Interview: “Consumption drop considered”

27.03.2020

The current decline in Europe-wide electricity consumption is significant and requires both European transmission system operators (TSOs) and Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs) to adapt to the lower feed-in rates. “In general, it is expected that the demand for electricity in 2020 will decrease noticeably due to the corona crisis. Some EU member states expect a drop of 10 to 15 percent of annual electricity demand,” explains Maik Neubauer, one of the two Managing Directors of TSCNET Services, the Munich-based RSC in an interview with “ZfK” (Zeitung für Kommunale Wirtschaft), one of Germany’s leading trade journals of the energy and utility industry.

As regards the reaction of energy market participants, Neubauer comments that this decline is being considered in grid management and included in the daily forecasting processes by the TSOs and distribution system operators (DSOs). Neubauer sees no threat to supply security: “All suppliers and operators of power plants and critical infrastructures have emergency plans.” These are implemented immediately to ensure the operability of the infrastructures. A favourable factor is that there are currently no external influences, such as natural disasters or critical grid situations, to interfere with operational processes. “The main focus is currently on protecting the operational personnel in order to ensure 24/7 operation of the critical infrastructure levels.”

Needless to say, this also applies to TSCNET Services itself. Although the European RSCs do not have direct grid control responsibility, they do carry out the regional analysis of the transmission system together with the TSOs and act as an early warning system, which identifies possible bottlenecks and dangerous situations. Together with the TSO control centres, the RSC then initiates mitigation measures. To continue providing 24/7 support to TSOs, TSCNET has taken all actions to protect its staff from the pandemic. This includes sending almost all employees to work from home and special protective measures for the operations team. Since almost all TSCNET processes are already highly digitised, the current situation does not present the Munich RSC with extreme challenges.

Despite the pandemic-related decline in power consumption, Maik Neubauer expects no fundamental problems for grid security

Linkup
> Visit “ZfK” interview, in German (html, paywall)

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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

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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Grid and supply security in times of COVID-19

16.03.2020

Transmission system operators (TSOs) are managing an integral part of our society’s systemically relevant critical infrastructure, which must be maintained under all circumstances. In the current global health crisis, the TSCNET shareholders, like all other TSOs, are aware of their specific responsibility for the security of European electricity supply, which is a matter of preserving social and economic life. The TSOs are focusing on their core business: secure electricity supply, and have taken technical precautions, especially in sensitive areas such as the control centres. But of course, hygienic and social measures are also adopted with regard to the safety of their customers, business partners and employees.

As far as the TSO’s own employees are concerned, as many colleagues as possible are sent to work from home. For a large number of technical staff, e.g. in the areas of monitoring, maintenance or repair, this is obviously only possible to a limited extent. The four German TSOs for example have taken a number of precautionary measures. These include in particular:

  • Strict rules regarding business trips and contact with other persons.
  • Special requirements apply to the staff in the control rooms and in the technical teams which are absolutely necessary for the maintenance of the grid. Generally speaking, the control rooms are equipped for all emergencies, far beyond the current threat from the corona virus.
  • The precautionary measures taken are checked daily and adjusted to the current situation if necessary.
  • The individual TSOs also adapt their measures in accordance with the rules and regulations applicable in their respective grid areas.

To play an active role in the containment of COVID-19, the TSOs also respond with such understandable measures as access restrictions or the cancellations of meetings and public information events. Instead, the companies are opting for online conferences. 50Hertz, for example, one of the four German TSOs, is introducing an online participation system as a replacement for the cancelled information events for example on the transregional SuedOstLink power line so that citizens can be continuously involved in the planning process.

The European TSOs contribute actively and responsibly to the containment of SARS-CoV-2 without compromising system security (electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2: NIAID, CC BY 2.0)

Linkup
> 50Hertz, in German (html)
> APG, in German (html)
> Energinet, (html)
> TenneT Germany press release, in German (html, published on 17 March)
> TransnetBW, in German (html)

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TenneT creates, invests and researches for the energy future

12.03.2020

Promoting the energy transition is a priority objective of TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO). This is clearly reflected in the TSO’s just-published Integrated Annual Report. As in recent years, the Annual Report is accompanied by the Green Finance Report 2019.

In line with the energy policy and climate goals of the Netherlands and Germany, TenneT increased its investments yet again in 2019 and spent €3.1bn on the energy transition and supply security (grid availability of 99.9998% in 2019). This financial commitment is even to be stepped up: TenneT is planning annual investments of €4bn to €5bn for the future. The financial performance of the company, with revenues of €4.1bn in 2019 and an EBIT (excluding special effects) of €753m, supports these ambitious plans. Manon van Beek, CEO of TenneT, has every reason to be content with the sound development of the TSO: “We have made great strides again in pursuing our ambition to achieve a sustainable energy future for everyone. Not only in realising and developing new onshore and offshore connections, but also by the required far-reaching international cooperation and working on innovations in close coordination with relevant stakeholders.”

As regards offshore connections, TenneT has already exceeded in 2019 the German government’s expansion target for offshore wind power capacity in the North and Baltic Sea, which is 6.5GW for 2020. With last year’s commissioning of BorWin 3, TenneT’s ninth offshore grid connection system in DC technology, the TSO now has a total of twelve offshore grid connections in operation (nine in DC and three in AC technology) with a total capacity of 7.1GW. But TenneT is not resting on its successes to date: The connection systems DolWin5, DolWin6, and BorWin5 are being developed and will increase the offshore transmission capacity provided by TenneT for wind farms in the German North Sea to almost 10GW by 2025. In addition, Borssele Alpha, TenneT’s first offshore connection system in AC technology in the Dutch North Sea, was installed on schedule and is now ready for operation. Borssele Beta will be completed in 2020.

Onshore, TenneT has eight transmission lines under construction in Germany, more than ever before. In the Netherlands, the 60km-long Randstad 380kV North Ring power line was put into operation, reliably supplying Europe’s most densely populated area with electricity and providing transmission capacity for green energy. At European level, the “green” COBRAcable deserves special mention, which since 2019 directly connects the Dutch and Danish markets for the first time. The German and Norwegian markets will also be directly connected by the NordLink cable, which is currently under construction. On top of this, a proof-of-concept for the North Sea Wind Power Hub has shown the technical feasibility of the concept of multiple wind power distribution hubs in the North Sea.

All these grid expansion projects are complemented by innovative solutions and intensive research to better utilise TenneT’s existing transmission system. These include vehicle-to-grid pilots, the deployment of home storage systems in grid stabilisation and digital solutions for higher grid utilisation. Another long-term innovation project is Element One, a 100MW electrolysis plant to be built in Germany to promote an integrated energy system.

TenneT presents Integrated Annual Report 2019 and Green Finance Report 2019 (picture: TenneT)

Linkup
> See TenneT press release (html)
> Visit Integrated Annual Report 2019 site (html)
> Direct access to the report download (html)
> Open Green Finance Report 2019 (pdf, 802.38kB)

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COBRAcable proves to be a great success

06.03.2020

It is now half a year since TSCNET customer Energinet, the transmission system operator (TSO) from Denmark, and TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, made COBRAcable available to the market. The high-voltage DC cable with a length of about 325km and a capacity of 700MW is the first direct connection between the electricity markets of Denmark and the Netherlands. The basic idea behind COBRAcable is to compensate for the volatility of wind power. Consequently, the Netherlands imports electricity via the cable on days with large Danish wind power generation, while on days with little wind in Denmark the electricity is transported in the opposite direction.

This works perfectly, as the interconnector’s transmission data from the first six-month period prove: In total, Denmark has imported almost 700GWh via the COBRAcable and the Netherlands almost 1,400GWh. On average, COBRAcable was operated at full capacity 79% of the time during the last half year. The impressive traffic on this binational connection proves its adequacy through its operation. The new interconnector therefore substantially contributes to the energy transition by exchanging volatile renewable energy across borders and additionally creates a trading profit on the spot market for electricity – a multiple benefit for nature, society and the companies involved.

The transmission data from the COBRAcable of Energinet and TenneT confirm a high level of traffic on the line (picture: screenshot taken from Energinet-video “Constructing the green COBRAcable”, Vimeo)

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> See Energinet press release (html)

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“The grid demands digitisation and AI”

02.03.2020

Europe’s high-voltage grid has a total length of around 485,000km and continuously feeds in approx. 1,152,017MW of electricity. The transnational grid can be considered as the backbone of all European critical infrastructures, whose reliable operation is essential for Europe to function as an economic zone. Since this aspect is too often neglected, Maik Neubauer, one of the two Managing Directors of TSCNET Services, the Munich-based Regional Security Coordinator (RSC), has taken the opportunity to share his views on the prospects of the European electricity transmission system in an interview in the current issue (1/2020) of the “THEMEN:magazin”. This German-language medium bi-monthly provides reports on economic challenges and opportunities with a focus on energy policy.

Neubauer points out that, although the European interconnected grid is one of the most complex infrastructures in the world, there have so far hardly been any significant blackout situations – thanks to the cooperation of the European transmission system operators (TSOs), which has been well-established for decades. But since the energy transition is a pan-European project, the increasing flows of electricity from renewable sources do not stop at the border. European TSOs face the challenge of integrating numerous additional energy sources into the grid and operational control processes. Due to the predominance of nuclear and fossil power generation to date, the forecasting and control processes for optimum utilisation and balancing of the European grid have so far been rather deterministic, which is currently changing at a rapid pace with the volatile renewable energies.

Therefore, in addition to grid expansion and swift digitisation of control processes, increased European coordination of congestion and capacity management is essential. The EU network codes and, of course, the RSCs are crucial for this, as Neubauer emphasises. The RSCs receive data on expected grid situations from almost all European TSOs. This information is aggregated by the RSCs to provide an “early warning system” that identifies potential bottlenecks and threats to the grid. The RSCs thus support their TSO customers to counteract potential blackout situations in Europe by taking real- and near-time mitigation actions in their system operations and planning departments. Nevertheless, according to Neubauer, swift digitisation is inevitable to cope with the increasing data volumes in European grid management caused by the integration of renewable energy sources.

Without the seamless interaction of operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT), secure grid management will hardly be possible in the future. Neubauer also predicts that without a high level of artificial intelligence (AI), the complexity in critical infrastructures will no longer be controllable by humans in the medium term. Therefore, AI will soon also radically change the energy sector. Neubauer is well aware, however, that IT security and cyber security must have the highest priority in order to safeguard developments in AI and protect highly critical infrastructures from misuse or even terrorism.

“Artificial intelligence will be indispensable” – in an interview with the “THEMEN:magazin”, Maik Neubauer presented his view on the perspectives of the European electricity transmission system

Linkup
> Visit “THEMEN:magazin” webpage, in German (html)

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ACER consultations on balancing market

20.02.2020

A core component of the European Energy Union is the integration of the national balancing markets into a pan-European market. To promote this essential objective, the European Commission Regulation establishing a Guideline for Electricity Balancing became effective in December 2017. The European transmission system operator (TSOs) are expected to work proactively towards this goal and have since responded to this expectation with transnational cooperation, proposals, innovative concepts and their implementation.

The Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) launched two public consultations on methodologies in line with the respective EU regulation. The first consultation concerns the way for establishing a list of standard products for capacity balancing of frequency restoration reserves and replacement reserves. This methodology provides the rules for efficient cross-border exchange, sharing and procurement of reserves. The second deals with the methodology for establishing a co-optimised allocation process of cross-zonal capacity for the exchange of balancing capacity or sharing of reserves. All interested parties are invited to submit their comments by 10 March 2020.

Before the results of the two consultations are published, ACER will organise a workshop in its premises in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana on 26 February. This workshop will give stakeholders an insight into the procedures related to these consultations and into the discussions between ACER, the National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) and the TSOs.

ACER has launched two public consultations on methodologies for the integration of balancing markets (picture of Europe from space by Alexander Gerst, ESA/NASA)

Linkup
> See ACER press release (html)
> Direct access to 1st consultation (html)
> Direct access to 2nd consultation (html)
> Visit ACER workshop webpage (html)

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ENTSO-E presents Annual Work Programme 2020

19.02.2020

The European network codes and guidelines as well as the Clean Energy for All Europeans Package pose considerable challenges for European transmission system operators (TSOs). It is thus not only reasonable for the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), but also mandatory under an EU regulation to propose an Annual Work Programme outlining the main TSO tasks.

Having been consulted by stakeholders and reviewed by the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) – the opinion of ACER was received on 7 February – the Annual Work Programme 2020 has now been published by ENTSO-E. The priorities set in the ENTSO-E programme are consistent with the objective of the European Council to complete the internal electricity market and the three-year plan for the work on network codes.

In the programme, ENTSO-E recognises an enhanced role of TSOs in the significant updating of the European electricity market design. Furthermore, the creation of a pan-European IT architecture for electricity is seen as one of the main drivers for the energy transition. In this respect, the Common Grid Model is a precondition for, inter alia, coordinated capacity calculation, operational security analysis, outage planning coordination, and adequacy analysis.

ENTSO-E has released the Annual Work Programme 2020 (picture: ENTSO-E)

Linkup
> See ENTSO-E press release (html)
> Visit ENTSO-E Annual Work Programme site (html)
> Open Annual Work Programme 2020 (pdf, 2.83MB)
> Open ACER opinion (pdf, 170.7kB)

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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

Linkup
> 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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