Excellent supply reliability in Germany thanks to TSO efforts


Given the increasing requirements for the transmission grids in the new energy landscape, a high degree of security of electricity supply can only be maintained with considerable effort on the part of the transmission system operators (TSOs) – in Germany and everywhere else. The four German TSOs and TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW are as aware of this just as their European colleagues. What they also recognise is that grid extension enhances security of supply, reduces the need for TSO interventions and thus also the costs for congestion management, mainly caused by redispatch. This is also confirmed by independent sources, in this case, the statistics on German supply security in 2019 by the Forum Network Technology / Network Operation (FNN) within the German Association for Electrical Engineering, Electronics, and Information Technology (VDE – Verband der Elektrotechnik, Elektronik und Informationstechnik) – one of Europe’s largest technical-scientific associations with corporate and institutional members.

According to VDE FNN, the power supply in Germany has not only become more sustainable and climate-friendly but has also remained exceptionally reliable – thanks above all to the round-the-clock commitment of the grid operators. The new 2019 disruption and availability statistics prove that the high expenditure in grid operation is successful: Calculated over the entire country, an electricity customer was without electricity for only 12.0 minutes on average in 2019 (2018: 13.3 minutes). This means that every household was supplied with more than 99.997%. To achieve this, TSOs make an enormous effort. They operate the grids within the permissible limits of frequency, voltage, and load although operational requirements are growing due to the energy transition and, among other things, the resulting need to transmit electricity over long distances. Since grid expansion is not progressing as fast as the growth in renewables, grid bottlenecks are increasingly emerging, which the TSOs must resolve.

The effectiveness of grid expansion in Germany is particularly evident from one example in the VDE FNN statistics: The completion of the “Südwest-Kuppelleitung” (aka “Thuringian Power Bridge”) on all three sections in the 50Hertz control area in September 2017 has led to a significant reduction in TSO measures since 2018 and consequently to lower costs for redispatch and compensation – a fact that 50Hertz itself has clearly pointed out in 2019.

The Forum Network Technology / Network Operation has published its disruption and availability statistics (picture of the “Südwest-Kuppelleitung”: 50Hertz)

> See VDE press release, in German (html)
> See VDE FNN statistics page, in German

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50Hertz plans to invest some €3.4bn


Northeast Germany – and thus the control area of TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs) – continues to be a pioneer in the integration of renewable energies in Central Europe. For the second year in a row, renewables accounted for more than half of electricity consumption, and once more a new record was set with a regenerative share of 56.5% (2017: 53.4%). The installed capacity of renewables rose to 32.9GW, which is why Boris Schucht, CEO of 50Hertz, had every reason to express his contentment with this development during the 50Hertz balance sheet press conference on 26 February 2019 in the German capital of Berlin: “We are proud that with this record share of renewables, we can contribute to a successful energy transition.” Since this share will increase continuously in the 50Hertz control area, the federal growth target of 65% for 2030 can be achieved as early as 2021.

At the same time, the costs for congestion management, mainly caused by redispatch, fell significantly last year, by an impressive €100m to around €105m. This is due in particular to the effect of the extra-high voltage line “Südwest-Kuppelleitung” (aka “Thuringian Power Bridge”) and two now fully operational phase-shifting transformers (PSTs) on the borders with Poland and the Czech Republic respectively. But also in the future, the expansion of the transmission infrastructure must keep pace with that of the renewables. 50Hertz is taking this into account with exceptionally high investments in the transformation of the energy system. These are facilitated by the TSO’s excellent operating results. Over the past five years, 50Hertz has already invested over €3bn in the grid (€492m in 2018). By 2023, 50Hertz plans to spend a further €3.4bn (€420m in 2019).

Among the outstanding infrastructure projects are the “Ostwind 1” offshore connection, which has been in trial operation since last year, and the “Combined Grid Solution”, a Danish-German interconnector in the Baltic Sea that links the German “Baltic 2” wind farm with the Danish “Kriegers Flak” farm and will be connected to the grid in 2019. The supra-regional DC project “SuedOstLink” is making significant progress, too, as the federal sector planning is underway and the European tender for the underground cables has been launched. 50Hertz CTO Dr. Frank Golletz, who will take over the function of Boris Schucht as interim CEO from 1 March 2019, announced the continuation of the TSO’s ambitious investment program. Golletz also pointed out that the political and regulatory framework must be optimised and made innovation-friendly to realise the energy transition.

50Hertz presents excellent results for 2018 and announces further sustainable investments in its transmission grid (illustration using pictures of 50Hertz)

> See 50Hertz press release (html)
> Open press conference presentation, in German (pdf, 4.09MB)

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“Siglinde” brings record feed-in


This week, the windstorm “Siglinde” has not only put the north of Germany to the test, but has also brought TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), a record feed-in of wind power as well as important insights. For the first time, 50Hertz has integrated more than 15,000MW of wind power securely into the grid, 15,382MW to be precise. This new record is roughly equivalent to the output of 15 large conventional power plant units.

However, this welcome development is accompanied by a downer: The transmission system under the responsibility of 50Hertz is reaching its limits and during the “Siglinde” storm, the TSO had to resort to redispatch measures and at times had more than 3,000MW of power output throttled and simultaneously increased in other grid areas. “We are now reaching dimensions that take network control with its current means to its limits,” explains Dr. Dirk Biermann, Chief Markets & System Operations Officer at 50Hertz.

Without the “Südwest-Kuppelleitung”, a 380kV line from the German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt via Thuringia to Bavaria (also known as “Thuringian Power Bridge”), which went into full operation in September 2017, the demand for redispatch would have been higher. Dr. Biermann comments: “Despite this additional transmission capacity and the massive interventions, all our lines to the south of Germany were operating at very high capacity.” This clearly illustrates that grid extension continues to lag behind the expansion of renewable energies. “We need additional instruments for safe system operation ‒ both in the grid as well as in the market,” appeals Dr. Biermann.

The windstorm “Siglinde” reveals the need to further increase transmission capacity in Germany

> See 50Hertz press release, in German (html)

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Germany wants to speed up grid expansion


Germany’s electricity transmission system operators (TSOs) repeat it like in prayer mills: If the energy transition in Germany is to succeed, the extension of the supraregional transmission system must keep pace with the expansion of renewable energy generation. This is mainly due to the special conditions in Germany, where the major renewable generation sites lie in the north of the country and thus far from the main consumption centres in the south and southwest. To ensure security of supply for the future, electricity must be transported reliably from north to south. This requires efficient power lines, such as the well-known line projects “A-Nord”, “SuedLink”, “SuedOstLink”, and “Ultranet”, or the “Südwest-Kuppelleitung”, which was completed in 2017.

Unfortunately, the expansion is lagging behind the set goals. The Power Line Expansion Act (EnLAG), which came into force in 2009, provides that by 2015 the transmission grid should have been extended by around 1,800km. Three years later, not even half of the total length has been realised: Of the 1,800km of power lines under EnLAG, around 1,150km have been approved and only about 800km have been completed. The German TSOs expect about 70 percent of EnLAG line kilometres to be completed by the end of 2020. There are many reasons for the delay, such as lack of political support, long approval procedures, complaints from citizens, or environmental issues. Already at the beginning of last year, the four German TSOs, 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT, and TransnetBW, submitted revised network development plans to the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), the competent German authority in terms of grid extension.

Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, has now expressed the political goal of significantly accelerating grid extension in order to guarantee a secure and affordable energy transition. The Minister took a visit to the Bundesnetzagentur on 14 August as an opportunity to declare the grid extension a top priority and to present the Ministry’s “Aktionsplan Stromnetz” (“Power Grid Action Plan”). Mr Altmaier added: “For a successful energy transition we need a modern and well-developed transmission system as well as the expansion of renewable energies. The power grids are the cardiovascular system of our power supply. This must function reliably from the wind turbine in the North Sea to the charging station in Bavaria.”

With his action plan, Altmaier is pursuing a double strategy: On the one hand, existing lines are to be optimised with the help of new technologies and operating concepts: e.g. line monitoring, new conductor cables, phase shifters, controllable transformers, or improved redispatching. Also the digitisation should help to enhance the grid capacity. On the other hand, the grid extension is to be accelerated. For this purpose, the so-called “Netzausbaubeschleunigungsgesetz” (“Grid Extension Acceleration Law”) is to be amended in autumn to facilitate approval procedures. In addition, effective and forward-looking controlling should be established for all grid projects.

According to a press release, TSCNET shareholder Amprion welcomes the efforts. “To speed up network expansion, we need a common understanding from Berlin to the local city halls,” said Dr. Hans-Jürgen Brick, Chief Commercial Officer of Amprion. “This is the only way we can solve the complex challenges of the projects.” Moreover, no fundamental new laws were needed to accelerate network expansion, but less bureaucracy. If the approval processes were made more efficient, more time would remain to develop the best possible solutions for new routes in dialogue with the citizens.

When designing the network expansion, Amprion focused on innovations – both in transmission and construction technologies as well as in system management. Nevertheless, not all the wishes of residents and interest groups could be fulfilled – for example, where physics or laws set limits. “We need demand-driven grid expansion in order to continue to operate the energy system in a stable manner in the future. At the same time, we are exploiting all possibilities to make our network even more flexible and efficient,” said Dr. Klaus Kleinekorte, Chief Technical Officer of Amprion.

Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, presents a Power Grid Action Plan (illustration using a photo © German Federal Government / Kugler)

> Open Power Grid Action Plan, in German (pdf, 1.47MB)
> See Amprion press release, in German (html)

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50Hertz presents new feed-in record


TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), has held its press briefing on the annual results of 2017. In addition to continued positive business development, 50Hertz could also report that northeastern Germany, which is virtually synonymous with the 50Hertz control area, continues to be a pioneer in the integration of the renewables: Last year, for the first time more than half (53.4%) of the electricity consumed in this control area came from regenerative sources.

In order to maintain its pioneering status, 50Hertz invested €460m in grid expansion: €246m in offshore connection projects in the Baltic Sea, and €214m in substations and onshore lines. The costs for redispatching measures decreased significantly, mainly due to the complete commissioning of the extra-high voltage line “Südwest-Kuppelleitung” (aka “Thuringian Power Bridge”). Boris Schucht, CEO of 50Hertz, explains: “By 8 March 2018, 50Hertz was able to save €306m in congestion management costs through the ‘Südwest-Kuppelleitung’.”

Though grid extension thus has proven to pay off, extension measures alone are not sufficient to succeed with the energy transition. “We require innovative technical approaches and need to think about higher network utilisation,” comments Mr Schucht. Early involvement of the affected public is also essential, since acceptance is “the basic condition for grid expansion”.

> See 50Hertz press release, in German (html)
> Open balance sheet presentation, in German (pdf, 2.1mb)

Picture: Jan Pauls / 50Hertz

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German south-west interconnector in operation


After more than ten years of planning, approval and construction time, the extra-high voltage line “Südwest-Kuppelleitung” (aka “Thuringian Power Bridge”) leading from the German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt via Thuringia to Bavaria has finally been put into complete operation. The 380kV line project – conducted predominantly by TSC member 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs) – is of the highest importance for the energy sector in Germany, since the new interconnector increases transmission capacities significantly.

The first electrical circuit of the interconnector had already been put into operation in December 2015. The commissioning of the second circuit followed on 14 September 2017, when Dr. Reiner Haselhoff, prime minister of Saxony-Anhalt, gave the official activation command in the headquarters of 50Hertz in Berlin. The completed “Südwest-Kuppelleitung” has a total length of nearly 200 kilometres and provides a transmission capacity of about 5,000MW. 50Hertz invested round about €320m in the line which is awarded by the EU as Project of Common Interest.

The transport of sustainable energy from the north of the country to the consumption centres in the west and south is a primary task for the German TSOs in order to accomplish the self-imposed goals of the energy transition. In this regard, the completion of the “Südwest-Kuppelleitung” can hardly be overestimated. Boris Schucht, CEO of 50Hertz, commented on the commissioning: “With this line, the integration of electricity generated from renewable sources in the north-east of Germany is improving considerably.” In addition, higher transmission capacities also reduce costs for redispatch measures. ” The line will also help ensuring that the costs for congestion management can be kept stable despite further increase of the renewables”, explained Mr Schucht.

> See 50Hertz press release (html)

Picture: 50Hertz


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