“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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Renewables surpass fossil fuels

27.07.2020

Analysts from the London-based think-tank Ember have for some time now been preparing annual reports on the European energy sector by collecting grid data from the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E). The mid-year analysis for 2019 has identified a positive trend for achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the European Commission’s Green Deal, which, however, also poses considerable challenges for European transmission system operators (TSOs): For the first time ever, electricity generation from renewable sources has exceeded that from fossil fuels. In the first half of 2020, wind, solar, hydro and bioenergy generated 40% of the electricity in the EU Member States, while fossil fuels accounted for 34%.

Europe’s power industry faced a dramatic first half of the year and it should not go unmentioned that the substantial decline in electricity demand across the continent because of the COVID 19 pandemic also has an impact on the development in 2020. Nevertheless, this is a symbolic moment for the transition of the European power landscape. Renewable energy generation increased by 11% in the first half of 2020, mainly because more wind and solar facilities have been installed. In addition, conditions were also quite favourable with a sunny second quarter and a very windy February. In contrast, fossil generation fell by 18% over the same period, forced by falling demand and the growth in renewable energy.

With their committed responses to increasingly decentralised and volatile generation – such as grid extension and modernisation, technological compensation for the loss of reactive power, smart grid control, or cross-border cooperation – European TSOs are supporting this development sustainably.

In the first half of 2020, European electricity generation from renewable sources has exceeded fossil generation

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> See Ember press release (html)

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RSC Conference 2020: A focus on digital cooperation

15.07.2020

The vital function of the European Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs) has been and continues to be maintained despite the Corona pandemic. Regardless of the crisis, it is of great importance to exchange innovative concepts, significant insights, and daily practice in securing the European electricity system. For this reason, the annual RSC Conference will also take place in 2020, this time organised by the Baltic RSC and, as always, in cooperation with the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E). However, the pandemic certainly influences the organisation of the event, so that this year’s conference, the fourth in total, will be accessible as a podcast as well as live digital streaming from the Tallinn Creative Hub in the Estonian capital on 24 November 2020. Speakers and participants have the possibility to participate either remotely or physically.

The RSC Conference 2020 is entitled “Securing future power systems with digital cooperation” and thus will focus on the digital aspects of TSO regional coordination. A further emphasis will be given to the challenges of implementing the EU Green Deal, the large-scale integration of renewable energy sources, offshore deployment, and the implementation of the EU Clean Energy Package. A foresighted review of the COVID-9 pandemic and its impact on regional risk preparedness scenarios is also intended.

Baltic RSC and ENTSO-E have confirmed the keynote speech of the conference given by Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy in the von der Leyen Commission, and the participation of Taavi Veskimägi, CEO of the Estonian TSO Elering. Updates on other participants and further information will be made available regularly on the RSC Conference 2020 website, where you can register for the conference already now – for virtual or in person participation.

The RSC 2020 Conference on digital cooperation in electricity security coordination takes place on 24 November 2020 in Tallinn and is hosted by Baltic RSC (picture of Tallinn by Külli Kittus, Unsplash)

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> See Entso-E news release (html)
> See Baltic RSC news release (html)
> Visit RSC 2020 Conference website (html, with access to registration)

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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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ENTSO-E promotes green economic recovery

06.07.2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the European transmission system operators (TSOs) lived up to their responsibilities and focused their efforts on maintaining a secure and sufficient supply of electricity, whether for systemically critical facilities or private consumers. The task in the aftermath of this unprecedented crisis is now to ensure that, when Europe’s economy and society regains momentum after the SARS-CoV-2 downturn, it does so in a future-oriented and environmentally responsible manner. Against this background, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), on behalf of its member TSOs, welcomes the European Commission’s strategy to focus on achieving a climate-neutral, resilient, and innovative EU.

ENTSO-E is confident that European TSOs are ready and willing to contribute their expertise to the green recovery. The Corona crisis should not prevent European decision-makers from complying with the EU Green Deal, as ENTSO-E considers it to be central to Europe’s economic recovery. To succeed in the sustainable post-pandemic upturn and the Green Deal, ENTSO-E recommends four key actions to EU policy makers:

  • Recognising the key role of electricity TSOs in system integration – towards a “system of interconnected systems”. This includes multi-sectoral grid planning and forward-looking investments.
  • Putting electrification at the heart of the EU’s decarbonisation policy, as electricity is the dominant vector for clean energy and the electricity transmission grid is central to this.
  • Investing in low-carbon, purpose-built infrastructure and in a “cyber-physical” power supply system.
  • Ensuring a smooth recovery of the entire electricity value chain. This also involves strengthening Europe’s industrial and strategic autonomy.

ENTSO-E is committed to the success of the Green Deal and proposes action strategies to European policy makers (picture: Steffen Horstmann)

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> See ENTSO-E press release (html)

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Declaration: “TSOs ensure the lights are kept on”

23.04.2020

“We need to jointly ensure the stability of the electrical system, the service continuity and the operation of our network infrastructures, which represent the real backbone of the interconnected electricity system on a continental scale.” Thus, commences the common statement of the managing directors of numerous European transmission system operators (TSOs) from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland. And of course, top staff from TSCNET shareholders are also among the signatories of the declaration, namely Gerhard Christiner (CTO of APG), Klaus Kleinekorte (CTO of Amprion), Manon van Beek (CEO of TennetT), Yves Zumwald (CEO of Swissgrid), and Chris Peeters (CEO of the Elia Group and Chairman of the Board of Directors of 50Hertz).

The CEOs and CTOs emphasise that energy has always been an essential part of European cooperation. Even more so during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is having a huge impact on the lives of the citizens and the worldwide economy. More than ever, electricity remains crucial for daily life, health services and all systemically relevant and critical activities. The main concern of all European TSOs is, obviously, to ensure the general supply of electricity. “Therefore, our highest priority is to keep our staff healthy – especially those who are working in critical positions like the national control centres or indispensable staff for priority preventive maintenance works and urgent damage repairs on our grids.”

The individual TSOs regularly exchange information on their prevention plans and respective measures. These start with hygiene and health protection and end with the preparation of various case scenarios in which the electricity grids would have to be operated with reduced staff. Close cooperation is also established with the respective national authorities to ensure the safe operation of the electricity grids, functioning markets in times of declining electricity demand and, if necessary, priority maintenance work.

However, as responsible and sustainability-oriented companies, the TSOs are already looking ahead to the time after the pandemic and to the green energy landscape of the future. “Keeping the lights on physically is the first step. And with the Green New Deal in mind we are also already actively preparing how to best support the restart of an ever greener economy as soon as possible,” the managers assure. They are certain that the modernisation of electricity systems and the integration of renewable energy sources are an effective growth programme that will safeguard and create jobs: „Keeping the electricity system future proof, supporting the energy transition, the national plans and the European Green New Deal in line with the Paris Agreement is our joint mission and will be a stable growth motor in all our countries in the years to come.”

TSO managers express their commitment to maintaining supply security during the Covid-19 pandemic and their dedication to the green energy future

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> See Swissgrid news release (html)
> See TenneT press release (html)

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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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> See APG news release (html)
> See ENTSO-E press release (html)

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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

Linkup
> See Ember research on reduced electricity demand (html)
> See APG news release, in German (html)
> See Energinet news release (html)

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Supporting secure power supply despite corona crisis

20.03.2020

For weeks, the world has been watching with great concern the news about the novel coronavirus and the disease COVID-19. Together with the electricity transmission system operators (TSOs) we are ensuring the secure operation of the electricity transmission infrastructure in Europe and are taking the situation with great seriousness. Therefore, we have taken a number of preventive measures to protect employees and visitors from infection with the virus, while at the same time ensuring that all key areas of our business and system operations remain fully operational.

These precautionary measures are reassessed daily and, if necessary, expanded and supplemented. In addition to measures to protect health, these include precautions that severely restrict contact between employees and with other groups of people, as well as additional measures that restrict access to our offices in Munich. Special precautions apply to employees in particularly sensitive areas such as our Regional Coordination Room.

As with any infectious disease, everyone benefits if individuals take precautions. We therefore appeal to all employees and partners to protect themselves and others. If you have any questions or need help, please do not hesitate to contact us.

In operation around the clock! In view of the situation with the novel coronavirus, the management of TSCNET Services has decided to take a number of precautions.

Linkup
> Visit WHO coronavirus pages (html)
> Visit European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control pages (html)
> Visit Robert Koch Institute on situation in Germany, in German (html)

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