New IT tools for Europe-wide supply security

08.06.2020

The digitisation of grid operation is constantly increasing and requires continuous optimisation, e.g. in terms of outage planning coordination and adequacy analysis – both aspects are integral parts of the Annual Work Programme 2020 of the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E). Two new IT tools to simplify the cooperation of transmission system operators (TSOs) and allow better anticipation of the balance between supply and demand are available since this spring and currently used by a total of 38 TSOs. Under the coordination of ENTSO-E, the “Outage Planning Coordination (OPC) Pan European Merge Tool” and “Short Term Adequacy forecast (STA) tool” have been developed jointly with the Munich based Regional Security Coordinator (RSC) TSCNET Services playing a leading role in the development of OPC.

Tahir Kapetanovic, Head of the Control Centre of TSCNET shareholder APG, the Austrian TSO, and Chairman of the ENTSO-E System Operation Committee, comments on the latest success: “The cross-border coordination and intensive cooperation of all national TSOs are the preconditions for a smooth functioning of the power supply across the European Union. By means of such jointly developed tools, uniform norms and standards for network operation can truly be implemented into practice.”

The launching of both tools may be considered as further evidence of the well-established pan-European cooperation of European TSOs and RSCs. STA enables a short to medium-term prognosis for load management, which is particularly important in view of the energy transition to compensate for the volatility of renewable power generation with innovative solutions and to integrate them smartly into the system. With the OPC Pan European Merge Tool, concept originally developed by TSCNET Services, the TSOs and RSCs can plan power outages on a regional level, including coordination of maintenance and inspections. Electricity supply and trade are thus ensured despite the necessary shutdowns.

The need for OPC on a pan-European level across the different RSCs and the corresponding concept of a harmonised outage planning process dates back to 2012, when the TSOs of the central and eastern European regions established the TSC (TSO Security Cooperation) area. The Medium-Long-Term Operational Planning (MLTOP) project of the TSC TSOs, which was started at that time, is the origin of the OPC tool. When TSCNET Services emerged in 2015 from the joint TSC TSO office in Munich, the MLTOP project was carried on by TSCNET for prototype and business process development in coordination with the TSC TSOs. In the same year, ENTSO-E launched the TSO Project for Coordination Strategy Implementation with the Regional Security Coordination Initiatives (RSCIs), which was continued later under the EU System Operation Guideline (SO GL). This extended the scope of the MLTOP project from the TSC area to the whole of Europe and it became the foundation of the OPC project.

In December 2017, the prototype resulting from the OPC project, owned and developed by TSCNET, went live on a pan-European scale and provided the initial service to all TSOs and RSCs in Europe. Now the prototype tool has been converted into and replaced by a fully-fledged industrial tool: the OPC Pan European Merge Tool, whose development represents a unique success story for TSCNET services and the associated TSOs. What was once an idea for cooperation in the TSC area has been further developed and prototyped by TSCNET in close cooperation with the TSOs and has now evolved into an industrialised pan-European tool used by the outage planners of 38 TSOs and four other RSCs.

TSCNET Services as a major contributor
The OPC project and its development process is a good example of what can be achieved through intensive cooperation between TSOs and RSCs. TSCNET successfully took the lead in this cooperative effort and managed not only to develop services on a pan-European level, but also to successfully coordinate with other stakeholders (RSCs, TSOs and ENTSO-E) and convince them to be part of the success. The development of the OPC project fits perfectly with the narrative of the definition of TSO, RSC and European coordination: The RSCs provide services to TSOs by setting up business processes and tools with their unique regional and technical expertise, thereby combining the knowledge of the individual TSOs – and if the concept has proven to work, they scale it up for the rest of Europe and centralise the infrastructure if necessary (and requested by ENTSO-E).

TSCNET is indebted to its Service Analytics & Quality Manager and responsible OPC Project Convener, Jayaram Anandha, to Sonja Tomić, Junior Operations Manager, and Jorge Alves, Operations Manager, for their input in the development of this highly efficient tool. The predecessor as OPC Project Convener, Tin Bobetko, and Michalis Stamoulis jointly led the business and data standard development of the OPC prototype tool, which was running perfectly until the industrialised version went live.

Two new IT tools for TSO cooperation, one of which developed by TSCNET, have been introduced and improve European supply security 

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> See APG press release (html)

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Kapetanovic: “European TSOs close ranks”

06.04.2020

Just like the Coronavirus (though fortunately without negative consequences), electricity flows do not stop at national borders. Cross-border coordination and intensive cooperation between all national transmission system operators (TSOs) are always the prerequisite for EU-wide security of supply, and all the more so in times of crisis with electricity consumption declining across Europe. According to Tahir Kapetanovic, Head of the Control Centre of TSCNET shareholder APG, the Austrian TSO, and also Chairman of the System Operation Committee, the top-level decision board for grid operations at the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E), uniform rules and standards for grid operation are indispensable.

The timely identification of possible threats to the transmission system is also considered to be crucial for the security of electricity supply in Europe. In this context, Mr Kapetanovic directly refers to the field of supporting activities of the European Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs): “The European data exchange is largely automated and runs via state-of-the art IT systems. The evaluated data provide the basis for the planning of electricity transmission. In this way, we can forecast energy flows for the upcoming hours and, if necessary, initiate transnationally coordinated emergency measures in time, such as the starting up of power plants.”

Despite the drastic decline in electricity consumption in Europe due to the restrictions imposed by the Corona crisis, the exchange and trade of electricity across borders is running smoothly. Occasionally, lower power line utilisation offers additional potential for cross-border support. Surplus electricity from western Europe, for example, was redirected via the Austrian grid of APG and via Slovenia to the northeast of Italy. In the face of the pandemic, everyone has closed ranks: In addition to the best possible mutual support, all TSOs have jointly decided that line disconnections for refurbishments and modifications will be temporarily reduced to the absolute minimum. “In doing so, we maximise transport capacity and thus increase the security of electricity supply in Europe”, states Mr Kapetanovic.

The low electricity demand also influences the European generation mix. Renewable energies are still being fully utilised, but thermal power plants, for instance, are being scaled back for cost reasons. This also has an impact on electricity flows in the transmission system. The TSOs therefore continuously forecast electricity flows for the next 24 hours and coordinate possible measures via video conference every evening. To ensure that this is maintained during the crisis, the operational core staff is protected by strict hygiene and organisational precautions, such as team splitting. All TSOs regularly exchange information on their respective measures throughout Europe.

European TSOs strengthen their cooperation and ensure supply security during the Corona crisis (picture: screenshot taken from ENTSO-E video “Tahir Kapetanovic – Regional Cooperation in the Energy Union”(YouTube))

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> See APG news release, in German (html)

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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

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

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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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“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

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

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Windstorm results in damage and record feeds

11.02.2020

From Sunday evening through Tuesday morning, the windstorm Ciara (Sabine in German speaking countries and Elsa in Scandinavia) brought severe damaging winds along the squall line across Benelux, France, and Germany and also seriously affected large parts of Central Europe such as the Alpine countries of Austria and Switzerland as well as Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In Switzerland, Sabine caused several damages to the extra-high voltage grid on Monday, 10 February.

A total of six transmission lines were affected by the storm. Fortunately, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), can report that security of supply in Switzerland has never been at risk and that no people were injured as a result of the damage to the Swissgrid transmission system. Following the tear of a conductor cable of the 220kV line Göschenen-Plattischachen, canton of Uri, the substations Plattischachen and Göschenen had to be temporarily disconnected from the extra-high voltage grid. In western Switzerland, the 220kV line across the Great St. Bernard, canton of Valais, towards the border with Italy was interrupted. The line is in rough terrain and as soon as weather conditions and the security conditions permit, it will be checked by helicopter and examined for possible damage. In total, four of the damaged lines have meanwhile been repaired.

Although there may not have been comparable damage elsewhere and impairments occurred primarily at distribution system level, the storm was generally a major challenge for the affected TSOs, since it gave a powerful boost to electricity generation from wind power. However, the power input was not consistent and wind turbines were shut down when gusts were too strong. At its peak, around 43.7GW of wind power was fed into the grid in Germany, as the Fraunhofer ISE energy charts show, exceeding the previous record of around 43.4GW. According to calculations by the Agora Energiewende think tank, more than three quarters of the electricity consumed in Germany between Sunday noon and Monday noon came from renewable energies.

The International Economic Forum for Renewable Energies (Internationales Wirtschaftsforum Regenerative Energien – IWR) registered a Europe-wide record feed on Sunday evening, when more than 105GW of energy output from wind were recorded in the European power grid. This highest European measurement in 2020 was even surpassed on Monday morning with the all-time record of 109GW.

From Sunday to Tuesday morning, a powerful winter storm caused several damages in the grid of Swissgrid and led to record feed-in of wind energy in Europe

Linkup
> See Swissgrid media release, in German (html)
> Visit Energy Charts Website (html)
> Visit IWR Wind Metering Portal, in German (html)

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Swissgrid adjusts export capacities to Germany

03.09.2019

All participants in the integrated European electricity market have agreed on common definitions of the transmission capacity for international electricity exchanges, including the Net Transfer Capacity (NTC). The NTC is an important basis to anticipate and plan cross-border transactions. Thus, the establishment of NTCs is one of the essential tasks of the transmission system operators (TSOs) to enable market participants to carry out energy trading without jeopardising grid stability. TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss TSO, along with the neighbouring TSOs, determines the NTC values on all four Swiss borders on an annual, monthly and daily basis.

In the summer of 2019, Swissgrid had to reduce the NTC on the national northern border to Germany to ensure reliable grid operation. Originally, a static NTC value of 4,000 MW for exports from Switzerland to Germany had been defined with the neighbouring German TSOs. However, the load flows between the two countries have changed in the last two years. Situations in which Germany is dependent on imports, especially from Switzerland, occurred increasingly in the summer months. As a result, the previously typical north-south flow towards Italy reversed to a south-north flow towards Germany.

Other simultaneous factors also affected the Swiss grid load, such as the high level of Swiss hydropower production, the inspection times of the Swiss nuclear power plants and the seasonal decommissioning and construction work on the grid. In combination with the growth in exports to Germany, this led to significantly higher load flows in the Swiss 220kV grid, which were additionally reinforced by increased export opportunities from France to Germany through Flow-Based Market Coupling (FMBC) in the Central Western Europe (CWE) region and transit through Switzerland.

In fact, exports of up to 8,000MW were recorded on several days this summer. For this reason, Swissgrid, together with its neighbouring TSOs, has limited the NTC values for a secure grid operation. Swissgrid continues to cooperate closely with these TSOs to optimise cross-border capacity. The current static value of 4,000MW is expected to be substituted by seasonally adjusted dynamic NTC values. However, due to the implementation of the “Clean Energy for All Europeans Package” (CEP) of the European Commission, it is not yet possible to predict exactly how the NTC values at Switzerland’s northern border will develop.

Swissgrid adjusts the NTC values for electricity flows at the Swiss-German border

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> See Swissgrid news release (html)

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Completion of repairs at Albula Pass

30.07.2019

In mid-April, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), began repairing the 380kV lines on the Albula Pass in the canton of Grisons, which had been damaged by the windstorm Adrian (Vaia in the German-speaking area), in the night of 29 to 30 October 2018. Since then, the two affected lines (Filisur-Robbia and Pradella-Robbia-Sils) were out of service, as Swissgrid decided for safety reasons not to erect a temporary connection in winter due to the danger of avalanches. The four damaged pylons and the conductors have now been replaced. On 29 July 2019, the lines were put back in operation as scheduled.

During the outage of the lines, grid security in the transmission system was always guaranteed and there were no supply interruptions. But the importance of the line as a north-south link made the repair particularly urgent. Thanks to partial snow clearance by the Civil Engineering Office of Grisons and a temporary avalanche protection system, Swissgrid was able to start work even before the official opening of the Albulapass road. Thus, Swissgrid was already able to start work on the four pylons on 15 April. The old foundations were removed, and new ones laid. The pylons were then built, and the conductors installed. The new pylons withstand even greater wind forces due to their stronger foundations and supporting structures. Two pylons now also have foundations with integrated avalanche protection.

Strict safety regulations were followed during the work. The high alpine terrain and the unpredictable weather of the snowy winter of 2018/19 presented the repair team with major challenges. The local avalanche commission issued an avalanche bulletin every day and activities were planned based on this information. The specialists on the construction sites were equipped with avalanche detectors and a container would have provided 48 hours of protection in an emergency. The work was accident-free. The Swiss TSO also developed and implemented a comprehensive environmental plan to protect the high alpine landscape. For example, the soil layers were removed and stored separately and returned to their original place after completion of the foundation work. The original state of the surroundings was then restored as far as possible.

Swissgrid has finished repair work on the damaged overhead lines at the Albula Pass (picture: Swissgrid)

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> See Swissgrid media release (html)
> Watch the Swissgrid video on the repairs (YouTube)

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Consultation on risk preparedness regulation

09.07.2019

The European Parliament adopted the “Clean Energy for All Europeans Package” (CEP) on 26 March 2019, which was then formally approved by the relevant EU ministers. On 4 July, the CEP finally came into force, introducing new laws on EU electricity trading, including the “Regulation 2019/941 on risk-preparedness in the electricity sector”. This Regulation requires the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) to develop the methodology to identify regional scenarios for electricity crises within six months of its implementation.

ENTSO-E has now prepared proposals for the “Methodology for identification of electricity crisis scenarios at a regional level” and the “Methodology for short term and seasonal adequacy assessment”. In order to receive input from stakeholders, ENTSO-E has launched a public consultation on these methodology propositions. The consultation is open until 8 October 2019 and ENTSO-E will also host a webinar on the risk preparedness methodologies on 5 September from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

ENTSO-E opens consultation on EU Risk Preparedness Regulation

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> See ENTSO-E press release (html)
> Direct access to ENTSO-E consultation (html)
> Open webinar registration site (html)
> See EU Regulation at EUR-Lex (html)

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Amprion presents CWE market report

03.06.2019

Amprion, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), has published its market report for the period 2015 to 2018. In this comprehensive document, the TSCNET shareholder investigates the development of the electricity market in the Central Western Europe (CWE) region using data from Flow-Based Market Coupling (FBMC). The CWE countries (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) implemented FBMC in May 2015, which allows TSOs to allocate cross-border capacity and maximise market efficiency without compromising grid stability. This is due to the inclusion of the entire regional network in the coupling of electricity markets.

The control area of Amprion is a central hub for cross-border electricity trading in the CWE region. With its transmission capacities, the TSO can export up to eight GW of electricity at peak times and thus generate more than half of Germany’s total export performance. Transmission via the Amprion grid thus also supports security of supply in neighbouring countries, especially in critical situations such as winter 2016/2017.

Amprion’s analysis shows that the integration of the CWE markets is already well advanced and continues to progress. At the same time, the growing difference between positive and negative price peaks on the electricity exchanges also highlights the challenge of the highly volatile supply of renewable energies. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Brick, Chief Commercial Officer and CFO of Amprion, comments: “The mutual dependency in Europe on system security will continue to rise. We are therefore doing everything physically possible to connect the national markets and networks even better.”

Amprion has published a comprehensive market report for the CWE region

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> See Amprion press release (html)
> Open Amprion market report (pdf, 3,43MB)

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