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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Contracts for 525kV SuedLink cables

29.06.2020

SuedLink is evolving in major steps this year. The DC line – realised jointly by the two TSCNET shareholders TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), and TransnetBW, the TSO from southwest Germany – is the largest and probably most important single project of the energy transition in Germany. With around 700 kilometres of underground cable to be laid and an investment of around €10bn, SuedLink will connect the windy regions of northern Germany with the centres of consumption in the industrially highly developed south and west. In February 2020, the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) initiated the plan approval procedure for the first SuedLink sections, in May the orders for the regional planning offices were placed and now TenneT and TransnetBW have awarded the contracts for the plastic-insulated 525kV underground cables – in parallel with the ongoing approval procedures.

NKT and Prysmian PowerLink have eventually been selected as providers for the SuedLink cables, with a total order value of approximately €2bn. The contract comprises design, manufacture, supply, laying of the underground cables, further installation work, and the final high-voltage testing of the cable system. Both companies have demonstrated their expertise in numerous international connection projects on and offshore, and both have proven the quality of their cables in extensive prequalification tests with several cable manufacturers in a multi-year test phase. They were also commissioned for the German affiliate project, SuedostLink, by the two TSOs 50Hertz and TenneT.

TenneT and TransnetBW chose plastic-insulated underground DC cables with a voltage level of 525kV because they transmit more power compared to a 320kV solution and only require half as many cables. Less transmission loss and less civil engineering work translate into both, financial benefits for the TSOs and minimal environmental impact. TenneT Managing Director Tim Meyerjürgens comments: “In the future, SuedLink will form the backbone of the energy transition in Germany. With the commissioning of the DC ground cables, we are now moving from the planning stage to the realisation of this important power link.” Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board, adds: “We are very happy to be able to apply this innovative and environmentally benign technology for SuedLink.”

TenneT and TransnetBW awarded the contracts for the 525kV DC underground cables for the SuedLink power highway (picture: TenneT)

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> See TenneT press release (html)
> See TenneT press release, in German (html)
> See TransnetBW press release (html)
> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

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SuedLink: Regional planning offices take up work

10.06.2020

With around 700 kilometres of underground cables to be laid and around €10b to be invested, the SuedLink 525kV line is the largest and probably the most important individual project of the energy transition in Germany. By connecting the windy regions of northern Germany with the consumption centres in the industrially highly developed south and west, “power highways” such as SuedLink are indispensable for achieving Germany’s and Europe’s climate goals. SuedLink is realised jointly by the two TSCNET shareholders TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), and TransnetBW, the TSO from southwest Germany.

SuedLink has just taken the next big step: After the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) initiated the plan approval procedure for the first sections in February 2020, the two TSOs have now awarded the contracts for the regional planning offices, which are responsible for the detailed planning of the underground DC connection. These offices, some of which have already been involved in the previous SuedLink planning, take care of all operational tasks – initially in the context of the approval procedure, and later also in the supervision of construction. This includes, among other things, route mapping, construction logistics, environmental planning, and awarding of contracts for civil engineering work. On special topics such as soil investigations, they cooperate with local companies.

The overall project was divided into nine planning sections for the award of contracts. After an extensive bidding competition, a total of four companies were awarded the contract for the three northern sections under the responsibility of TenneT and the six southern sections under the responsibility of TransnetBW. TenneT Managing Director Tim Meyerjürgens explains: “The offices are now preparing the detailed planning for the routing and are taking a very close look at the conditions on site.” This will help the TSOs to accurately develop appropriate routing proposals. Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board, adds that, due to their local presence, the offices can optimally consider the regional conditions for the detailed planning. “They are intended to discuss the proposals together with the project developers in a close dialogue with the owners and land managers concerned and to review their advice when preparing the approval documents.”

TenneT and TransnetBW awarded the contracts for regional planning offices for the SuedLink power highway (picture: TenneT)

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> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

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525kV technology for Germany’s “power highways”

04.12.2019

SuedLink, SuedOstLink and A-Nord are large-scale DC connection projects that are essential for Germany’s low-carbon energy future, since these so-called “Stromautobahnen” (power highways) will transport green electricity generated in the north and east of the country to the consumption centres in the south and west. The three power lines will be implemented predominantly via underground cabling and are collaborative efforts of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs). TenneT and TransnetBW cooperate on SuedLink, 50Hertz and TenneT join forces on SuedOstLink and A-Nord is carried out by Amprion. Together with Ultranet, a joint project with TransnetBW, A-Nord forms the Korridor A.

The four TSCNET shareholders intend to install innovative plastic-insulated DC cables with a voltage level of 525kV in these projects. So far, 320kV cables have been used for comparable DC connections in Germany. As a matter of fact, it will be the first use of 525kV underground cables worldwide, which underlines the pilot character of the three high-performance connections. The decision by the TSOs was preceded by an extensive test phase on the technical suitability of the 525kV cables. The pre-qualification tests according to international standards of the Council on Large Electric Systems (CIGRE) were successful and proved that the 525kV cables are reliable and safe.

A higher voltage level of the cables translates into more transmission capacity. This has two possible effects for the planned DC lines, assuming technical feasibility for the entire system: On the one hand, more electricity can be transmitted in a certain corridor with the same number of cables. On the other hand, fewer cables are required to transmit the same power compared to 320kV cable systems. This allows the routing to be designed narrower, which reduces excavation work and environmental impact.

The four German TSOs opt for innovative 525kV solution for power highways with underground cabling (picture: TenneT)

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

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Central project management and office for SuedLink

24.09.2019

The SuedLink extra-high voltage line is not only the most important individual project of the energy transition in Germany, but also the largest underground cable project in the world: Around 700 kilometers of cable will be laid and around ten billion euros invested. By connecting the windy regions of northern Germany with the consumption centres in the industrially highly developed south, “power highways” such as SuedLink are indispensable for achieving Germany’s and Europe’s climate goals. SuedLink is implemented jointly by the two TSCNET shareholders TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), and TransnetBW, the TSO from southwest Germany.

In order to efficiently advance the further approval procedure and the subsequent construction of SuedLink, the two TSOs have commissioned the international technical service company Jacobs as central service provider. The aim is to coordinate and control the various tasks such as planning, approval, obtaining easements and construction under one roof. This makes SuedLink the first major project in Germany in which an external central service provider is involved. TenneT Managing Director Tim Meyerjürgens explains why the two partners decided on a model that has proven itself many times in such large-scale projects on the international market: “The schedule for implementation is challenging. At the same time, the expectations of politics and the public continue to rise. For this very reason, controlling and coordination play such an important role.”

The commissioning of Jacobs is accompanied by the opening of the central SüdLink office in Würzburg, Lower Franconia. Together with the central service provider, TransnetBW and TenneT will initially create 130 jobs there, the number of which will rise to 250 in the course of the project. To better incorporate regional knowledge into the planning process, further decentralised project offices are to follow along the route. Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board, comments on the development: “By commissioning a central service provider and setting up a joint project facility in Würzburg, we have laid the foundations for the successful implementation of this major project.” The staff in Würzburg will include engineers, archaeologists, landscape planners, biologists, geologists, and project managers, all joining forces for Europe’s energy future.

TenneT and TransnetBW commission a central service provider for the implementation of SuedLink (picture: TenneT / Katja Schubert)

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> See TenneT press release, in German (html)
> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)
> See TransnetBW press release on the office opening, in German (html)

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Record-setting offshore connection

09.04.2019

The IJmuiden Ver offshore wind farm project in the Dutch sector of the North Sea will be equipped with two onshore connections from 2024 to 2030. TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), has announced to link the 6.1GW of the new offshore wind farms to the Dutch high-voltage grid via two 525kV DC cables with a capacity of 2GW – this will be the highest in the world. As a result of the increased capacity, only two instead of six cables will be required, resulting in lower costs, as well as less space requirements and environmental impact.

A total of four converter stations are required for the DC transmission, which prevents transport losses: two offshore converter platforms for converting the wind-generated AC into DC and two onshore converters for the reconversion. The 2GW connections are possible due to TenneT’s unique experience with HVDC grid connections in Germany, where TenneT will connect offshore wind farms with DC technology on a large scale. The TSO also uses the 525kV high voltage level for NordLink, the new international connection between Germany and Norway, as well as for the German onshore projects SuedLink and SuedOstlink.

TenneT has ambitious offshore plans, since the TSO has been commissioned by the Dutch government to connect a total of 9.6GW offshore capacity, of which 5.6GW will be realised with AC connections and 4GW with innovative DC connections. Together with the offshore wind farms already in operation, the offshore wind energy capacity is expected to reach 10.6GW in the Netherlands in 2030. Because of the considerable total capacity of IJmuiden Ver, the associated onshore connection is a core component of TenneT’s offshore grid development in the Netherlands.

Manon van Beek, CEO of TenneT, comments on the IJmuiden Ver project: “We are making an important contribution to accelerating the energy transition. Based on our experience with innovative technology in Germany, we can now help to realise the Dutch ambitions for the development of offshore wind energy with fewer cables, fewer platforms and less spatial impact and nuisance to the environment, both at sea and on land.”

TenneT connects Dutch offshore wind farm with a record capacity of 2GW (picture: TenneT , artist’s impression)

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TSOs introduce possible SuedLink routings

21.02.2019

The SuedLink extra-high voltage line is an integral part of Germany’s future low-carbon energy infrastructure. Major supra-regional projects such as Suedlink are included in the German Federal Requirements Plan Act and are often referred to as “power highways”. In order to reach Germany’s and Europe’s climate goals, they are indispensable to link the windy regions of northern Germany with the consumption centres in the industrially highly developed south. SuedLink is jointly carried out by the two TSCNET shareholders TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), and TransnetBW, the TSO from southwest Germany.

The European “Project of Common Interest” (PCI) with an investment volume of around €10bn is planned as a DC underground cable. It comprises two measures with a capacity of 2GW each, from the northernmost federal state of Schleswig-Holstein through western Lower Saxony, northern Hesse and southern Thuringia to Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg respectively. In 2017, TenneT and TransnetBW defined a whole network of possible corridor sections suitable for detailed consideration. On that basis, the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) decided on the cable routes to be thoroughly analysed. In recent months, TenneT and TransnetBW then carried out an in-depth examination and evaluation of these corridor alternatives by applying around 150 criteria.

On 21 February, the two TSOs presented the proposed corridor and the other corridor options derived from their study to the Network Agency. “With the detailed studies of the possible corridor variants, we have now identified a specific underground cable corridor that has the smallest possible impact on humans and nature,” explains Manon van Beek, CEO at TenneT. To give all interested parties the opportunity to inform themselves in advance, TenneT and TransnetBW publish the overview maps of the proposed corridor and the grid of all possible corridors on their respective project websites. Numerous dialogue events are to follow. “Transparency is one of our highest priorities,” comments Dr. Werner Götz, CEO at TransnetBW, on this procedure.

TenneT and TransnetBW present possible corridor variants for SuedLink (picture: TenneT)

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> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

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EU invests in priority energy infrastructure

05.02.2019

The “Connecting Europe Facility” (CEF) programme by the European Commission (EC) is a major European funding instrument to support the Energy Union, which is one of the EC’s policy priorities. CEF promotes the development of high performing, sustainable and efficiently interconnected trans-European networks in transport, energy and digital services sectors. Significant infrastructure projects of TSCNET shareholders are also considered as Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) and worthy of support.

PCIs financed by CEF include for example the Viking Link interconnector of the Danish transmission system operator (TSO) Energinet, the SuedLink DC line in Germany – a joint venture of the Dutch-German TSO TenneT and TransnetBW from southwestern Germany – and the joint smart grid project SINCRO.GRID of TSOs ELES and HOPS from Slovenia and Croatia respectively.

Last week, the EU Member States endorsed the EC’s proposal to invest a further €800 million under the CEF in infrastructure projects with high cross-border benefits. The current approval concerns the CEF’s financial support for studies and work on a total of 14 projects. Priority has been given to initiatives to increase competitiveness, improve security of energy supply and contribute to sustainable development and environmental protection.

The EU is investing a further €800m in priority energy infrastructure (illustration based on a picture by EC-Audiovisual Service / Mauro Bottaro)

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Approval for construction of SuedLink converter

15.01.2019

The substation in Leingarten, operated by TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), is the southwest German ending point and the location for the converter of the SuedLink extra-high voltage line. This supra-regional project is carried out jointly by TransnetBW and further TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO. SuedLink will be of great benefit to Germany’s future energy system as it will transmit sustainable electricity from the north of the country to Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg in the industrially highly developed south.

On 15 January 2019, TransnetBW received the first partial construction permit from the competent district administration for the construction of the SuedLink converter at Leingarten. The first preparatory construction measures can now begin as planned in 2020, and the commissioning of the entire DC underground cable connection with a length of approximately 700km remains scheduled for 2025.

The new equipment in Leingarten will convert the DC into AC so that it can be fed into the transport network. Dr. Werner Götz, CEO at TransnetBW, comments: “With the district administration’s approval for the converter on the site of our substation, we were able to find the best solution for the region and the local community. I am very pleased that we are the first TSO in Germany to receive approval for such a DC converter.”

TransnetBW has received approval to build the converter for the SuedLink extra-high voltage line in Leingarten (photomontage of the future substation: TransnetBW)

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Germany wants to speed up grid expansion

16.08.2018

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)

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

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