TenneT to invest up to €5bn p.a. for the energy transition

31.07.2020

The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT has just published its first-half 2020 report. Needless to say, the second quarter of 2020 was characterised by the corona pandemic and the extensive measures taken to ensure a safe and healthy working environment, but despite this, the TSO has made significant progress in developing the transmission grid onshore and offshore and in integrating growing amounts of renewable electricity. At the same time, TenneT has maintained a high level of supply security of 99.99% for 42m end consumers in Germany and the Netherlands.

As Europe’s first cross-border TSO, TenneT promotes the European market integration. The TSCNET shareholder increasingly benefits from its binational integrated approach to grid planning, management, and operation. Manon van Beek, TenneT’s CEO, comments: “Sharing best practices and lessons learned between our German and Dutch operations is paying off more and more in terms of an integrated approach to offshore and onshore grid expansion, better grid utilisation due to European innovations and cross-border energy system planning.”

TenneT currently operates 14 offshore grid connections, twelve in the German and two in the Dutch North Sea. The twelfth offshore grid connection in Germany, BorWin 3, was handed over to TenneT in the first half of 2020. In Dutch waters, the Borssele Alpha grid connection recently transmitted offshore wind power for the first time and the Borssele Beta grid connection has now been commissioned well ahead of schedule. While in the offshore sector experience from the German market is used for the Dutch, the situation is the other way round when it comes to underground cabling. Here, expertise from the Dutch Randstadt project is applied for the DC connections SuedLink and SuedOstLink. These two largest projects of TenneT, which are being entirely installed underground, will be essential for the transmission of wind energy from northern to southern Germany.

Such efforts require huge investments – facilitated by solid financial results: The underlying operating result (EBIT) increased to €414m in the first half of 2020. During the same period, investments in the German and Dutch high and extra-high voltage grids also increased by approximately 30% compared to the first half of 2019, but will do so much more in the future. TenneT expects a further rise in the annual investment volume to €4 to 5bn in the next years. Otto Jager, CFO of TenneT, explains: “We are going to connect growing amounts of renewable electricity to the grid while facilitating the development of a borderless European electricity market. In light of future equity funding needs, the ongoing talks with the German government about a possible equity participation, next to the Dutch State, are welcomed by TenneT.”

TenneT presents Half-year Report 2020 (picture: TenneT)

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Borssele Beta is ready for the grid

31.07.2020

Borssele Beta is the second high-voltage grid connection for offshore wind farms in Dutch territorial waters of the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT. Like Borssele Alpha, the first Dutch offshore connection, it transmits green electricity generated in the Borssele wind farm area ashore, in this case from the Borssele III, IV and V wind farms. The operators of these three farms can hook up their wind turbines to the high-voltage grid one month earlier than scheduled, as TenneT has just received the “Grid Readiness” certification from the internationally accredited registrar and classification society DNV GL. This means that Borssele Beta fully complies with the criteria of the “Ontwikkelkader windenergie op zee”, the Offshore Wind Energy Development Framework of the Dutch Government.

The Borssele III, IV and V wind farms will have a total capacity of 700MW. The electricity generated here is collected by the offshore transformer platform, which converts the voltage from 66kV to 220kV for transmission via submarine cables to the onshore substation in Borssele. For feeding into the high-voltage grid, the voltage is then converted to 380kV. Marco Kuijpers, Director Offshore Projects at TenneT, comments on the rapid realisation: “We are proud of the fact that the second part of the Borssele high voltage connection is already complete and was realised within budget. Despite all the Covid-19 challenges, we were successful in continuing with the works; a huge achievement from all the contract parties involved.”

By the end of 2023, TenneT will have installed 3.5GW of offshore grid connections in the Netherlands, of which the first 1.4GW have already been achieved with Borssele Alpha and Beta. The next projects are Hollandse Kust (zuid) Alpha and Beta, followed by Hollandse Kust (noord). For these wind farms, TenneT will deploy five identical 700MW transformer platforms and identical 220kV cable connections. This standardisation allows TenneT to realise these projects faster, more efficiently, and more economically. The governmental Dutch follow-up roadmap for offshore development provides for an additional 6.1GW of offshore wind farms from 2024 to the end of 2030, located in the wind energy areas Hollandse Kust (west), Ten Noorden van de Waddeneilanden and IJmuiden Ver. Only for the first two, TenneT will again use standardised 700MW platforms. The efficient connection of IJmuiden Ver, located further out in the North Sea, partly requires other technologies based on DC instead of AC. IJmuiden Ver will have two offshore transformer platforms with a capacity of 2GW each, which is unique in the offshore wind industry.

The Borssele Beta offshore grid connection of TenneT is ready for transmission (picture: TenneT)

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Way is paved for 400kV line in western Romania

29.07.2020

For more than ten years, the completion of the 400kV Oradea-Békéscsaba overhead line in the far west of Romania has been prevented due to unresolved ownership issues regarding the section Oradea South-Nădab. Because of this, the line could only partially be put into operation, that is between the Romanian town Nădab and the Hungarian town Békéscsaba, near the Romanian-Hungarian border. Now the property situation has been clarified and the Romanian transmission system operator (TSO) and TSCNET shareholder Transelectrica was able to award the building contract for the missing section.

Transelectrica expects the construction work to be completed within twelve months. The commissioning of the last 72-kilometre section and thus the completion of the Oradea-Békéscsaba overhead line will contribute to the closure of the “400kV Ring” in the west of Romania. This project is a priority energy target for Romania, which will significantly improve the operational reliability of the national transmission system and security of electricity supply in the north-west of the country. The new Oradea-Békéscsaba line will also enable Transelectrica to eliminate congestions and thus save considerable costs for grid interventions. Finally, Romania’s interconnection capacity will be increased by 100MW in export and 300MW in import direction, which will not only contribute to compliance with EU regulations, but also make a sustainable contribution to the integration of the European electricity market.

Transelectrica has awarded the building contracts for the last section of the 400kV Oradea-Békéscsaba overhead line (picture of Oradea: Marculescu Eugen Iancu, Creative Commons)

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TenneT records 21% increase in offshore transmission

28.07.2020

In the first half of 2020, the wind energy transmitted from the North Sea ashore by the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT rose to 11.51TWh. This represents an increase of 21.1% compared with the 9.51TWh in the first half of 2019, bringing the North Sea’s share of total wind power generation in Germany to 15.6%. The maximum feed-in volume from offshore wind farms in the German North Sea was 6,035MW on 2 January 2020. By 30 June, the generation capacity of the German North Sea wind farms reached 6,679MW, a volume which is exceeded by TenneT’s offshore transmission capacity of 7,132MW. This amount, which is higher than the German government’s 2020 target (6.5GW for the North and Baltic Seas combined), is currently being achieved with twelve German offshore grid connections.

Tim Meyerjürgens, COO of the TSCNET shareholder, comments on the impressive figures: „The expansion and integration of offshore wind energy is of central importance for the European energy transition.” And offshore development is also keeping pace in the Dutch market: “With Borssele alpha and – from mid-August – Borssele beta, we have now also successfully completed the first two offshore connections in the Dutch North Sea.” TenneT promotes capacity expansion with technical innovations and, according to Meyerjürgens, wants to remain a driving force in the offshore sector: “Ever since TenneT set the standard for plastic-insulated DC cables at 320kV in the offshore sector around ten years ago, we have been defining a new global benchmark for the future with our 525kV DC subsea cable system and its transmission capacity of two GW.”

The 525kV development programme should lead to a standardised cable system that the TSO can employ by 2030 for the three German North Sea projects BalWin1, BalWin2, BalWin3 and the two Dutch projects IJmuiden Ver alpha and beta as well as in potential further projects of equal power and voltage. TenneT is expecting lower costs, greater security of supply and less impact on the environment. These efforts require considerable investment: “We have an investment programme of around €20bn earmarked for connecting offshore wind energy in the Netherlands and Germany by 2030,” explains Meyerjürgens. Important in this context are also hydrogen and hybrid initiatives. The North Sea Wind Power Hubs proposed by TenneT explicitly include power to gas concepts. Furthermore, in June, TenneT proposed to the EU and the Dutch and German governments an integrated energy system approach for the international offshore development.

TenneT increased its transmission of offshore wind energy by 21% in the first half of 2020 (picture: TenneT)

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TenneT installs first TCSC system in Germany

16.07.2020

Series compensation is an innovative technology that significantly increases voltage stability in transmission systems. The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT is constructing Germany’s first series compensation system in the Stadorf substation in the Lüneburger Heath. From 2023, this will prevent grid bottlenecks in the German state of Lower Saxony. On 15 July 2020, the future heart of the upgraded substation reached Stadorf after an intricate transport by ship, rail and road and was placed on its foundation: a direct-coupling transformer with a transport weight of 528 tonnes.

The TSCNET shareholder supplies large areas of the eastern part of Lower Saxony with electricity via the Stadorf substation. Due to the energy transition and the corresponding transmission of wind power from the north of Germany to the consumption centres in the south, the substation will assume a supra-regional and important function in the future. For this purpose, Stadorf is being comprehensively modernised and extended by a so-called Thyristor Controlled Series Capacitor (TCSC) facility, the first of its kind in Germany.

TCSC allows a fast-dynamic modulation of the inserted reactance and in this case specifically to relieve persistently overloaded lines and redirect load flows. The new direct coupling transformer with a transmission capacity of 300MVA connects the 380kV lines of TenneT with the 110kV lines of the regional distribution system operator (DSO). It provides load flow in both directions, so that locally generated surplus green electricity can be transferred if required. As a result of the substation upgrade with TCSC equipment, the disconnection of wind turbines, regulatory intervention in the grid, and the associated costs will be reduced – and overall system security increased. TenneT anticipates annual savings in the double-digit million euro range.

TenneT is implementing a TCSC facility in the Stadorf substation, the first of its kind in Germany (picture: TenneT)

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Swissgrid responds to revised legislation

15.07.2020

With the national “Energy Strategy 2050”, the Swiss electorate decided in 2017 to promote renewable energies. To extend the duration of the correlating support measures, create planning security for the energy market, and eventually achieve Switzerland’s climate policy goals, the Swiss Federal Council has developed a revision of the national Energy Act (“Energiegesetz”). The Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid appreciates that the Federal Council intends to create more incentives for the expansion of domestic renewable energies while at the same time ensuring long-term security of supply.

However, the TSCNET shareholder considers that the legal framework must also contribute to integrating renewable energies into the overall system. According to Swissgrid, this is the current situation in Switzerland: The combination of the absence of an electricity agreement with the EU, a significant increase in renewable energy with volatile generation, and the sluggish expansion of the grid affects the operation of the transmission system. Because even today, the grid expansion is not keeping pace with that of the renewables.

To meet the goals of the “Energy Strategy 2050”, it must first be ensured that approval procedures for grid projects are consistently optimised and accelerated. Secondly, innovative solutions for load management are needed to generate flexibility and provide frequency services to the transmission grid. The crowd balancing platform Equigy – a cooperation of Swissgrid, TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, and the Italian TSO Terna – is one example of such a solution. Thirdly, an electricity agreement between Switzerland and the EU is essential, since import and export capacity will make an important contribution to Switzerland’s supply security given the significant expansion of renewable energies. Finally, Swissgrid considers the non-discriminatory availability, quality, and transparency of data to be increasingly important for secure grid operation. This requires a legal basis for regulating data transfer between TSOs, distribution system operators (DSOs), storage and power plant operators, and other parties involved.

Swissgrid comments on the revision of the national Energy Act by the Swiss Federal Council (illustration based on a picture of Lac de Moiry in Valais, Fotoauge, Pixabay)

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Construction permit for Pradella-La Punt

13.07.2020

As the extra-high voltage line in the Swiss Engadine between Pradella and La Punt constitutes a bottleneck in the Swiss and pan-European transmission system, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid has long aimed to increase its transmission capacity to 2 x 380kV. This will improve import capacity and security of supply in the canton of Graubünden and facilitate the transport of Engadine hydropower. The project is part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, Swissgrid’s ambitious modernisation and expansion plan.

The Swiss Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (Eidgenössisches Starkstrominspektorat-ESTI) now has approved the reinforcement and new construction of pylons between Pradella and La Punt. Swissgrid has already refurbished the pylon foundations in the past two years, so that work can commence soon. Approximately 3500 tonnes of steel will be needed to upgrade the around 50-kilometre-long overhead line. The construction will be carried out in two sections and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

To reduce the overall environmental impact in the region, Swissgrid is supporting a local grid operator in replacing a 60kV overhead line with a 110kV underground cable. As a result, 1100 pylons will be disappearing from the landscape.

Swissgrid can start with the 2 x 380kV upgrade of the Pradella-La Punt line (picture: Swissgrid)

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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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ACER PCI Report: some delays with less rescheduling

10.07.2020

Europe-wide, there are currently 106 Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) for electricity in the implementation stage. PCIs are identified by the EU as a priority for interconnecting the infrastructure of the continental energy system and are considered worthy of public funding. The European Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) annually evaluates these projects, together with the PCIs for gas (currently 32), for progress, delays, or rescheduling. This year’s “Consolidated Report on the progress of electricity and gas PCIs”, the sixth edition in total, has been published on 9 July.

The report covers the period from 1 February 2019 to 31 January 2020. Of the electricity projects, 79% were already included in the previous list. The ACER report provides an overview of the progress or the lack of progress in the implementation of the PCIs. It does not, however, contain an analysis of the possibilities for facilitating implementation, which would require a more in-depth analysis. To evaluate the status and progress of the respective PCIs, ACER verifies, among other things, the completeness and quality of the transmitted data and whether the projects have been included in the relevant network development plans.

The main result can be summarised as that delays are still very much in evidence – 27% of electricity PCIs are affected – but rescheduling has decreased. As public funding is easier to obtain for PCIs, there is a strong interest in infrastructure projects being classified as such. In this regard, ACER advises the project developers not to concentrate their efforts too much on the inclusion in the list and thus neglect the much more decisive matters like quality planning, permitting, and securing non-subsidised financing.

ACER has published the 2020 “Consolidated Report on the progress of electricity and gas PCIs”

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50Hertz aims for 100% renewables by 2032

03.07.2020

50 Hertz, the transmission system operator (TSO) from the north-east of Germany, has launched a climate and economic policy initiative for its control area, which consists of the federal states in eastern Germany and the city states of Berlin and Hamburg. The concrete goal is to cover 100% of the electricity demand in the 50Hertz grid area with renewable energies by the year 2032 and the secure integration of green electricity into the transmission system. As the annual average share of renewables in 2019 was around 60%, the initiative is entitled: “From 60 to 100 by 2032: for an economy with prospects”.

The “100 by 32” initiative corresponds to and exceeds the objectives of the EU Commission’s “Green Deal”, according to which Europe should become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The TSCNET shareholder will focus the entire corporate strategy on the new ambitious target and – in compliance with the legal requirements for safe and reliable grid operation – will mobilise its extensive expertise. Since, according to 50Hertz CEO Stefan Kapferer, further considerable efforts are necessary not only in the own company but also in politics, economy, and society, the TSO offers to support the German federal and state governments in developing suitable areas and potential for wind and solar energy, off- and onshore

Kapferer comments further on the strategy: “The transformation of our electric power supply has entered a new phase. Today’s parallel existence of a conventional fossil generation system and an energy system based on renewable sources is coming to an end. Wind and solar energy must be able to provide ancillary services in the future. We are determined to drive this transition forward, but now with new and full speed.”

50Hertz launches the corporate initiative “From 60 to 100 by 2032” for a complete coverage of electricity demand with renewable energies (picture: 50Hertz)

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