50Hertz committed to landscape protection


In the Sülzetal, in the middle of the fertile Magdeburger Börde in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, there are salt marshes and meadows worthy of protection. Since two of the corridor alternatives for the supra-regional DC project “SuedOstLink” of TSCNET shareholder 50Hertz run through the area of the Sülzetal, the German transmission system operator (TSO) is committed to ecological compensation. Therefore, 50Hertz cooperates with the “Stiftung Kulturlandschaft Sachsen-Anhalt”, a foundation supported by agricultural associations, to establish a comprehensive biotope network by enhancing and preserving ecologically valuable areas.

The foundation has set up an “eco-account”, and 50Hertz is the largest depositor to date. 50Hertz had already transferred €1m in 2017, and in 2020, the TSO will pay in a further €1.7m. The deposits can later be used for compensatory and replacement measures for the underground cables of the SuedOstLink, for example to create biodiverse habitats for animals and plants on uncultivated areas. SuedOstLink itself is a central component of the German energy transition, as it will ensure that large quantities of wind power are transmitted from the north-east of Germany to the south, where nuclear power plants will gradually be decommissioned.

Prof. Dr. Claudia Dalbert, Saxony-Anhalt’s Minister for the Environment, Agriculture and Energy, informed herself on 20 May about the ecological benefits of the cooperation and acknowledged the Sülzetal project as an example of how “valuable nature conservation measures can be implemented in connection with infrastructure projects”. Dr. Frank Golletz, Managing Director and CEO of 50Hertz, commented that the cooperation “shows that it is possible, on the one hand, to effectively compensate for interventions in nature and, at the same time, to create an attractive local recreation area for the people of the region in the immediate vicinity of the possible SuedOstLink routings”.

50Hertz cooperates with a foundation for landscape protection to establish a biotope network as compensation for SuedOstLink (picture: 50Hertz / Jan Pauls; from left to right: Dr. Frank Golletz, Prof. Dr. Claudia Dalbert, shepherd Jürgen Maurer, Dr. Jens Birger, Managing Director of the Stiftung Kulturlandschaft Sachsen-Anhalt)

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

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Record-setting offshore connection


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)

> See TenneT press release, in Dutch (html)
> Open artist’s impression video (TenneT, YouTube)

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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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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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Investing in energy transition – TenneT report


The Half Year Report of the Dutch-German TSCNET shareholder TenneT does not only provide satisfactory figures, but also shows that the business of a transmission system operator (TSO) with a control area from the seashores to the Alps is essentially divided into two parts: connecting offshore wind energy capacity to the onshore grid and ensuring the transport of sustainable generated electricity to wherever it is needed. To further support the energy transition, TenneT is accelerating the realisation of large-scale projects in the Dutch sector of the North Sea and on the German mainland. The TSO’s commitment to the European energy future is reflected with a total of €904m of investments in the transmission systems in the first half of 2018 ‒ not only impressive compared to the first half of 2017 (€750m).

By 2030, TenneT plans to have connected a total of 11.5GW of offshore wind energy to the grid in the Netherlands. Three years earlier, in 2027, the TSO aims to achieve a total transmission capacity of 11GW for the German North Sea. The most outstanding onshore infrastructural projects are the German supraregional extra-high voltage lines SuedLink and SuedOstLink with a length of 700km and 580km, respectively, and a combined capacity of 6GW. Both DC lines will partially be realised by means of underground cabling and are joint ventures of TSCNET shareholders. On SuedLink, TenneT cooperates with TransnetBW, and on SuedOstLink with 50Hertz. To help financing its investments in the transmission of the renewables, TenneT in March 2018 again has issued long term green bonds in two tranches with a nominal total value of €1.25bn. Altogether, TenneT has issued €6.25bn in green bonds to date.

Mel Kroon, CEO at TenneT, emphasises the company’s “central position in the energy transition” and considers that the construction of new infrastructure alone is not enough to meet the challenges of the future, “but also the development of innovative hard- and software systems for real-time coordination of the variable supply of green electricity.” Mr Kroon expresses the need for a new energy system, and points out the unexploited potential of green hydrogen for flexibility and storage solutions: “Following the successful development of offshore wind energy, we now need to focus on promoting the production of green hydrogen in order to facilitate long-term energy storage and make the industrial and transport sectors far more sustainable.”

TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, presents the Half Year Report 2018

> See TenneT press release (html)
> Open Half year report 2018 (pdf, 803kb)

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German grid stabilising costs reach record high


The most persistent problem within the German electricity market remains its division: Wind power abounds in the north, while in the consumption centres in the south and west there is an imminent danger of electricity shortage. This regional split, a consequence of the energy transition, puts pressure on the national transmission grid. According to a report of the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) and TSCNET shareholder TenneT, which has met with a great response in the German press, the company’s cost for stabilisation measures in Germany amounted to over €1bn in 2017.

TenneT is responsible for the largest control area in Germany, extending from the most northern federal state of Schleswig-Holstein to Bavaria in the south. Without a sustainable extension of the German transmission system, the TSO does not see any possibility of noticeably reducing stabilisation costs and thus not placing an additional burden on electricity prices. Due to missing power lines to transmit green energy from north to south, expensive grid interventions and redispatch measures become necessary when power plants and wind farms in the north have to be shut down in case of high wind – otherwise more electricity would be produced than the grid can absorb. However, conventional reserve power plants have to be started at the same time in the south to meet the regional demand for electricity.

“More than ever, we have to stabilise the grid,” comments Lex Hartman (see picture), member of TenneT’s executive board. Until a sufficient transmission system is realised that meets the standards of the energy transition, Mr Hartman sees no near signs of improvement. Important projects in this regard are the extra-high voltage lines SuedLink and SuedOstLink, wich are joint ventures by TSCNET shareholders TenneT, TransnetBW, and 50Hertz. But these are projects of a more distant future, and thus Hartman’s forecast for the next few years is bleak: “It’s going to get even worse, before it gets better.”

> See article of the “Frankfurter Rundschau“, in German (html)

Image: TenneT


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SuedLink and SuedOstLink forge ahead


The DC line projects SuedLink and SuedOstLink can be considered as the infrastructural backbone of the future transmission grid in Germany. The success of the German energy transition depends on sufficient extra-high voltage lines to transport electricity from the renewable energy producing north to the industrially highly developed and energy consuming south of the country. SuedLink and SuedOstLink are both joint ventures by TSC members: The Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT and TransnetBW, the TSO with control areas in south-west Germany, cooperate on SuedLink (running from the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein to Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg), while TenneT and 50Hertz, the TSO in the northern and eastern part of Germany, join forces in the execution of SuedOstLink (from Saxony-Anhalt to Bavaria).

In the autumn of 2016, the three TSOs have started a public campaign and officially presented their suggestions regarding possible corridors for the two power lines that will be realised for the most part by means of underground cabling. In consideration of beneficial propositions and comments from affected citizens, local authorities, and associations, the TSOs are now taken the next step in implementing the much needed infrastructure expansion. They apply for Federal Sectoral Planning at the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), the competent German authority in terms of grid management and grid extension. The Bundesnetzagentur carries out a strategic environmental assessment and decides on the corridor. The application for SuedOstLink is submitted today, the one for SuedLink is to follow on 17 March.

The start of the official approval procedures marks the conclusion of the conceptual preliminary work on SuedLink and SuedOstLink. Lex Hartmann, managing director of TenneT, comments that it was of highest importance for the partner TSOs to determine corridors with the least possible impact on man and nature. “This we have achieved by means of the most comprehensive participation of citizens ever attained in a grid expansion project in Germany.” Boris Schucht, Chief Executive Officer at 50Hertz, acknowledges the impact from the public participation that has lead to “numerous adjustments and optimisations of existing corridor routes as well as four completely new segments”. Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW executive board, assures that the three TSOs will continue to effectively involve the public: “In order to receive acceptance for this important project of the energy transition, we remain, of course, in a transparent dialogue with the citizens and the political decision-makers.”

> See 50Hertz press release (in German, html)
> See TenneT press release on SuedLink (in German, html)
> See TenneT press release on SuedOstLink (in German, html)
> See TransnetBW press release (in German, html)

Picture: TenneT


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Setting the course for the Hansa PowerBridge


TSC member 50Hertz, one of the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), and the Swedish TSO Svenska kraftnät have signed a cooperation agreement on the binational DC interconnector Hansa PowerBridge on 19 January 2017 in Berlin, Germany. The contract between the two TSOs lays down substantial details regarding the planning and construction of the interconnector, such as the time schedule, the technical design or the cost allocation.

With a capacity of 700MW and a total length of 300km, Hansa PowerBridge will connect the electrical substation in Güstrow in the northeast German federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania with its counterpart in Hurva in the southernmost Swedish province of Scania. Naturally, the largest section of the interconnector will be realised as a submarine cable through the Baltic Sea. The estimated overall investment volume of the project amounts to more than €600m. Currently, 50Hertz and Svenska kraftnät are both preparing the respective official approval procedures. The call for tenders is expected for 2022 and the commissioning of the Hansa PowerBridge for 2025/26.

The energy production in the northeast of Germany is characterised by its high share of wind and solar power, while hydropower plays a major role in Scandinavia, hence also providing large amounts of storage volume. The Hansa PowerBridge links these two significant energy regions and enables the TSOs to balance energy dropouts in their national transmission systems and to avoid the cost-intensive throttling of generation plants. Rainer Baake, State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, comments on the signing of the agreement: “The power line improves the integration of renewable energies into the transmission grid and thus contributes to climate-friendly and cost-efficient electricity generation.” Boris Schucht, Chief Executive Officer at 50Hertz, complements that in combination with the inner-German SuedOstlink power line project, the Hansa Power Bridge has the potential to serve as “a well adjustable long-distance link from Scandinavia across the northeast of Germany to the south”.

> See 50Hertz press release (html)

Picture: Frank Wölffing / 50Hertz / Svenska kraftnät


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SuedLink and SuedOstLink go underground


To make the energy transition in Germany – and beyond in all of Central Europe – a success, it is necessary to increase the transport capacities for electrical energy in Germany. First of all, electricity needs to be transferred from the renewable energy producing north of Germany to the industrially highly developed and energy consuming south. For this purpose, sufficient extra-high voltage lines, often referred to as “Stromautobahnen” (“electricity highways”), have been conceived by transmission system operators (TSOs) in cooperation with authorities and associations. Among the most important of these new highly efficient power lines are the SuedLink from Schleswig-Holstein to Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg and the SuedOstLink from Saxony-Anhalt to Bavaria.

Originally, SuedLink and SuedOstLink were both mainly designed as DC overhead lines. These plans caused protests in the affected public and also reservations on the part of the Bavarian government. Eventually, the German Federal government decided on the primacy of underground over overhead cables. The governmental decision forced the respective TSOs to fundamental redesigns concerning the routings of SuedLink and SuedOstLink. The competent TSOs and TSC members 50Hertz, the TSO in the northern and eastern part of Germany, Tennet, the Dutch-German TSO, and TransnetBW, the TSO in south-west Germany, now have presented their plans for possible routes. Since both line projects affect the operational areas of two of the aforementioned TSOs, both are consequently joint ventures: Suedlink is a cooperation of 50Hertz and TenneT and SuedostLink combines the skills of TenneT and TransnetBW. The most important news announced by the TSOs is that both power lines are completely going to be realised by means of underground cabling. Lex Hartmann, managing director of TenneT, refers to the earth cables as “wish of the citizens, for which the policy has paved the way”.

The proposals for cable corridors strictly follow the legal requirements and the specifications of the approval authorities. They are envisaged as the central part of the permit application to be submitted to the Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency), the competent German authority in terms of grid expansion. Still, the plans are to be regarded as tentative propositions intending to open the discussion with authorities and the affected public. All three TSOs are planning a public campaign in the fall and winter of 2016 with information and discussion events in far more than fifty cities and communities altogether. Dr. Werner Götz, member of the TransnetBW executive board, explains that the TSOs seek the dialogue with the public “even before the application process”. In addition to the public events, 50Hertz, TenneT and TransnetBW are displaying maps of the suggested cable routings on their respective websites.

> See 50Hertz and TenneT on SuedOstLink, in German (pdf, 118kb)
> See TenneT and TransnetBW on SuedLink, in German (pdf, 118kb)
> See TransnetBW video statement, in German (html, YouTube)

Picture: Screenshot taken from video “Erdkabel: Von der Theorie zur Praxis” (Bundesnetzagentur, YouTube)


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The ABC of underground cabling


The Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency) is Germany’s competent authority concerning the grid expansion and thus responsible for implementing the German Grid Expansion Acceleration Act. The Bundesnetzagentur has recently published a new explainer video on relevant questions relating to underground cables. The short and comprehensive video covers aspects of construction, environmental impacts, costs and public acceptance.

Actually, the lack of acceptance for new constructions of extra-high voltage overhead lines within the German public has caused the Federal government to decide that for new power lines earth cables have to be favoured over overhead cables. This is helpful to increase the public acceptance of new power lines but is going to make new constructions more expensive and more time-consuming. Either way, new lines are indispensable to transport sustainable energy from the north of Germany to the consumption centres in the industrially highly developed south.

The video of the Bundesnetzagentur kind of accompanies the publicity work of the TSC members Tennet, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO), 50Hertz, the TSO in the northern and eastern part of Germany, and TransnetBW, the TSO in south-west Germany. To open up the public discussion, the companies have presented their plans concerning the underground cable routes for the extra-high voltage lines SuedLink (from Schleswig-Holstein to Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg) and SuedOstLink (from Saxony-Anhalt to Bavaria) on 26 September 2016.

> See Bundesnetzagentur media library, in German only (html)

Picture: Screenshot taken from Bundesnetzagentur video “Netzausbau-ABC: Erdkabel”


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