Satellite technology for grid optimisation


Power lines run above and below the ground or also under the sea – hence, the business of the European transmission and distribution system operators (TSOs and DSOs) tends to be ground-based. Sometimes, however, a glimpse into the sky might inspire us to find new approaches to make the European power system even more efficient and reliable in the future.

This is perhaps how representatives of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) and the European Distribution System Operators Association (EDSO) have come to the question of how satellite applications can support the European power grid and its evolution. Anyway, together with the European Space Agency (ESA) the two operator organisations have entered on 29 November into a cooperation on the deployment of satellite technology for grid optimisation.

The cooperation will be implemented through ESA’s Business Applications programme, designed to support the development of new services using data from space assets. Satellite applications can support power grids in many areas, e.g. facilities management, two-way communication between smart meters and operators, prediction of consumption or generation peaks, development of Internet-of-Things related services, or the use of virtual power plants.

Nick Appleyard, Head of ESA’s Business Applications Department, highlights the potential of satellite communication for the allocation of renewable energy generation volumes and grid balancing. Laurent Schmitt, Secretary General of ENTSO-E, agrees and sees “opportunities to enhance real-time grid management through using available space technologies”. Mr Schmitt concludes: “This cooperation will identify business cases where both sectors can support each other and deliver benefits for the European consumer.”

ENTSO-E, EDSO and ESA enter into cooperation on the deployment of satellite technology for grid optimisation (picture: ESA)

> See ENTSO-E press release (html)

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WindNODE flexibility platform in trial operation


The energy transition results in a rapidly growing share of volatile electricity volumes from renewable energy generation. The participants in the energy market are thus faced with new and challenging tasks that go beyond the mere safe operation of electricity grids. Optimum capacity utilisation and maximum use of renewable, weather-dependent energy instead of the throttling of sustainable plants are key requirements of today’s market. The TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), meets the new challenges through the systematic use of flexibility.

A single example from 2017 shows the extent of today’s throttling measures: 641GWh of renewable power generation were throttled in the 50Hertz control area for grid stability reasons. In order to use otherwise lost energy, more than 70 partners from all over East Germany are working on the WindNODE project promoted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. A central component of the project is the flexibility platform, a digital procurement system that is designed to reduce the throttling of wind turbines in the event of grid bottlenecks. Via the platform, regional generators, consumers and storage operators offer TSOs and distribution system operators (DSOs) flexible use of their facilities. TSOs and DSOs cooperate closely in the project.

The flexibility platform has now gone into test operation after almost two years of developing. The intention is to balance the load distribution of volatile generation quantities and to integrate them optimally into the system. By connecting or disconnecting flexible loads – for example industrial production facilities – the power consumption at appropriate grid nodes is regulated in such a way that bottlenecks and thus the throttling of wind energy are prevented and maximum use of green electricity is facilitated.

Dr. Dirk Biermann, Chief Markets & System Operations Officer at 50Hertz, emphasises the importance of both, more efficient use of the existing grid and grid extension, to achieve the German government’s renewable share targets. “We need to get into Power-to-X applications and the systematic use of flexibility. This is why the WindNODE platform comes at the right time and can help to effectively use regeneratively generated ‘excess electricity’ instead of throttling it.”

The WindNODE flexibility platform for effective use of renewable energy and congestion management in east Germany has been put into trial operation

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

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Smart TSO-DSO cooperation continues


The energy transition entails many changes for the energy industry, such as the increasing generation of decentralised and volatile renewables, new actors on the market like aggregators, or the active role of customers ‒ all these developments require flexibility and pose a challenge for every player in the energy market, but above all for those responsible for a stable grid and a secure electricity supply: transmission system operators (TSOs) and distribution system operators (DSOs) sharing similar obligations and interests.

To cope with the demanding future tasks, network operators need a common vision of active system management to increase the flexibility of transmission and distribution and to coordinate them closely. This is why ENTSO-E entered into an intensive cooperation with four associations representing European DSOs a few years ago, namely the European Distribution System Operators (EDSO) for Smart Grids, CEDEC, Eurelectric, and GEODE. A significant first step was the publication of a report on TSO-DSO data management on 19 September 2016.

By signing an updated Memorandum of Understanding on 23 October 2018, the partners expressed their commitment to maintain and enhance their collaboration. The focus is on measures to realise synergies in research, development and innovation, e.g. the exchange of data and information, the introduction of new communication devices and software, and the coordinated renewal of ageing grids. In addition, the TSOs and DSOs are also working together to implement network codes more efficiently. Further fields of cooperative activities will be defined at the beginning of 2019, taking into account the European Commission’s final Clean Energy Package.

ENTSO-E has signed an updated Memorandum of Understanding on close cooperation with four associations representing European DSOs

> See ENTSO-E press release (html)

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Wind data for smart grid control


The volatility associated with the generation of renewable energy is a well-known side effect of the energy transition, which has not made it any easier for transmission system operators (TSOs) to constantly maintain grid stability and supply security. The adaptation of the transmission grid to the requirements of the new energy landscape is progressing more slowly than the expansion of renewable energies themselves and grid overloads are therefore a common consequence. In such cases, renewable power generation must be throttled, resulting in the loss of valuable (and green) energy capacities.

In order to avoid this and also to reduce costly interventions, TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, and Statkraft, Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy, are investigating in a joint pilot project how the grid can be better and smarter controlled. Specifically, the two partners want to find out how TenneT can progressively exploit the feed-in forecasts of Statkraft’s northern German wind farms for intelligent grid control. The data obtained improves the calculation of grid utilisation and thus enables the TSO to identify and eliminate possible congestions at an early stage. In a second step, the direct control of wind turbines by TenneT will be tested in order to relieve grid bottlenecks.

“Every day we eliminate bottlenecks in the power grid with hundreds of interventions in conventional and renewable generation. To ensure that we only intervene as much as necessary, it is important for us to have direct access to wind turbines so that we can control them in bottleneck situations,” explains Lex Hartman, executive board member at TenneT. The smart grid initiative of TenneT and Statkraft is part of the consortium project “NEW 4.0 ‒ Norddeutsche EnergieWende” (“Northern German Energy Transition”) funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic affairs and Energy as part of the promotion programme “Schaufenster intelligente Energie ‒ Digitale Energiewende” (“Showcase Intelligent Energy – Digital Energy Transition”).

TenneT cooperates with the energy group Statkraft on a pilot project for smart grid control utilising wind data

> See TenneT press release, in German (html)

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Dutch research on decentral balance maintenance


The continuous maintenance of the balance in the electrical transmission grid between customer demand and supply is one of the core tasks of any transmission system operator (TSO). In order to further improve performance in this respect and to make balance maintenance more decentralised, TSCNET shareholder TenneT wants to explore possibilities to offer local electricity generation and regulating capacities. Decentral maintenance methods appear to be an appropriate response to an increasingly volatile and decentral energy generation. For this reason, the Dutch-German TSO has launched a pilot research project on the enhanced and decentral use of automatic Frequency Restoration Reserves (aFRR) within the Dutch transmission system.

TenneT is cooperating with seven partners from the energy sector on this project, which is a follow-up to a previous collaboration with the Dutch green energy supplier Vandebron on the employment of e-car batteries for grid control measures. With six additional partners, the field of investigation is now being expanded to also include wind and solar energy, combined heat and power generation, heating grids, electric boilers as well as electric pumps. This provides the research with the broadest possible spectrum of technologies and the widest scope of possible applications.

The pilot project derives its significance from the fact that currently the use of alternative energies in the aFRR market is not always possible due to inadequate specifications and technologies. TenneT aims to explore and, as far as possible, remove the technical hurdles in order to facilitate the use of regulating capacities from decentralised and sustainable sources.

TenneT launches pilot research project on the decentralised use of automatic Frequency Restoration Reserves for balance maintenance (illustration based on pictures from TenneT)

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TSO-DSO cooperation on flexible grid management


Volatile and decentral energy generation is not only a concomitant of the energy transition, but also an evident risk for grid stability. Paving the way to a low-carbon energy future while ensuring the security of electricity supply is the current key challenge for many European transmission system operators (TSOs) such as the Dutch-German TSCNET shareholder TenneT, which is intensively involved in research on flexible grid management and smart grid solutions. The most recent example is “HeatFlex”, a joint project with the southern German distribution system operator (DSO) Bayernwerk Netz GmbH.

By mid-2019, the “HeatFlex” partners will explore to what extent the more than 170,000 existing controllable consumption devices in the area of the DSO can be used to increase the flexibility of the entire transmission system. These controllable devices ‒ for example, electric storage heaters, heat pumps or water heaters ‒ can be integrated into the grid management by means of ripple control utilising the already installed ripple control receivers.

“HeatFlex” is part of TenneT’s extensive digitisation program and the company’s strategy to actively and cost-efficiently involve smaller and decentralised flexibilities in the market. This has become necessary in order to compensate for the loss of grid stability formerly provided by large power plant capacities. Lex Hartman, executive board member at TenneT, explains: “More digitalisation and technological innovation not only secure tomorrow’s power supply, but also help to reduce additional grid extension in the future.” Currently, the TSO is conducting four other digitisation projects in addition to “HeatFlex”, including three blockchain solution pilots in Germany and the Netherlands.

TenneT cooperates with southern German DSO Bayernwerk in the HeatFlex project for flexible grid management (picture: Bayernwerk AG).

> See TenneT press release, in German (html)

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Coupling of electricity and gas infrastructures


To achieve climate targets, the German government has introduced a quota for the share of renewable energies in total electricity generation of 65% by 2030. Without cross-sectoral innovation and cooperation, this will be extremely difficult to achieve. Power to gas (PtG) technologies offer new opportunities to realise a low-carbon energy future and meet legal requirements. That is why TSCNET shareholder Amprion, one the four German transmission system operators (TSOs) for electricity, and Open Grid Europe (OGE), a German TSO for natural gas with a large gas transmission system, have decided to jointly propel smart sector coupling involving PtG facilities.

On 20 June, the two TSOs presented their cooperation on a joint press conference in the German capital of Berlin. Both companies believe that seasonal energy storage concepts are a vital response to the volatility of the renewables. The most economically efficient solution for this is PtG when utilising the existing gas infrastructure. Dr. Klaus Kleinekorte, Chief Technical Officer at Amprion, comments on the PtG initiative: “The use of this technique on an industrial scale has not yet been proven in practice. However, this will be all the more necessary in the years to come.”

PtG technology is capable of converting renewable electricity into hydrogen or synthetic methane, so that the current gas infrastructure can be used additionally for the transport and storage of renewable energies. As TSOs, Amprion and OGE are ready to test PtG on an industrial scale and thereby make a significant contribution to a successful energy transition. “Our common goal is to beneficially couple our respective infrastructures,” explains Dr. Hans-Jürgen Brick, Amprion’s Chief Commercial and Financial Officer. The ambitious vision is “to have the option of large-scale storage systems from 2030 onwards”.

From left to right: Stephan Kamphues, Dr. Hans-Jürgen Brick and Dr. Klaus Kleinekorte (Picture: Open Grid Europe GmbH)

> See Amprion press release, in German (html)
> See OGE press release (html)

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DA/RE initiative for grid security


Today’s energy system is increasingly characterised by decentralised power production and volatile feed-in of electricity. This substantially affects the operation of the electricity grids and poses additional challenges for those who control them: the transmission system operators (TSOs) and the distribution system operators (DSOs). TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, one of the four German TSOs, wants to explore innovative and cooperative approaches in order to make the grid and data flows smarter and thus ensure constant network security also in the new energy landscape.

Together with the southwest German DSO Netze BW, TransnetBW has launched an initiative that pursues two main targets: an efficient data exchange for grid security planning and coordinated redispatch performances on all grid levels. For this purpose, a digital platform is used that is accessible to all involved: TSOs, DSOs as well as plant operators. This open and integrated approach enables the use of plants and systems at distribution level for grid stabilisation measures at all levels. Via the platform, more facilities can be made available for redispatching which increases grid security.

The name of the new initiative derives directly from its purpose: DA/RE stands for “DAta exchange / REdispatch”, and at the same time it has to be understood literally: The DA/RE-partners are ready to take new and little trodden paths. Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW executive board, explains: “We no longer think of system security and system responsibility in the usual horizontal and exclusive TSO view, but across all network levels.” Preceded by a pilot phase from 2019, the initiators plan to implement the platform solution in 2021.

TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, one of the four German TSOs, launches DA/RE initiative for grid security together with German DSO NetzeBW.

> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

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Cooperation for the green and digital transition


The European energy landscape is changing constantly and fast, and there are two main factors that radically influence the conditions for the players in the energy market: the energy transition and the digital revolution. New digital developments offer great opportunities for companies from the energy sector to closer cooperate with companies outside the sector’s traditional value chain in order to realise a smart and efficient green and digital transition. Modesty and professional ambition should balance each other in this challenging field of work, or in the words of Thomas Egebo, CEO at TSCNET shareholder Energinet, the Danish transmission system operator (TSO): “We don’t have all the answers, but we would like to be part of the solution.”

On behalf of Energinet and the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), Thomas Egebo was the host of the Digital Round Table on 24 May in the Danish Capital of Copenhagen. High-level representatives from Microsoft, GE Power, Renault, Envision ‒ China’s second-largest wind turbine company ‒ and other international companies and organisations attended the event to discuss the impact of new technologies and digitalisation on the energy sector and the possibilities for new partnerships between companies from the traditional energy sector and other companies.

Many of the prospective solutions are still unknown to us today, but it is certain that data is essential for the energy future. Energinet wants to be a catalyst in this area to help market participants create products of the future. Thomas Egebo explained that a TSO such as Energinet can supply production data and information about the state of the network to businesses and consumption data to individual consumers. “Data is something that everyone can tap into, as well as a crucial element of the new business models, in which consumers can make a real difference in contributing to the integration of renewable energy,” commented Mr Egebo.

> See Energinet press release (html)
> Visit Energinet event website (html)

Picture: Digital Round Table by Energinet

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Keynote speech at BMWi event in Berlin


The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie – BMWi) maintains an intensive exchange on the energy sector with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). From 22 to 27 April 2018, an expert delegation from the UAE is visiting the BMWi to further deepen the interchange of expertise on electricity market design or questions of grid optimisation between Germany and the UAE. In addition to several field trips and discussions, an expert workshop on the subject of “Market and Grid Integration of Renewable Energy” in the Berlin Embassy of the UAE on 24 April was a key element of the bilateral activities.

In the first workshop session ‒ ”Market and regulatory frameworks for renewables” ‒ a keynote was given by Maik Neubauer, one of the two Managing Directors of TSCNET Services, the Munich-based regional security coordinator (RSC). Mr Neubauer spoke about the digitisation of the energy sector and the most important building blocks for the development of an integrated EU power market including secure and connected grids, marketplaces, and market models. In his adress, the TSCNET manager presented an expert account and profound approaches from the inside perspective of an RSC, which is providing European transmission system operators (TSOs) with safety analyses and risk management.

> See BMWi press release from 17 April 2018, in German (html)

Pictures processed in the collage above: Frederic Schweizer

Picture top right: Achim Raschka / CC-BY-SA-4.0

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