours were the preconditions for a record, which TSCNET shareholder APG, the Austrian transmission system operator (TSO), registered between 10:30 and 10:45pm on 15 June 2020: A total of 3,943MW of electricity flowed abroad via the APG transmission grid during this quarter of an hour, more than ever before in history. Also in a European perspective, this capacity of nearly 4,000MW is considerable, as it represents about half of the Austrian peak consumption during the summer or almost twice the generation capacity of all Austrian Danube power plants.

“This figure marks a historic peak. Even though it is only a snapshot, it shows how volatile and unpredictable the new world of electricity and energy is,” comments Thomas Karall, CFO of APG. Before an import or export can be processed via APG’s transmission infrastructure, a detailed analysis of the expected electricity flows is required. Often, renewable production plants in Europe (including Austria) must be throttled due to insufficient grid capacities. “This underlines the particular importance of grid expansion and development projects for the success of the energy transition – because every MWh produced from renewables that is not used is a terrible loss,” notes Karall.

The all-time high clearly indicates how sensitive electricity management has become. While in the past few days generation surpluses in Austria had to be partially curtailed, only a few weeks earlier high imports and the start-up of conventional power plants had been necessary due to low winds and low water levels in the hydropower plants. Thomas Karall expects this situation to remain the same for the near future: “In certain situations generation from renewables has to be curtailed or conventional thermal power stations have to be powered up. This will be necessary at least until we dispose of an appropriate grid infrastructure with sufficient capacity and an adequate storage infrastructure.”

On 15 June, APG recorded an all-time high in exports with almost 4,000MW of exported electricity (picture showing Thomas Karall: Karl Michalski / APG)

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New IT tools for Europe-wide supply security

08.06.2020

The digitisation of grid operation is constantly increasing and requires continuous optimisation, e.g. in terms of outage planning coordination and adequacy analysis – both aspects are integral parts of the Annual Work Programme 2020 of the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E). Two new IT tools to simplify the cooperation of transmission system operators (TSOs) and allow better anticipation of the balance between supply and demand are available since this spring and currently used by a total of 38 TSOs. Under the coordination of ENTSO-E, the “Outage Planning Coordination (OPC) Pan European Merge Tool” and “Short Term Adequacy forecast (STA) tool” have been developed jointly with the Munich based Regional Security Coordinator (RSC) TSCNET Services playing a leading role in the development of OPC.

Tahir Kapetanovic, Head of the Control Centre of TSCNET shareholder APG, the Austrian TSO, and Chairman of the ENTSO-E System Operation Committee, comments on the latest success: “The cross-border coordination and intensive cooperation of all national TSOs are the preconditions for a smooth functioning of the power supply across the European Union. By means of such jointly developed tools, uniform norms and standards for network operation can truly be implemented into practice.”

The launching of both tools may be considered as further evidence of the well-established pan-European cooperation of European TSOs and RSCs. STA enables a short to medium-term prognosis for load management, which is particularly important in view of the energy transition to compensate for the volatility of renewable power generation with innovative solutions and to integrate them smartly into the system. With the OPC Pan European Merge Tool, concept originally developed by TSCNET Services, the TSOs and RSCs can plan power outages on a regional level, including coordination of maintenance and inspections. Electricity supply and trade are thus ensured despite the necessary shutdowns.

The need for OPC on a pan-European level across the different RSCs and the corresponding concept of a harmonised outage planning process dates back to 2012, when the TSOs of the central and eastern European regions established the TSC (TSO Security Cooperation) area. The Medium-Long-Term Operational Planning (MLTOP) project of the TSC TSOs, which was started at that time, is the origin of the OPC tool. When TSCNET Services emerged in 2015 from the joint TSC TSO office in Munich, the MLTOP project was carried on by TSCNET for prototype and business process development in coordination with the TSC TSOs. In the same year, ENTSO-E launched the TSO Project for Coordination Strategy Implementation with the Regional Security Coordination Initiatives (RSCIs), which was continued later under the EU System Operation Guideline (SO GL). This extended the scope of the MLTOP project from the TSC area to the whole of Europe and it became the foundation of the OPC project.

In December 2017, the prototype resulting from the OPC project, owned and developed by TSCNET, went live on a pan-European scale and provided the initial service to all TSOs and RSCs in Europe. Now the prototype tool has been converted into and replaced by a fully-fledged industrial tool: the OPC Pan European Merge Tool, whose development represents a unique success story for TSCNET services and the associated TSOs. What was once an idea for cooperation in the TSC area has been further developed and prototyped by TSCNET in close cooperation with the TSOs and has now evolved into an industrialised pan-European tool used by the outage planners of 38 TSOs and four other RSCs.

TSCNET Services as a major contributor
The OPC project and its development process is a good example of what can be achieved through intensive cooperation between TSOs and RSCs. TSCNET successfully took the lead in this cooperative effort and managed not only to develop services on a pan-European level, but also to successfully coordinate with other stakeholders (RSCs, TSOs and ENTSO-E) and convince them to be part of the success. The development of the OPC project fits perfectly with the narrative of the definition of TSO, RSC and European coordination: The RSCs provide services to TSOs by setting up business processes and tools with their unique regional and technical expertise, thereby combining the knowledge of the individual TSOs – and if the concept has proven to work, they scale it up for the rest of Europe and centralise the infrastructure if necessary (and requested by ENTSO-E).

TSCNET is indebted to its Service Analytics & Quality Manager and responsible OPC Project Convener, Jayaram Anandha, to Sonja Tomić, Junior Operations Manager, and Jorge Alves, Operations Manager, for their input in the development of this highly efficient tool. The predecessor as OPC Project Convener, Tin Bobetko, and Michalis Stamoulis jointly led the business and data standard development of the OPC prototype tool, which was running perfectly until the industrialised version went live.

Two new IT tools for TSO cooperation, one of which developed by TSCNET, have been introduced and improve European supply security 

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€30m for substation upgrade in Lower Austria

19.05.2020

The grid infrastructure of TSCNET shareholder APG, the Austrian transmission system operator (TSO), must comply with the changes in the power system. The APG projects in this regard are essential for the success of the energy transition and indispensable for Austria’s secure future electricity supply. One example of this is the modernisation of the Ternitz substation in Neunkirchen in Lower Austria, which was built in 1965. With its reconstruction, the TSO significantly improves the power supply of the industrial district south of Vienna, Upper Styria and the Mürztal valley in north-eastern Styria. In addition, a new phase-shifting transformer (PST) will increase failure safety for all of Austria and facilitate the smart integration of green electricity such as wind power from the Weinviertel region into the APG grid. All in all, the TSO is investing €30m in the substation upgrade.

The Ternitz substation is an important hub in APG’s supraregional power grid. Its infrastructural significance is emphasised by the new 220/110kV transformer, which will be one of three such PSTs in Austria. In the 220kV grid, it regulates the flow of electricity on the power lines in north-south direction and distributes it evenly to assure full electricity supply for the region and for all of Austria. To maintain reliability also during the time of the reconstruction, APG will be keeping the substation in operation with numerous temporary measures. Construction was originally scheduled to be concluded in December 2020, but due to the corona pandemic, completion is expected to be delayed by about three months and is now scheduled for March 2021.

Since mid-April, about 50 APG construction projects that were suspended after the Covid outbreak have been gradually resumed in compliance with the necessary distance and hygiene requirements. APG is thus living up to its responsibility not only towards the energy industry, but also as a driving force for the Austrian economy as a whole. In 2020, the investment volume of all APG construction projects in the areas of grid extension, renovation and maintenance projects will total €350m.

APG is investing €30m in the upgrade of the Ternitz substation in Lower Austria (picture: Christoph Breneis / APG)

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Minor power failure, major solution

29.04.2020

Only 16 minutes long was the power outage, and it affected only part of the state of Salzburg, but for the Austrian transmission system operator (TSO) APG, the small event was nevertheless related to a much bigger project. The Salzburg Line (“Salzburgleitung”) is a 380kv overhead line project of the TSCNET shareholder. The aim is not only to integrate increasing amounts of renewable energy into the grid, but also to ensure the long-term security of electricity supply for the Salzburg region and the whole of Austria. The line is a key factor in meeting #mission2030, the Austrian energy and climate strategy, which sets the national goal of covering 100% of electricity consumption with renewable energies by 2030.

The current incident has unexpectedly confirmed the necessity of building a new transmission line: Due to a technical defect, the grid coupling of the APG high-voltage grid at the Kaprun substation to the 110kV grid of Salzburg was interrupted, which led to a power outage. Thanks to the swift action of the APG experts, the connection was restored after only a good quarter of an hour. The incident had no critical consequences, but it clearly shows how important additional grid support for the Salzburg distribution grid through the new 380kV line and the new Pongau substation is.

A short-term power outage in the Austrian state of Salzburg underscored the importance of the planned Salzburg Line for grid stability (edited picture of Bruck near Kaprun: Kassandro, Creative Commons)

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European power systems operate smoothly

14.04.2020

Despite the unprecedented circumstances caused by the Corona pandemic – in particular the sharp drop in electricity consumption – electricity transmission throughout Europe is proceeding trouble-free and the transmission system operators (TSOs) maintain grid stability and security of supply. The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) has made explicit reference to this, emphasising the commitment of the TSOs, their cooperation among each other and the close coordination with authorities and stakeholders.

ENTSO-E supports its members by facilitating their cooperation and exchange of information. Through ENTSO-E, the TSOs regularly consult with the European authorities on how to keep the grid operational so that all, and especially those most affected by the pandemic, can rely on secure electricity supplies. However, as the impact of the pandemic varies considerably from country to country and as countries are at different stages of the pandemic, TSOs must also make their own individual decisions. TSCNET shareholder APG, the Austrian TSO, for instance, has just decided to successively resume construction work on the maintenance and extension of the national electricity grid.

APG suspended construction site activities on 16 March to protect its employees. But since the projects are crucial to the electricity supply, the TSO has now initiated the successive and structured resumption of construction projects following a complex evaluation of each of the approximately 50 construction sites and intensive consultations with the contractors. All this is being done under the highest standards of hygiene, disinfection and distance keeping, because the safety of the employees is the top priority.

European TSOs maintain security of electricity supply during the Corona crisis throughout Europe

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Kapetanovic: “European TSOs close ranks”

06.04.2020

Just like the Coronavirus (though fortunately without negative consequences), electricity flows do not stop at national borders. Cross-border coordination and intensive cooperation between all national transmission system operators (TSOs) are always the prerequisite for EU-wide security of supply, and all the more so in times of crisis with electricity consumption declining across Europe. According to Tahir Kapetanovic, Head of the Control Centre of TSCNET shareholder APG, the Austrian TSO, and also Chairman of the System Operation Committee, the top-level decision board for grid operations at the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E), uniform rules and standards for grid operation are indispensable.

The timely identification of possible threats to the transmission system is also considered to be crucial for the security of electricity supply in Europe. In this context, Mr Kapetanovic directly refers to the field of supporting activities of the European Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs): “The European data exchange is largely automated and runs via state-of-the art IT systems. The evaluated data provide the basis for the planning of electricity transmission. In this way, we can forecast energy flows for the upcoming hours and, if necessary, initiate transnationally coordinated emergency measures in time, such as the starting up of power plants.”

Despite the drastic decline in electricity consumption in Europe due to the restrictions imposed by the Corona crisis, the exchange and trade of electricity across borders is running smoothly. Occasionally, lower power line utilisation offers additional potential for cross-border support. Surplus electricity from western Europe, for example, was redirected via the Austrian grid of APG and via Slovenia to the northeast of Italy. In the face of the pandemic, everyone has closed ranks: In addition to the best possible mutual support, all TSOs have jointly decided that line disconnections for refurbishments and modifications will be temporarily reduced to the absolute minimum. “In doing so, we maximise transport capacity and thus increase the security of electricity supply in Europe”, states Mr Kapetanovic.

The low electricity demand also influences the European generation mix. Renewable energies are still being fully utilised, but thermal power plants, for instance, are being scaled back for cost reasons. This also has an impact on electricity flows in the transmission system. The TSOs therefore continuously forecast electricity flows for the next 24 hours and coordinate possible measures via video conference every evening. To ensure that this is maintained during the crisis, the operational core staff is protected by strict hygiene and organisational precautions, such as team splitting. All TSOs regularly exchange information on their respective measures throughout Europe.

European TSOs strengthen their cooperation and ensure supply security during the Corona crisis (picture: screenshot taken from ENTSO-E video “Tahir Kapetanovic – Regional Cooperation in the Energy Union”(YouTube))

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Paper on MRC extension

26.03.2020

The so-called 4M Market Coupling Countries (4M MC) – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia – are to be connected to the Europe-wide Multi Regional Coupling (MRC) of the electricity market. This will introduce Single Day-Ahead Coupling across 23 European countries. The initiative to implement the MRC expansion is the DE-AT-PL-4M MC Project, also known as “Interim Coupling Project”. The relevant transmission system operators (TSOs) from Austria, Czechia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia – the TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, APG, ČEPS, MAVIR, PSE, SEPS, TenneT, and Transelectrica – are part of the project consortium.

The AT-PL-4M MC Project establishes implicit capacity allocation based on Net Transfer Capacity (NTC) at six borders (PL-DE, PL-CZ, PL-SK, CZ-DE, CZ-AT, HU-AT). The Nominated Electricity Market Operators (NEMOs) and TSOs participating in the DE-AT-PL-4M MC Project now have published an information paper for market participants containing key information on the project in a question and answer format. This information includes the main expected changes for the market, the planned communication methods with market participants and a high-level technical description of the market design to be implemented by the project.

The partners of the AT-PL-4M MC Project for integrating Czechia, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia into MRC have published an information paper

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> Open AT-PL-4M MC information paper provided by MAVIR (pdf, 732.98kB)

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Corona cuts consumption

26.03.2020

Electricity consumption in Europe has fallen significantly because of the restrictions imposed by the corona crisis. In particular, the drastic reduction in industrial production is likely to have a significant impact. The London-based think tank Ember has calculated that demand in the entire EU has fallen by 2 to 7% in the last week compared to the previous week. The analysts at Ember used data on electricity demand provided by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), adjusted for the weather-related factor.

A survey of 22 individual countries shows that Italy, France, and Spain are the most affected countries. In these countries, the decline in demand was twice as strong as in other countries. In Italy, which is currently most afflicted by the corona pandemic, electricity consumption fell by 20% within two weeks. TSCNET shareholder APG, the transmission system operator (TSO) from Austria, also reports that consumption data in some specific Austrian grid areas are 10 to 20% below the previous year’s figures. The national average is 10%, which according to Gerhard Christiner, CTO of APG, reflects the pan-European development.

Like all European TSOs, APG is confronted with major challenges, but considers that it is well prepared for the crisis, both technically and in terms of personnel. Of course, each individual TSO has to adapt its operations and measures to the conditions under the pandemic. TSCNET customer Energinet, the Danish TSO, for instance, has introduced special guidelines to avoid physical contact on its construction sites. Notwithstanding that a functioning transmission system is essential for modern life at all times, Henrik Riis, CEO of Electricity Transmission at Energinet, calls it “an important social task to keep the wheels turning and do our part to support the Danish economy.” However, this task is performed with all due care: “We take the risk on spreading of infectious disease very seriously.”

While the specialists from the TSOs and from TSCNET Services are on duty around the clock, many shops and production sites in Europe have to remain closed due to the corona pandemic

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> See Ember research on reduced electricity demand (html)
> See APG news release, in German (html)
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Austro-German cooperation on control reserve

05.02.2020

The Austrian transmission system operator (TSO) APG and the four German TSOs 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW are intensifying their cooperation in terms of balancing energy. Since December 2019, the five TSCNET shareholders have been exchanging minutes reserve, i.e. the provision of short-term power reserves to balance fluctuations in generation and consumption that affect frequency. Minutes reserve comes into play after primary control and secondary reserve, the two short-term effective balancing energies. Austria and Germany are thus the first countries in Europe to cooperate on all types of control reserve and make a significant contribution to secure electricity supply in Europe.

The cooperation with the project name “GAMMA” (German-Austrian Manual Merit Order Activation) is trendsetting, as it is the first collaboration in the field of minutes reserve to fulfil the objectives of the EU guideline for electricity balancing on a regional scale. Germany and Austria are testing a regional internal market for the joint utilisation of minutes reserve and will contribute their new experience with the integration of control energy markets to the European “MARI” (Manually Activated Reserves Initiative) project.

Beyond the requirements of the guideline, the Austro-German cooperation will be expanded in February 2020 to include the joint procurement of secondary reserves. It is intended that in an initial phase up to 80MW, later up to 280MW, can be procured across borders. The cost-benefit analysis for the allocation of cross-border transport capacities was jointly developed by the cooperating TSOs. It compares the market value of cross-border transmission capacity for the day-ahead market with that of the secondary reserve, thereby optimising procurement and determining the amount of cross-border transmission capacity allocated to the secondary reserve. This cooperation also represents a lighthouse project in Europe and anticipates the goals of the EU Clean Energy for All Europeans Package.

The Austrian TSO APG and the four German TSOs 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW exchange minutes reserve in a regional internal market

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

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