At just the right distance – welcome, Diana, Lukas and Muhammad!


“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone,” says a famous quote from Google CEO Sundar Pichai on corporate diversity. This goes well with TSCNET Services: The people who work for us come from many different countries and cultures. The trio of entrants in the Service Operations unit is a perfect example of this.

Let’s just take Lukas Leitner, the new Junior Operations Manager. The 26-year-old is Austrian, but was born in South American Colombia, lived in Malaysia 18,943km away (yes, the rumour is true: he once met Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher there …) and spent most of his life in Germany and Bavaria respectively. In the past seven years Lukas studied energy technology at the Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen-Nuremberg and graduated there in October with a “Master of Science” specialising in electrical energy supply. During his studies, he had already worked for Siemens in the EM DG POC (Energy Management / Digital Grid / Protection, Operation & Control) department and had already become familiar with some of the aspects of the work of a Regional Security Coordinator (RSC). He chose TSCNET Services “because the team spirit, the work ethic and the general environment convinced me – and all this has proven to be absolutely true already in the first days”, says Lukas.

27-year-old Diana Yule has also lived on three continents to date. She comes from Colombia and after completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering and electronics respectively, worked there for four years in the field of energy efficiency and networks. She has also lived in the United States. There, the sports enthusiast Diana shone as a football player, among other things. “I generally liked team sports better, but after entering professional life it was easier to start running because of the working hours. Today I like it at least enough to run half marathons,” she says. If there’s a call for sport somewhere – she’s there! This also is true for her move to Germany and her start at TSCNET Services: Electricity grids already were her thing, but she finds the European one to be the most interesting. Now she wants to settle in Germany and build her social circle in Munich, while she can deepen and broaden her knowledge in her profession.

The background of the third newcomer to Unit Service Operations, Muhammad Sibghat-Ullah (also simply called Sibghat), is also not so easy to explain. The new Operations Manager comes from Vancouver on the Canadian west coast – 8,338km from Munich. After a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering with a focus on power System engineering, he also obtained a “Professional Engineer” license in the province of British Columbia, Canada, which certifies him to take professional responsibility for his projects in BC. He has at least six years of experience in power system engineering with specialist knowledge in areas such as load flow analysis, substation planning and design, protection and control planning, design and commissioning as well as project management. In addition, he has an MBA from IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, to make a good start in the European energy industry. “I joined the company three weeks ago and it was a terrific experience so far,” says Sibghat. “Being a relatively new company, I believe TSCNET can present tremendous growth opportunities. I work in a team of fantastic colleagues and every day brings a new learning and social experience. I am finding life in Germany pretty amazing since living and working in Europe had been a dream of mine.”

That’s how we like to leave it: No matter where you come from – TSCNET Services offers excellent working conditions and great perspectives. It’s all about your knowledge, skills, attitude and efforts.

Three new hires at our Busines Unit Service Operations: Lukas Leitner (on the left) and Diana Yule, both Junior Operations Manager, and Muhammad Sibghat-Ullah, Operations Manager

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Autonomous drones for digital line maintenance


The supra-regional Austrian transmission grid is about 3,500km long. This critical infrastructure must be constantly monitored, which can be very demanding, as power lines often run in impassable terrain. In the future, digital solutions will not only determine the control of the entire power system, but also have the potential to facilitate the continuous monitoring of supply lines. This is why the Austrian TSCNET shareholder APG is one of the first transmission system operators (TSOs) in Europe to test autonomous flying drones.

“Operating a power grid is a high-tech business today,” comments Gerhard Christiner, CTO at APG, and continues that the TSO is always searching for technological innovations to continuously improve system safety. Paul Zachoval and Rainer Wagenhofer, project managers for APG’s drone project, explain: “In order to check the APG network for possible damage, our colleagues in the line maintenance team cover a distance every year whose length corresponds to the distance from Vienna to Beijing. The possibilities offered by autonomous flying drones to support this inspection work are enormous.”

After almost six years of development, expectations are high. Some damage to power lines can only be seen from the air and the drones can provide information about current damage even in bad weather and poor visibility. Drones allow shorter inspection intervals and can thus improve security of supply. And finally, they also contribute to the safety of employees, as in many cases it will no longer be necessary to climb the pylons. APG’s recent tests are conducted in cooperation with the Lower Austrian company SmartDigital Concepts (SDC). The SDC flight devices are high-tech drones developed specifically for the requirements of TSOs among others. They are equipped with specialised measuring devices and cameras for the maintenance of infrastructure systems.

APG ist testing autonomous drones for digital line maintenance (picture: screenshot taken from demonstration video)

> See APG press release, in German (html)
> Watch APG demonstration video “Fliegende Helfer”, in German (YouTube)

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Approval for upgrade of Weinviertel line


Transparent and comprehensible planning, extensive information for communities, landowners and residents, and the sustainable consideration of environmental interests – the efforts of the Austrian TSCNET shareholder APG have paid off: The national transmission system operator (TSO) has been validly approved to modernise and upgrade the overhead line through the Weinviertel (“wine quarter”) in the northeast of Lower Austria. APG is investing €200m in the project and construction will start in summer 2019.

The increase in capacity of the more than 70-year-old line from 220kV to mostly 380kV is to be accompanied by the bundling of infrastructure, which results in a reduction of 15km of line and 53 pylons and thus relieves the population and nature reserves. In addition, the new line will be connected to the regional distribution grid via a new substation to be built in Neusiedl/Zaya. This will significantly improve the quality of the electricity supply in the Weinviertel and is a precondition for the further integration of wind and solar energy in Lower Austria.

Dr. Ulrike Baumgartner-Gabitzer, CEO of APG, comments on the approval: “We are happy about this result as a consequence of a very transparent process involving all parties concerned.” Gerhard Christiner, CTO of the TSO, emphasises the importance of the upgrade both for supply security as well as the integration of renewables and adds: “The Weinviertel line is an essential component for the realisation of the energy and climate strategy #mission 2030 adopted by the Austrian Federal Government.”

APG has received approval to upgrade the Weinviertel line in Lower Austria (picture: photo composition)

> See APG press release, in German (html)

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Congestion management on Austro-German border


Congestion management will be introduced on the border between Austria and Germany on 1 October 2018. This go-live date was approved by the competent regulatory authorities at the beginning of September and has now been confirmed by all responsible decision-making bodies of the Nominated Electricity Market Operators (NEMOs) and the affected transmission system operators (TSOs), which are all shareholders of TSCNET: APG from Austria and the four German TSOs 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW.

Electricity exchange between Austria and Germany has increased in recent years. In order to ensure safe operation of transmission systems in Austria, Germany and neighbouring countries, and to reduce congestion management costs, the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) included the introduction of a bidding zone split between Austria and Germany in the new design of the European Capacity Calculation Regions (CCRs). Following successful testing of the systems, the operational procedures as well as the scheduling and nomination processes, the TSOs concerned now will implement this decision.

To ensure safe operation of transmission systems, congestion management will be introduced on Austro-German border on 1 October 2018

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Austrian research on battery based balancing


The energy transition makes every market participant consider how to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions within the energy sector. Among other things, this means for the electric transmission system operators (TSOs) to respond to the weather dependence and thus volatility of the wind and solar energy generation. Dr. Ulrike Baumgartner-Gabitzer, CEO of the Austrian TSCNET shareholder APG, specifies the relating strategy of the TSO: “As APG we try to meet these challenges with the search for technological innovations.”

The modernisation and extension of the grid is undoubtedly of great importance, but TSOs need to think beyond that. Electricity grids increasingly require highly dynamic system elements that can compensate for short-term frequency deviations. In this context, storage technologies to stabilise the power grid are worthy of profound consideration. For this reason, together with the Austrian Institute of Technology, the Vienna Technical University and three subsidaries of Verbund, Austria‘s largest electricity provider, APG has launched a technology-neutral research project on battery-based balancing solutions: “Advanced Balancing Services for Transmission System Operators”, short ABS4TSOS.

The name similarity to the vehicle assistance system ABS (Anti-lock braking system) is by no means a coincidence. ABS4TSOS aims at automatic support systems and new mechanisms for the operation of the grid, which contribute to the maintenance of frequency stability and are therefore somewhat analogous to ABS. This includes all possible applications of a battery storage system in order to increase supply security. “ABS4TSO will address the question, in which way storage technologies can contribute to stabilising the grid in the future,” comments Dr. Baumgartner-Gabitzer.

In June 2019, the operation of the specifically designed battery storage system will commence at APG‘s substation Wien Südost. Subsequently, system functions and possibilities will be thoroughly examined. The project runs until the end of April 2021 and is endowed with €2.6m, which are borne by the project partners and the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund.

> See APG press release, in German (html)

Picture: APG

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Carinthian transformer connected to the grid


The substation in Obersielach in the southernmost Austrian state of Carinthia is an essential component of the nationwide modernisation process, with which TSCNET shareholder APG, the Austrian transmission system operator (TSO), adapts its grid to the high requirements of a sustainable energy future. Last September, a large additional 380/220kV transformer was delivered to Obersielach ‒ due to its heavy weight in three parts – and then it took six months of installation work and extensive functional testing, before the new device could finally be connected to the grid on 26 April 2018. Further upgrade measures at the substation are still pending and completion is scheduled for autumn 2019. Overall, APG is investing round €38m in the operating site.

The Obersielach substation is the most important power hub in Carinthia and one of the largest substations in Austria. The commissioning of the new transformer will not only ensure the regional long-term security of electricity supply, but also improve the use of climate-friendly wind energy by means of interconnecting the wind farms in Upper Austria with the Carinthian pumped storage power plants in Malta and Reißeck. Surplus wind power can thus be transported to these “green batteries” and stored there. If necessary, the electricity can then be retrieved again from the storage power plants. Apart from that, the five largest Carinthian hydropower plants on the river Drau feed directly into the Obersielach substation.

> See APG press release, in German (html)

Picture: Erich Varh / APG

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Upgrade in Lower Austria


The Austrian transmission system operator (TSO) APG maintains its sustained efforts to make the Austrian transmission grid future-proof. The TSCNET shareholder is investing €30m to modernise and expand the Ternitz substation in Lower Austria’s Industrieviertel. A new 220/110 kV transformer is the centrepiece of the retrofitted facility.

The 245-tonne high-tech device was delivered to Ternitz on 16 April. The transformer was transported from the manufacturing site in Weiz in eastern Styria via train and for the last few kilometres by means of heavy-duty road transport. With the substation upgrade, TSCNET shareholder APG ensures fail-safe operation and long-term security of electricity supply in the Industrieviertel, Upper Styria and in the Styrian Mürz valley. The completion of all reconstruction and modernisation measures is scheduled for 2020.

> See APG press release, in German (html)

Picture: APG / Martin Wieland

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New transformer in Upper Austria


In order to secure the long-term security of electricity supply in the Western Mühlviertel in Upper Austria as well as to improve the supply situation in the greater Linz area, TSCNET shareholder APG, the Austrian transmission system operator (TSO), is upgrading its substation near the Jochenstein Danube hydropower plant on the Austro-German border. These modernisation measures include a new 220/110kV transformer.

In September 2017, the 280-tonne transformer was delivered by ship across the Danube to Jochenstein. After five months of assembling and extensive functional tests under high-voltage, the state-of-the-art device was finally connected to the grid at the end of March 2018. The commissioning marks the completion of all construction work at the substation, with which APG ensures that green electricity from the Jochenstein hydropower plant continues to be safely fed into the Austrian transmission system. In total, APG invested €10m in the supply security of the region.

> See APG press release, in German (html)
> See APG video with background information, in German (html)

Picture: APG / APA-Fotoservice / Hautzinger

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Consultation on Austro-German balancing


Electricity exchange between Austria and Germany has increased in recent years, while the physical transportation capacity of the high voltage grid is limited. In order to secure safe operation of the transmission system in Austria, Germany and neighbouring countries, and to reduce congestion management costs, the Austrian and German transmission system operators (TSOs) cooperate on processes for cross-border exchange and on the procurement of secondary balancing capacity.

Against this backdrop, the TSOs concerned, APG from Austria and the four German TSOs, 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW‒ all being shareholders of TSCNET ‒, have opened a stakeholder consultation in accordance with the European Guideline on Electricity Balancing. The consulting TSOs consider the stakeholder’s feedback essential for establishing a well-functioning market design. The consultation will end on 15 April and the introduction of congestion management between Austria and Germany is scheduled for 1 October 2018.

> See TenneT press release (html, with access to consultation)
> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html, with access to consultation)

Picture: Mike Knell (Creative Commons)

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The alpine core of integration


In 2018, ENTSO-E calls for Basel! This year’s regional conference of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity on 18 April 2018 is devoted to the Alpine region. Geographically, the Alps separate southern Europe from central Europe, but with regard to the integration of the European electricity system, the region does not play a separating, but a unifying role.

It was the “Star of Laufenburg”, the first interconnection of the German, French, and Swiss electricity grids, that marked the birth of the integrated network operation in Europe in 1958. The Laufenburg substation in the Swiss canton of Aargau is still one of the largest substations in Europe, which connects electrical networks of several countries. And even before that, the Alps have set the scene for yet another milestone in the history of electricity: In 1929, the world’s oldest interconnection for electric current, the so-called “North-South Powerline” (also known as “Rheinlandleitung” in German speaking countries), was completed. The historical power line linked the Alpine hydro-reserves with the industrial coal areas in the German Ruhr district over a length of 600km.

But also and specifically with an eye on the future, there are many good reasons for ENTSO-E to go alpine. Among the topics of the “Alpine Power Links” conference, that takes place in the northern Swiss city of Basel, are the region’s possible contributions to the power market integration or a training on network codes. Seven transmission system operators (TSOs) with control areas located at least partially in alpine regions participate in the event. Four of these are shareholders of TSCNET: APG from Austria, ELES from Slovenia, Swissgrid from Switzerland, and two of the four German TSOs, Amprion and TransnetBW.

> See TransnetBW news release (html)
> See ENTSO-E conference page (html, with access to registration)

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