New 380kV line in Valais

17.04.2019

The complete transmission of hydroelectric power generated in the Swiss Canton of Valais to the country’s urban areas is essential for the future of Switzerland’s energy supply: Without the connection of the Valais transmission lines to the 380kV grid, only around two-thirds of Valais hydropower can be transmitted as soon as the new Nant de Drance pumped storage plant goes into operation. That is why increasing the voltage of the line between the Chippis and Mörel substations in the Rhone valley from 220 to 380kV is an important part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, the grid modernisation and expansion plan of TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission grid operator (TSO).

Swissgrid is planning the new construction of a 380kV overhead line with a length of around 44 kilometres, which will bypass and relieve settlement areas as far as possible. The existing 220kV line will be dismantled after the new line is commissioned. As with every grid project, Swissgrid has evaluated both cable and overhead line variants for Chippis-Mörel, with the result that underground installation would not only be very costly and time-consuming but would also not generate any significant added value for the natural landscape.

At the end of March 2019, Swissgrid submitted the planning approval procedure to the Swiss Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (Eidgenössisches Starkstrominspektorat – ESTI) and also engages in dialogue with the population, the municipalities, the authorities and associations. The TSO’s current planning foresees commissioning of the line in 2025, but in the event of objections and legal proceedings, initial operation may be delayed by several years.

Swissgrid will build a new 380kv overhead line between Chippis and Mörel in Valais (picture: Swissgrid)

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Ostwind 1 in full operation

16.04.2019

Among the four German transmission system operators (TSOs), 50Hertz is mainly responsible for the onshore connection of wind farms in the German Baltic Sea. The Ostwind 1 project of the TSCNET shareholder for connecting the Arkona and Viking wind farms in the “Westlich Adlergrund” cluster in the Baltic Sea near the island of Rügen to the onshore grid has now been finalised – after a construction period of three years and on time for the commissioning of the two wind farms. With a total investment volume of around €1.3bn, the budget was lower than anticipated.

Initial operation of Wikinger took place in autumn 2018, and on 16 April 2019, Arkona was also officially commissioned. Not only is Arkona the largest wind farm in the Baltic Sea, supplying the equivalent of around 400,000 households with electricity, but also its onshore connection sets new standards: Ostwind 1 is the first grid connection in the Baltic Sea with 220kV three-phase current technology to allow a higher transmission capacity. The submarine cables of Ostwind 1 end at the Lubmin onshore substation in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the current is converted to 380kV and fed into the 50Hertz transmission system.

As Arkona is operated by the German company E.ON in cooperation with the Norwegian company Equinor, the official inauguration ceremony in Sassnitz on the island of Rügen was attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Norwegian Oil and Energy Minister Kjell-Børge Freiberg. On the occasion of the celebration, Dr. Frank Golletz, CEO of 50Hertz, commented on the Ostwind 1 converter platform and the exemplary collaboration during its construction: “This offshore platform has set a new standard. The good European cooperation will also be continued in the operation of the wind farm.”

With the official commissioning of the Arkona wind farm, the Ostwind 1 grid connection by 50Hertz has been completed (picture: Eskil Eriksen / Equinor ASA)

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Billions for the Austrian electricity infrastructure

12.04.2019

The electricity transmission system of TSCNET shareholder APG, the Austrian transmission system operator (TSO) is increasingly reaching its limits due to the restructuring of the energy system, notably through the integration of renewable energies. As a result, TSO interventions for grid stability and security of supply are currently causing monthly costs of €10m for Austrian electricity customers. APG is determined to respond with an even faster expansion of its high-voltage grid.

The recently granted official approval for the construction of the 380kV Salzburg Line (“Salzburgleitung”) is only the beginning of fulfilling the “#mission 2030”, the Austrian energy and climate strategy that sets the national goal of covering 100% of electricity consumption with renewable energies by 2030. APG has announced the “Austrian Electricity Infrastructure Billion” for further major projects to sustainably secure Austria’s power supply – the largest investment offensive to date into the Austrian transmission grid with a total of €2.5 bn over the next 10 years.

In addition to the Salzburg Line, there are two other large-scale projects: The expansion of the existing grid in the greater Linz Area and beyond (Project “Upper Austria Central Region”) and the replacement of the overhead line through the Weinviertel (“wine quarter”) in the northeast of Lower Austria. For the volatility management that will become more and more necessary in the future, APG is also pursuing innovation projects focusing on central topics like battery storage, digital substations or sector coupling.

“Full focus on renewables is the only sensible way,” explain Gerhard Christiner and Thomas Karall, CTO and CFO of APG respectively. However, they also emphasise that a strong transmission system is the precondition for the full integration of renewables, the decarbonisation targets of the industry, the full utilisation of the pumped storage potential in the Alps and the reduction of costs for grid-stabilising emergency measures.

APG launches billion-euro investment strategy for infrastructure (picture: screenshot taken from video “Wind braucht starke Netze”, APG/YouTube)

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EU funding for East Romanian 400kV line

10.04.2019

The planned overhead line from Gutinaș to Smârdan has been awarded a Project of Common Interest (PCI) by the European Commission. As an integral part of the PCI cluster “Black Sea Corridor” for increasing the transmission capacity between Bulgaria and Romania, the new 400kV double-circuit line with a length of approx. 140km and a capacity of 1380MVA will connect the existing 400kV substations Gutinaș and Smârdan in eastern Romania.

The project is being carried out by the Romanian transmission system operator (TSO) and TSCNET shareholder Transelectrica and will not only significantly contribute to strengthening the national power system and securing the electricity supply, but also to the integration of renewable energies from sustainable generation facilities in the Dobruja (Dobrogea) region. Moreover, the new high-voltage line will support regional and European market integration by providing North-South and East-West connections to complete the internal market and further develop the European electricity transmission infrastructure.

The Gutinaș-Smârdan line has now made further progress as it has been selected by the Romanian Ministry of European Funds for a European financing of €31m. This financial support is granted under the infrastructure programme “Programul Operațional INFRASTRUCTURA MARE” with the specific objective of increasing the capacity of the national power system for energy from renewable sources. Transelectrica’s total investment in the project amounts to €56.8m. Work on the new 400kV line will begin already this year and commissioning is scheduled until December 2022.

Transelectrica has received further European funding for the Gutinaș-Smârdan 400kV line (picture showing Gutinaș substation: Transelectrica)

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Swissgrid presents good results despite grid expansion

03.04.2019

The business environment for European energy companies such as the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid is demanding in times of the energy transition and the European market integration. Some political uncertainty factors with regard to networking at European level, the relocation of the company to its new headquarters in the “energy canton” of Aargau, and the revision of the legal framework for the Swiss energy sector were particular challenges for the TSCNET shareholder last year. Nevertheless, the TSO presents solid results at his annual media conference.

An integral element of Swissgrid’s forward-looking infrastructural planning is the “Strategic Grid 2025”. As part of this strategy, Swissgrid began in 2018 with the construction of two important overhead line projects in the cantons of Valais and Aargau. Worth mentioning is the line section at Gäbihübel near Bözberg/Riniken in Aargau, where Switzerland’s first underground cabling on the 380kV voltage level is being implemented. But even with the expansion of its infrastructure, Swissgrid managed to further reduce operating costs thanks to successful efficiency measures.

As far as the key figures are concerned, the company’s net profit rose slightly to CHF65.6m, while earnings before interest and taxes amounted to CHF119.4m, a decrease of 4.4% compared to the previous year. This is attributable to Swissgrid’s consistent reduction of volume and tariff-related timing differences, which led to a decline in invested operating assets. Yves Zumwald, CEO of Swissgrid, comments on the business year in a demanding environment: “Thanks to the consistent implementation of our efficiency measures and the great commitment of our team members, we are able to report a robust result.”

Swissgrid reports solid results in its Annual Report 2018

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EC calls for further PCIs

22.03.2019

Under the “Connecting Europe Facility” (CEF) Energy Work Programme, the European Commission (EC) is providing a further €750m to finance Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) in the energy sector, which of course includes electricity and smart grid projects. In addition to the objective of increasing competitiveness, the EC aims to promote pan-European security of supply and sustainable, environment-friendly grid development.

Since 20 March, the EC is calling for proposals for projects focusing, for example, on market integration, interoperability of networks across borders, integration of renewable energies or the elimination of bottlenecks as well as energy isolation. The deadline for project submissions is 13 June 2019, and a virtual information day for all interested parties will be held on 19 April.

In the framework of the CEF programme, the EC calls for proposals for PCIs contributing to the objectives of the European Energy Union (picture: EC-Audiovisual Service / Etienne Ansotte)

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Preparations for market inclusion of COBRAcable

15.03.2019

COBRAcable will be the first direct link between the electricity markets of Denmark and the Netherlands. It is a joint project of the two transmission system operators (TSOs) and TSCNET shareholders Energinet from Denmark and TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO. By increasing the exchange of surplus wind energy, the DC interconnector is to improve the cohesion of the European transmission system and the integration of the electricity market. COBRAcable also makes a sustainable contribution to the low-carbon energy future by providing the opportunity to hook up future North Sea offshore wind farms to the connection. The entire cable route comprises 329km, of which 307km are offshore and 22km onshore. Since two cables are laid in parallel, the total length of the cables is 658km.

COBRAcable reached the Dutch shore at the Eemshaven connection point in November 2018 and will be commissioned this year. Now the two TSOs are preparing the commercial operation of COBRAcable scheduled for the third quarter of 2019. The concrete measures are the inclusion of COBRAcable in the day ahead and intraday market coupling systems on 16 April 2019 and in the market coupling results on the following day, each with an allocated capacity of zero. The objective of this is to test the relevant IT systems and prepare for a successful launch of commercial operations later in the year.

Energinet and Tennet carry out a test inclusion of COBRAcable in the market coupling (picture: screenshot taken from video “COBRAcable kommer i land ved Eemshaven”, Energinet – Vimeo)

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Eco-compatibility of “Salzburgleitung” approved

06.03.2019

It took 77 months to come to a final decision, but with its verdict of 5 March 2019, the Federal Administrative Court in the Austrian capital of Vienna now has validly confirmed the environmental compatibility of the Salzburg Line (“Salzburgleitung”), a project of TSCNET shareholder APG. The national transmission system operator (TSO) can thus secure not only Salzburg’s electricity supply, but significantly increase the security of supply for the whole of Austria.

Since the 380kV line is one of Austria’s most important infrastructure projects, Gerhard Christiner and Thomas Karall, CTO and CFO of APG respectively, consider the court’s decision a milestone for Austria’s energy infrastructure: “With the Salzburg Line, APG is creating the conditions for integrating the planned massive expansion of renewable energies such as wind and photovoltaics into the electricity grid and for ensuring Austria’s secure long-term electricity supply.” The line project is a key factor in fulfilling the “#mission 2030”, the Austrian energy and climate strategy that sets the national goal of covering 100% of electricity consumption with renewable energies by 2030.

In the actual APG grid planning, the Salzburg Line is crucial for completing the so-called 380kV Safety Ring, which is to form the backbone of the future Austrian transmission system. By connecting the main wind power generation areas in the east of the country with the pumped storage power plants in the west, surplus wind power capacities not consumed locally can be transported to the storage facilities in the Alps. If required, electricity can then be retrieved again. In this way, renewable energy sources will be used more efficiently.

The environmental compatibility of the Salzburg Line project of APG has been confirmed by the court of last resort (picture: APG)

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ELES grid development plan officially approved

25.02.2019

Last week the Slovenian Ministry of Infrastructure agreed to the new transmission network development plan of national transmission system operator (TSO) and TSCNET shareholder ELES. The plan covers the period 2019-2028 and provides an overview of the current situation and the necessary measures to be taken in Slovenia’s electricity system to ensure sufficient transmission capacity and appropriate voltage conditions. It takes proper account of long-term forecasts for the increase in electricity consumption, the intended construction of new generation units and the expected expansion of the national as well as the pan-European transmission system.

New transmission network development plan of ELES approved by the Ministry of Infrastructure (picture: InterContinental Ljubljana)

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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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