“The pan-European market demands flexibility and efficiency”

17.07.2020

The current virus pandemic reminds some people in the energy sector of the 2006 incident, when a rather routine but postponed switch-off of a single power line led to a Europe-wide chain reaction due to misjudgements and lack of communication between energy suppliers and transmission system operators (TSOs). The resulting failure of further lines and under- and over-frequencies affected large parts of Europe and ten million people were without electricity for up to one and a half hours. The Union for the Coordination of Transmission of Electricity (UCTE), the predecessor organisation of the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E), described the incident as one of the most serious failures ever to occur in Europe.

According to Klaus Lucas, Professor Emeritus at RWTH Aachen University and Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, the 2006 blackout was “the prime example of a systemic risk. Like a virus epidemic, a random harmful event can spread in a complex system and, in unpredictable ways, paralyse structures that were actually believed to be stable”. Mr Lucas expressed this view to Zweitausend50, the magazine of the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft – BDEW), a business organisation representing over 1800 companies from the energy and water industry. And since the establishment of the Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs) was a reaction of the European Commission to the 2006 incident, it is plausible that Zweitausend50 also made contact with TSCNET Services and had an interview with Uwe Zimmermann, one of the two Managing Directors of the Munich-based RSC, on this issue.

Europe’s highly meshed power transmission system is one of the most complex critical infrastructures in the world and the more intensive the interconnectedness, the more susceptible the network is to unwanted domino or feedback effects. The strain on the system has recently been further increased by the volatile generation capacities of renewable energy sources. The role of RSCs has thus become all the more important. The five European RSCs forecast the capacity utilisation of power lines based on expected electricity generation and consumption for the following day and determine the extent to which individual lines may be overloaded. In this way, the RSCs identify potential risks in the system, evaluate them continuously and counteract possible bottlenecks and power failures. They do this in support of the respective TSOs within their area of responsibility, in the case of TSCNET Services this is central and eastern Europe.

Uwe Zimmermann compares this function with a navigation system: “Basically, we continuously monitor traffic – i.e. the operational status of the grids, current capacities, consumption and market data – and proactively determine at which points a congestion could occur. Whenever we forecast such a congestion, we provide timely recommendations in coordination with the TSOs on how the traffic can be redirected – like an alternative route.” Zimmermann emphasises, however, that the responsibility for implementing these recommendations remains with the TSOs.

In view of the progressing energy transition in the course of which the number and volatility of generators is increasing and the transmission distances for electricity are becoming ever larger, Uwe Zimmermann does not deny the challenges for RSCs: “As a result, our lead times could become increasingly shorter and this would make it more and more challenging to predict the following day and take timely action.” Nevertheless, the TSCNET managing director remains confident about the performance of the RSCs: “Fortunately, however, we can respond to this. We are getting ready to accelerate our process cycles more and more and to process ever larger amounts of data to continue to ensure reliable forecasts.”

TSCNET Managing Director Uwe Zimmermann is confident that RSCs will continue to provide reliable support to TSOs and guarantee system security

Linkup
> Open BDEW Zweitausend50 webpage, in German (html)

See article on single page

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)

See article on single page

“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)

See article on single page

“Tremendous potential in self-learning systems”

26.03.2019

The “ZfK”, short for “Zeitung für kommunale Wirtschaft”, stands for the leading medium for municipal utilities as well as supply and disposal companies in Germany. One of the editors, Stephanie Gust, conducted an interview with Maik Neubauer, one of the two managing directors of TSCNET Services, which has now been published with the latest issue under the rubric “Nachgefragt” (“Enquired”).

In addition to the company’s role and tasks in the operation of the European electricity transmission grid, the talk also focuses on the potential of so-called Artificial Intelligence (AI). “At present, AI does not play a major role with us,” Neubauer regrets. Although the Munich-based Regional Security Coordinator (RSC) “works with very complex algorithms and mathematical models to calculate network bottlenecks or available capacities”, but “these systems are not yet self-learning” and do not yet issue reliable forecasts based on empirical values. “Here I see a very high potential for risk analysis in the future – both at the transmission grid level and in the distribution grids,” explains Neubauer. Due to the courtesy of the publishing house, we can offer the entire text (in German) here.

Maik Neubauer interviewed by “ZfK”, the German trade journal on municipal economy

Linkup
> Open “ZfK” interview, in German (pdf, 216kb), with kind courtesy of VKU Verlag GmbH, Munich
> Visit “ZfK” webpage (html)

See article on single page

“RiffReporter” story: The more precise the forecast, the less intervention is required

11.12.2018

A detailed article by freelance journalist Daniela Becker on the German reportage website RiffReporter, an innovative and award-winning project for “quality journalism on future topics”, presents TSCNET Services and the work of a Regional Security Coordinator (RSC) for the European power transmission grid. The article is based on thorough research and a talk with the two TSCNET managing directors, Maik Neubauer and Uwe Zimmermann. Besides the development of the company, the possible consequences of the EU package “Clean Energy for All Europeans” are also discussed.

An article on TSCNET Services has been issued on the reportage platform RiffReporter (picture: TSCNET Services / Quirin Leppert)

Linkup
> Read RiffReporter article, in German (html)

See article on single page

“Mastering the energy transition on a pan-European basis”

19.11.2018

The “THEMEN:magazin” is a German-language medium that reports every two months “on the challenges, opportunities and perspectives of the economy with a focus on energy policy”. In the latest issue (5/2018), readers will also find an interview with Maik Neubauer, one of the two managing directors of TSCNET Services. It followed the Conference on Electricity Security Coordination (ElSeC) 2018 in Brussels, the #PowerCoordinationEurope.

The hot and dry summer of 2018 was a good example of extreme weather conditions that required top performance from transmission system operators, explains Neubauer. Wherever lines fail or threaten to fail, countermeasures must be taken immediately during operation. The interaction between transmission and distribution networks must also function smoothly. TSCNET Services supports these complex processes as a Regional Security Coordinator (RSC).

At the centre is a range of services relating to grid congestion management for transmission system operators (TSOs) to ensure a high level of grid security in Europe against the background of the rapidly growing share of renewable energies within the energy mix. Especially the high generation volatility of PV and wind farms leads to significantly higher demands on the monitoring and management of the European transmission grids.

TSCNET can at any time take advantage of a huge amount of data from almost all European network operators to calculate the network situation in the next hours and days and to identify possible congestions. “We thus act as an early warning system for the identification of potential dangers in the network, continuously evaluate these with our TSO partners and can thus counteract potential blackout situations in Europe in a concerted manner,” summarises Neubauer.

In general, the European high-voltage grid is technically very stable and resilient, but often the limits are reached in the meantime, also because of the slow expansion of the grid. In the coming years, too, secure network operation is still only conceivable with considerable redispatch measures. The electricity from German offshore wind farms in the North or Baltic Seas does not stop at the border. The so-called ‘Clean Energy Package’ also changes the framework conditions throughout Europe. The energy transition is not a German project, but must be mastered on a pan-European basis.

In its current issue, the German-language “THEMEN:magazin” features a detailed interview with Maik Neubauer on TSCNET Services being the “congestion messenger for Europe’s power highways”.

Linkup
> Open “THEMEN:magazin” interview (pdf, 275kb)
> “THEMEN:magazin” website (html)

Questions?
Christoph Meinersmann
TSCNET Services, Communications/PR (external consultant)
E-mail: c.meinersmann@extern-tscnet.eu

See article on single page

“E&M Powernews”: “Excellent overview of the grid”

27.07.2018

Largely unnoticed by the broad public, five European regional security coordinators (RSCs) are working on what is arguably the most important task for ensuring the security of electricity supply at continental level: a stable and secure transmission system. RSCs analyse critical grid situations from a regional perspective and advise their customers in order to avoid bottlenecks or even blackouts. One of them is TSCNET Services. A detailed background article published by “Energie & Management”, a renowned daily German print and online newspaper for the energy market, portrays the company and presents the special challenges that an RSC has to face every day.

For example, a critical situation occurred in the very cold January 2017. “Even though the redispatch coordination functioned well at that time, the emergence of grid bottlenecks has shown that in the course of the expansion of renewable energies in Europe, we need to identify critical conditions and developments even faster”, explains Maik Neubauer, one of the two managing directors of TSCNET Services. For this reason, TSCNET, in close cooperation with the partner TSOs, has established the “Critical Grid Situation Service” to facilitate communication between the RSC and the TSOs.

Close and seamless communication is crucial for TSCNET Services, because the RSC does not intervene in the transmission network itself, but gives recommendations for action. The final decision, however, lies with the responsible TSO, which can always rely on the validity of the information provided by TSCNET. To ensure this reliability, the specialists at TSCNET monitor the network flows in Central and Eastern Europe. This involves a lot of data: More or less 600,000 data series with a volume in the double-digit gigabyte range yield around 300 prognoses every single day – a “big data company with top advisory expertise”.

Still, the volume of data will continue to increase, especially in view of the implementation of the Common Grid Model (CGM) under the EU network codes. “Today, we still lack some data, especially about the situation at the interfaces to the distribution grids”, states Maik Neubauer. Once the individual grid models of the respective TSOs and the CGM have been established, the additional data also flows into the calculations of TSCNET. This will expand the RSC’s perspective and further optimise system operation. While critical situations affecting only two TSOs can be resolved bilaterally, it becomes more difficult, if several parties are involved. An incident in Poland, for instance, may well affect not only Germany but also the Czech Republic. In such a case, the central coordination provided by TSCNET is essential to anticipate problems or to calculate short-term effects.

Every day at 9:00 pm, TSCNET’s Daily Operational Planning Teleconference (DOPT) with the TSOs’ experts will be held to summarise system occurrences and to coordinate possible compensation measures for the next day. Though everyone involved is quite satisfied with this daily routine, the EU is also pursuing divergent plans. In the context of the European Commission’s “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package, the idea of Regional Operational Centres (ROCs) came into being, which would extend the role of current RSCs by giving them operational responsibility. The TSOs – who would have to hand over competences – are sceptical, and also Maik Neubauer has clear positions in this regard. He points out the complexity of the European power system and the valuable experience of national TSOs. Mr. Neubauer therefore prefers to further improve regional coordination and to leave the operational business to the TSOs: “A Europe-wide centralisation of grid control would be a mammoth project with many risks and unknowns.”

“Energie & Management”, the well-esteemed German trade magazin for the energy market, released an article on the Munich-based RSC TSCNET Services.

Linkup
> Visit “E&M Powernews” website, in German (html)
> See “E&M Powernews” article, in German (pay to read the article)

See article on single page

“ZfK”: “Big data for a stable grid situation”

13.06.2018

With fourteen transmission system operators (TSOs) from eleven Central and Eastern European countries as shareholders and four additional customers from four other countries, the surveillance area of the Munich-based regional security coordinator (RSC) TSCNET Services lies at the heart of the continent. TSCNET was originally set up as a joint TSO initiative to maintain the operational security of the electricity system. Today, TSCNET’s core responsibilities include coordinated network security analysis, capacity calculations, support in critical network situations, and aggregation of all relevant network data for the partner TSOs.

Despite their essential function within the integrated European transmission system, the work of the RSCs still is not well known to those who are not directly involved in the energy market. A comprehensive insight report published in Germany’s leading professional journal for the municipal energy economy, the “Zeitung für kommunale Wirtschaft” (ZfK), offers a great opportunity to improve TSCNET’s name recognition in this specific economic sector. A journalist from the prestigious press medium had a revealing talk with Maik Neubauer, one of the two Managing Directors of TSCNET Services.

The report is centred around TSCNET’s Daily Operational Planning Teleconference (DOPT) with the TSOs’ experts. In these conferences every day at 9 p.m., TSCNET’s risk analysis is presented every day and the catalogue of possible measures is discussed.

Mr Neubauer emphasises the outstanding role of the RSCs as an early warning system for grid security in the increasingly complex and rapidly changing transnational electricity system. He sees TSCNET well prepared for new tasks, as already now the “pan-European network security analysis is going to be strongly aligned with the other european RSCs”.

Power lines silhouetted with city night life. Picture: Voy Ager / Shutterstock, stock photo ID 631374623.

Linkup
> Open “ZfK” article, in German (pdf, 427kb)

See article on single page

“Tagesspiegel Background”: “Most valuable advice”

17.04.2018

Will there be large amounts of wind energy in the coastal regions? Where do bottlenecks might occur? And how should transmission system operators (TSOs) react in order to avoid critical network situations? ‒ Safety analysis and risk management for the pan-European transmission system based on large volumes of data is the core business of the European regional security coordinators (RSCs), one of which is the Munich-based TSCNET Services. Although there are many other tasks ‒ such as calculating generation capacity to keep the grid stable ‒ RSCs only monitor and evaluate the market and grid situation to advise their TSO shareholders, but do not operate the grid themselves.

Maik Neubauer, one of the two managing directors of TSCNET Services, took the opportunity to explain the business of the Munich-based RSC more detailed in a personal portrait and interview in the “Tagesspiegel Background Energy & Climate”, a daily market newsletter for decision-makers from the energy and climate sector. The “Background” is created by specialists from the renowned German daily newspaper “Tagesspiegel”. In addition, Mr Neubauer gives insights into his personal view of the digital and energy-specific future, his motivations and inspirations.

Recently, in the context of the European Commision’s “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package, there has been some discussion about the role of the RSCs and wether they should take over operational responsibility. Regarding this, Mr Neubauer represents clear positions: “In my view, Brussels underestimates how complex the European power grids are and how valuable the long experience of national TSOs is.” Hence, the TSCNET managing director welcomes the prevailing opinion that the RSCs will not have direct control of the network in the near future. Instead, TSCNET Services will streamline its evaluative and advisory functions. This includes grid stabilisation assistance after outages, training of TSO staff and active proposals for necessary compensation measures to improve cross-border coordination, increase safety and, ultimately, save costs.

> Open article and interview, in German (pdf, 126kb).

The article was published in the daily decision-maker newsletter “Tagesspiegel Background Energy & Climate” and is reissued with kind permission. The rights are held by the publishing house Der Tagesspiegel GmbH.

See article on single page

“An early warning system for grid security”

06.03.2018

The services and solutions offered by TSCNET Services are well known to transmission grid experts: The Munich-based Regional Security Coordinator (RSCs) helps European electricity transmission system operators (TSOs) to keep the grid stable. The German-language edition of “pv magazine”, a trade publication for the photovoltaic industry, could help further expand TSCNET’s level of awareness. Maik Neubauer, one of the two managing directors of TSCNET Services, explains in an interview the challenges posed by the expansion of renewable energies in Europe and why extreme weather conditions require special measures.

Neubauer explains, which services are actually offered and why these are becoming more and more important in the course of the energy transition. Predicting and avoiding congestions and threats within the power transmission system is TSCNET’s core business. For this purpose, large amounts of data from the TSOs are collected and analysed with specially developed tools. When potential hazard signals are identified, they are shared with the TSO partners and jointly evaluated together to ensure grid stability at all times. “We act as an early warning system in the normal operation of the networks, but also as a support system in exceptional situations,” says Neubauer.

While the general risk of blackout, according to Neubauer, is rather low, one must also take into account that the European transmission grid was not originally designed for the fast-growing and highly volatile feed-in of wind and solar energy that accompanies the energy transition. The systematic change in energy production increases the requirements for continuous grid monitoring and forecasting quality. Hence, the supervisory function of RSCs like TSCNET Services has already become essential for today’s energy system and will increasingly be in the future. An important project, for example, is to support the development of a new Common Grid Model (CGM). A fully redesigned data network will be set up in order to guarantee an absolutely secure and harmonised data exchange. “All our services will be based on this new data platform in the future,” says Neubauer.

> See “pv magazine” interview, in German (html)

See article on single page