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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Awards for ELES smart grid projects

30.07.2020

The International Smart Grids Action Network (ISGAN) is a technology cooperation programme on smart grids by the International Energy Agency (IEA). ISGAN provides a strategic platform to raise awareness and to stimulate action by high level governments for accelerated development and deployment of smart and clean electricity grids around the world. ISGAN initiatives include the annual ISGAN Award of Excellence in “Digitalization Enabling Consumer Empowerment”. On 28 July, the jury announced the winners of the 6th ISGAN Award, which focuses on digitisation at global level and for which nominations have been received from around the world. The first and second prizes were awarded to two projects in which TSCNET shareholder ELES, the Slovenian transmission system operator (TSO), is significantly involved.

The first place goes to the NEDO project, a Japanese-Slovenian initiative whose main partners, besides ELES, are the Japanese New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) and the multinational conglomerate Hitachi. The NEDO project introduces integrated and centrally managed cloud-based solutions to make better use of the existing network and provide customers with a higher quality electricity supply and the opportunity to actively participate in electricity markets and systemic services. ELES decided at the end of 2015 to participate in the project, whose main responsible partner, the namesake agency NEDO, received the award on behalf of the consortium.

The award for FutureFlow, which took second place, was received by ELES itself. The international project was conceived by ELES experts and involves twelve partners from eight European countries. The project implements innovative e-trading solutions for smart cross-border balancing and redispatching in the control areas of four central and southern European TSOs, which are all shareholders of TSCNET. Besides the project leader ELES, the other TSO participants are APG from Austria, MAVIR from Hungary, and Transelectrica from Romania. FutureFlow was launched in 2016 and successfully concluded in December 2019. Pilot tests in real time have proven that also small businesses and power generation units can be a reliable source of flexibility to maintain the balance in the electricity system. The project was funded by the EU under the Horizon 2020 programme, in fact, it was the largest research project financed under Horizon 2020.

The ISGAN Award 2020 is exceptional in that it is the first time that one company receives two awards. After the announcement, the CEO of ELES, Aleksander Mervar, commented that with these two awards, ELES has obtained great international recognition for its activities in the field of innovation and development of smart networks. Mr Mervar complimented the partners in both consortia. By dedicating the two awards to all those who participated in both projects, he acknowledged their outstanding performance.

ELES received two ISGAN Awards 2020 for the smart grid initiatives FutureFlow and NEDO Project (picture: ELES)

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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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Renewables surpass fossil fuels

27.07.2020

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

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

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

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

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Worldwide unique equipment for TransnetBW substation

18.07.2020

European transmission system operators (TSOs) respond to the increasing need for grid regulation – resulting from the growing share of volatile renewable energies and the proceeding shutdown of conventional power plants – with reactive power compensation measures, such as the installation of shunt reactors. Shunt reactors are absorbers of reactive power and support security of supply and system management by keeping the grid voltage within the specified range, especially during low load periods. They thus stabilise the power grids and increase the energy efficiency of the transmission system.

In the Stuttgart-Mühlhausen substation, TransnetBW, one of the four German TSOs, has commissioned a variable shunt reactor for reactive power compensation developed especially for the TSCNET shareholder. Up to now in the TransnetBW control area, shunt reactors have only been used in the 110kV grid. Compared to customary reactors, the new system provides a much more precise control of the grid voltage. The 360-tonne reactor has a control bandwidth of 50-250MVAr in 33 stages and a permanently permissible system voltage of 440kV. With these specifications, the Mühlhausen shunt reactor is not only a novelty for TransnetBW, but for the entire energy sector.

TransnetBW has commissioned a state-of-the-art shunt reactor in the Stuttgart-Mühlhausen substation (symbolic picture: Siemens)

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“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

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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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RSC Conference 2020: A focus on digital cooperation

15.07.2020

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

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

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

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

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