Construction of ULTRANET substation approved

27.03.2020

The Philippsburg nuclear power plant in the German state of Baden-Württemberg was shut down completely on 31 December 2019. On the power plant site, TSCNET shareholder TransnetBW, the Transmission System Operator (TSO) from the southwest of Germany, is planning a new DC substation with a required area of around 100,000m². The substation is to become one of the most important energy hubs in Germany’s future energy landscape, as the supra-regional high-voltage direct current (HVDC) line ULTRANET will be connected here to the regional 380kV AC grid.

After intensive planning, TransnetBW submitted the application for construction permit to the competent district administration for examination in June 2018. The Landratsamt Karlsruhe has now approved the plans of the TSO. “The DC substation plays a central role in integrating renewable energies into the transmission grid,” explains Dr. Werner Götz, Chairman of the TransnetBW Executive Board. “In the future, renewable electricity will flow from the Philippsburg site to the entire region. We are thus laying a cornerstone for supply security in a future without nuclear power and coal.”

ULTRANET, a European Project of Common Interest (PCI), is jointly implemented by TransnetBW and the further TSCNET shareholder Amprion. It will transfer wind energy generated in the northwest of Germany to the industrially highly developed southwest. The Philippsburg substation represents the southern end point of ULTRANET. Here, the DC transmitted via ULTRANET to Philippsburg is converted into AC and distributed throughout the region. Vice-versa, the substation allows the conversion of AC into DC, e.g. to transport surplus photovoltaic power from the south to the north.

TransnetBW has received official approval for the construction of the ULTRANET substation in Philippsburg (architectural sketch of the substation: Codema International GmbH / TransnetBW)

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> See TransnetBW press release, in German (html)

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Interview: “Consumption drop considered”

27.03.2020

The current decline in Europe-wide electricity consumption is significant and requires both European transmission system operators (TSOs) and Regional Security Coordinators (RSCs) to adapt to the lower feed-in rates. “In general, it is expected that the demand for electricity in 2020 will decrease noticeably due to the corona crisis. Some EU member states expect a drop of 10 to 15 percent of annual electricity demand,” explains Maik Neubauer, one of the two Managing Directors of TSCNET Services, the Munich-based RSC in an interview with “ZfK” (Zeitung für Kommunale Wirtschaft), one of Germany’s leading trade journals of the energy and utility industry.

As regards the reaction of energy market participants, Neubauer comments that this decline is being considered in grid management and included in the daily forecasting processes by the TSOs and distribution system operators (DSOs). Neubauer sees no threat to supply security: “All suppliers and operators of power plants and critical infrastructures have emergency plans.” These are implemented immediately to ensure the operability of the infrastructures. A favourable factor is that there are currently no external influences, such as natural disasters or critical grid situations, to interfere with operational processes. “The main focus is currently on protecting the operational personnel in order to ensure 24/7 operation of the critical infrastructure levels.”

Needless to say, this also applies to TSCNET Services itself. Although the European RSCs do not have direct grid control responsibility, they do carry out the regional analysis of the transmission system together with the TSOs and act as an early warning system, which identifies possible bottlenecks and dangerous situations. Together with the TSO control centres, the RSC then initiates mitigation measures. To continue providing 24/7 support to TSOs, TSCNET has taken all actions to protect its staff from the pandemic. This includes sending almost all employees to work from home and special protective measures for the operations team. Since almost all TSCNET processes are already highly digitised, the current situation does not present the Munich RSC with extreme challenges.

Despite the pandemic-related decline in power consumption, Maik Neubauer expects no fundamental problems for grid security

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> Visit “ZfK” interview, in German (html, paywall)

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Corona cuts consumption

26.03.2020

Electricity consumption in Europe has fallen significantly because of the restrictions imposed by the corona crisis. In particular, the drastic reduction in industrial production is likely to have a significant impact. The London-based think tank Ember has calculated that demand in the entire EU has fallen by 2 to 7% in the last week compared to the previous week. The analysts at Ember used data on electricity demand provided by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), adjusted for the weather-related factor.

A survey of 22 individual countries shows that Italy, France, and Spain are the most affected countries. In these countries, the decline in demand was twice as strong as in other countries. In Italy, which is currently most afflicted by the corona pandemic, electricity consumption fell by 20% within two weeks. TSCNET shareholder APG, the transmission system operator (TSO) from Austria, also reports that consumption data in some specific Austrian grid areas are 10 to 20% below the previous year’s figures. The national average is 10%, which according to Gerhard Christiner, CTO of APG, reflects the pan-European development.

Like all European TSOs, APG is confronted with major challenges, but considers that it is well prepared for the crisis, both technically and in terms of personnel. Of course, each individual TSO has to adapt its operations and measures to the conditions under the pandemic. TSCNET customer Energinet, the Danish TSO, for instance, has introduced special guidelines to avoid physical contact on its construction sites. Notwithstanding that a functioning transmission system is essential for modern life at all times, Henrik Riis, CEO of Electricity Transmission at Energinet, calls it “an important social task to keep the wheels turning and do our part to support the Danish economy.” However, this task is performed with all due care: “We take the risk on spreading of infectious disease very seriously.”

While the specialists from the TSOs and from TSCNET Services are on duty around the clock, many shops and production sites in Europe have to remain closed due to the corona pandemic

Linkup
> See Ember research on reduced electricity demand (html)
> See APG news release, in German (html)
> See Energinet news release (html)

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New Rhône Valley power line operational in 2022

24.03.2020

In early 2018, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), began preparations for the construction of the new 380kV line in the Rhône Valley between the two substations Chamoson and Chippis, which is to replace the old 220kV line. This new line is of crucial importance for Switzerland’s security of supply, particularly for the transmission of electricity generated in the Valais hydroelectric power plants to the consumption centres in the central Swiss Plateau.

After about 18 months of actual construction, the extra-high voltage line is now taking shape and work is underway along its entire length. But not only do numerous safety measures have to be considered during construction, also the access to some plots of land has not yet been clarified at some pylon sites. These locations are distributed along the entire route of the line. As a decision by the responsible federal authorities is still pending in some cases, Swissgrid has now reviewed the construction plans and postponed commissioning of the new line until summer 2022. As the Federal Evaluation Commission (“Eidgenössische Schätzungskommission”) has given priority to the TSO’s applications, Swissgrid is confident about the further construction of the line.

Swissgrid expects the new 380kV line from Chamoson to Chippis to be commissioned in summer 2022 (picture: Swissgrid)

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> See Swissgrid news release, in German (html)

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Grid and supply security in times of COVID-19

16.03.2020

Transmission system operators (TSOs) are managing an integral part of our society’s systemically relevant critical infrastructure, which must be maintained under all circumstances. In the current global health crisis, the TSCNET shareholders, like all other TSOs, are aware of their specific responsibility for the security of European electricity supply, which is a matter of preserving social and economic life. The TSOs are focusing on their core business: secure electricity supply, and have taken technical precautions, especially in sensitive areas such as the control centres. But of course, hygienic and social measures are also adopted with regard to the safety of their customers, business partners and employees.

As far as the TSO’s own employees are concerned, as many colleagues as possible are sent to work from home. For a large number of technical staff, e.g. in the areas of monitoring, maintenance or repair, this is obviously only possible to a limited extent. The four German TSOs for example have taken a number of precautionary measures. These include in particular:

  • Strict rules regarding business trips and contact with other persons.
  • Special requirements apply to the staff in the control rooms and in the technical teams which are absolutely necessary for the maintenance of the grid. Generally speaking, the control rooms are equipped for all emergencies, far beyond the current threat from the corona virus.
  • The precautionary measures taken are checked daily and adjusted to the current situation if necessary.
  • The individual TSOs also adapt their measures in accordance with the rules and regulations applicable in their respective grid areas.

To play an active role in the containment of COVID-19, the TSOs also respond with such understandable measures as access restrictions or the cancellations of meetings and public information events. Instead, the companies are opting for online conferences. 50Hertz, for example, one of the four German TSOs, is introducing an online participation system as a replacement for the cancelled information events for example on the transregional SuedOstLink power line so that citizens can be continuously involved in the planning process.

The European TSOs contribute actively and responsibly to the containment of SARS-CoV-2 without compromising system security (electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2: NIAID, CC BY 2.0)

Linkup
> 50Hertz, in German (html)
> APG, in German (html)
> Energinet, (html)
> TenneT Germany press release, in German (html, published on 17 March)
> TransnetBW, in German (html)

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TenneT creates, invests and researches for the energy future

12.03.2020

Promoting the energy transition is a priority objective of TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German transmission system operator (TSO). This is clearly reflected in the TSO’s just-published Integrated Annual Report. As in recent years, the Annual Report is accompanied by the Green Finance Report 2019.

In line with the energy policy and climate goals of the Netherlands and Germany, TenneT increased its investments yet again in 2019 and spent €3.1bn on the energy transition and supply security (grid availability of 99.9998% in 2019). This financial commitment is even to be stepped up: TenneT is planning annual investments of €4bn to €5bn for the future. The financial performance of the company, with revenues of €4.1bn in 2019 and an EBIT (excluding special effects) of €753m, supports these ambitious plans. Manon van Beek, CEO of TenneT, has every reason to be content with the sound development of the TSO: “We have made great strides again in pursuing our ambition to achieve a sustainable energy future for everyone. Not only in realising and developing new onshore and offshore connections, but also by the required far-reaching international cooperation and working on innovations in close coordination with relevant stakeholders.”

As regards offshore connections, TenneT has already exceeded in 2019 the German government’s expansion target for offshore wind power capacity in the North and Baltic Sea, which is 6.5GW for 2020. With last year’s commissioning of BorWin 3, TenneT’s ninth offshore grid connection system in DC technology, the TSO now has a total of twelve offshore grid connections in operation (nine in DC and three in AC technology) with a total capacity of 7.1GW. But TenneT is not resting on its successes to date: The connection systems DolWin5, DolWin6, and BorWin5 are being developed and will increase the offshore transmission capacity provided by TenneT for wind farms in the German North Sea to almost 10GW by 2025. In addition, Borssele Alpha, TenneT’s first offshore connection system in AC technology in the Dutch North Sea, was installed on schedule and is now ready for operation. Borssele Beta will be completed in 2020.

Onshore, TenneT has eight transmission lines under construction in Germany, more than ever before. In the Netherlands, the 60km-long Randstad 380kV North Ring power line was put into operation, reliably supplying Europe’s most densely populated area with electricity and providing transmission capacity for green energy. At European level, the “green” COBRAcable deserves special mention, which since 2019 directly connects the Dutch and Danish markets for the first time. The German and Norwegian markets will also be directly connected by the NordLink cable, which is currently under construction. On top of this, a proof-of-concept for the North Sea Wind Power Hub has shown the technical feasibility of the concept of multiple wind power distribution hubs in the North Sea.

All these grid expansion projects are complemented by innovative solutions and intensive research to better utilise TenneT’s existing transmission system. These include vehicle-to-grid pilots, the deployment of home storage systems in grid stabilisation and digital solutions for higher grid utilisation. Another long-term innovation project is Element One, a 100MW electrolysis plant to be built in Germany to promote an integrated energy system.

TenneT presents Integrated Annual Report 2019 and Green Finance Report 2019 (picture: TenneT)

Linkup
> See TenneT press release (html)
> Visit Integrated Annual Report 2019 site (html)
> Direct access to the report download (html)
> Open Green Finance Report 2019 (pdf, 802.38kB)

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TenneT concludes successful V2G pilot

04.03.2020

Considering the increase in renewable energies, electromobility represents an additional challenge, but also an opportunity for transmission system operators (TSOs). The decentralised feed-in of renewable energies leads to transport bottlenecks in the transmission grid, but when it comes to balancing power generation and consumption, electric vehicles can contribute to maintaining the balance and security of supply. For this reason, TSCNET shareholder Tennet, the Dutch-German TSO, is intensively researching this field. Together with car manufacturer Nissan and energy service provider The Mobility House, the TSO now has successfully concluded a substantive vehicle-to-grid (V2G) pilot project, which was initiated in March 2018.

As part of a SINTEG (“Schaufenster intelligente Energie” – “Smart Energy Showcases“) project sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the partners have investigated the potential of electric vehicle batteries in storing and feeding back locally produced electricity in order to stabilise the power grid and at the same time increase the use of renewable energies and save CO2. During the project phase, Nissan electric vehicles were deployed as mobile energy storage systems in the TenneT control area in northern and southern Germany to instantly reduce local overloads in power supply and demand.

The project offers a significant solution to the increasingly frequent bottlenecks. The wind power available in northern Germany was used by electric cars in the region. At the same time, in the south, electricity from fully charged batteries of Nissan LEAF vehicles was fed back into the grid instead of raising fossil generation. These smart redistribution measures were controlled by software from The Mobility House, the smart charge and energy management system ChargePilot, which follows TenneT’s specifications and also considers the mobility and charging requirements of vehicle users.

TenneT managing director Tim Meyerjürgens comments on the V2G research: “The pilot project has shown that we will be able to use electric mobility in the future to flexibly manage renewable electricity production, which is highly dependent on the weather. This relieves the strain on the electricity grid and helps us to limit the expensive throttling of wind turbines. The short-term flexibility, which is thus provided to us by electromobility, can supplement the grid expansion and become an important component of the energy transition.”

TenneT, Nissan, and The Mobility House have successfully concluded a research project on the use of automobile battery systems for grid stabilisation (picture: screenshot taken from TenneT video “Kooperationsprojekt Stabilisierung des Stromnetzes – Vehicle 2 Grid“, YouTube)

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> See TenneT press release, in German (html)

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Windstorm results in damage and record feeds

11.02.2020

From Sunday evening through Tuesday morning, the windstorm Ciara (Sabine in German speaking countries and Elsa in Scandinavia) brought severe damaging winds along the squall line across Benelux, France, and Germany and also seriously affected large parts of Central Europe such as the Alpine countries of Austria and Switzerland as well as Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In Switzerland, Sabine caused several damages to the extra-high voltage grid on Monday, 10 February.

A total of six transmission lines were affected by the storm. Fortunately, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), can report that security of supply in Switzerland has never been at risk and that no people were injured as a result of the damage to the Swissgrid transmission system. Following the tear of a conductor cable of the 220kV line Göschenen-Plattischachen, canton of Uri, the substations Plattischachen and Göschenen had to be temporarily disconnected from the extra-high voltage grid. In western Switzerland, the 220kV line across the Great St. Bernard, canton of Valais, towards the border with Italy was interrupted. The line is in rough terrain and as soon as weather conditions and the security conditions permit, it will be checked by helicopter and examined for possible damage. In total, four of the damaged lines have meanwhile been repaired.

Although there may not have been comparable damage elsewhere and impairments occurred primarily at distribution system level, the storm was generally a major challenge for the affected TSOs, since it gave a powerful boost to electricity generation from wind power. However, the power input was not consistent and wind turbines were shut down when gusts were too strong. At its peak, around 43.7GW of wind power was fed into the grid in Germany, as the Fraunhofer ISE energy charts show, exceeding the previous record of around 43.4GW. According to calculations by the Agora Energiewende think tank, more than three quarters of the electricity consumed in Germany between Sunday noon and Monday noon came from renewable energies.

The International Economic Forum for Renewable Energies (Internationales Wirtschaftsforum Regenerative Energien – IWR) registered a Europe-wide record feed on Sunday evening, when more than 105GW of energy output from wind were recorded in the European power grid. This highest European measurement in 2020 was even surpassed on Monday morning with the all-time record of 109GW.

From Sunday to Tuesday morning, a powerful winter storm caused several damages in the grid of Swissgrid and led to record feed-in of wind energy in Europe

Linkup
> See Swissgrid media release, in German (html)
> Visit Energy Charts Website (html)
> Visit IWR Wind Metering Portal, in German (html)

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HOPS commissions variable shunt reactor

22.01.2020

A further step for the successful implementation of the Croatian-Slovenian smartgrid project SINCRO.GRID has been taken. The European Project of Common Interest (PCI) aims at optimising the efficiency of the Croatian and Slovenian electricity transmission grids through the application of advanced technologies and innovative data processing methods and is carried out by the two TSCNET shareholders ELES, the Slovenian transmission system operator (TSO), and HOPS from Croatia.

At the beginning of December 2019, the ELES substation in Divača has been equipped with a variable shunt reactor, an effective compensation tool for reactive power control. Now HOPS has put the same technically advanced system into operation at its substation in Mraclin near Zagreb. With this, HOPS has concluded the first stage of SINCRO.GRID. After the implementation of additional measures and devices, including a static VAR compensator, the Croatian TSO will be able to actively manage the reactive power flows in the Croatian power grid. This will solve problems of overloads in the long term and thus have a positive effect on grid stability and security of supply for customers.

HOPS has commissioned a variable shunt reactor as part of the SINCRO.GRID project (picture: HOPS)

Linkup
> See HOPS press release, in Croatian (html)
> Visit SINCRO.GRID website (html)

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New EU Electricity Regulation in place

17.01.2020

With the beginning of 2020, the recast of the European Electricity Regulation on the internal market for electricity (EU/2019/943) came into force. The regulation is important for the new electricity market design, which was adopted as part of the “Clean Energy for All Europeans Package” and aims at realising the European Energy Union with common market rules and an efficient and high-performing cross-border infrastructure.

The regulation sets out the basic principles for an efficient electricity market and should allow for improved integration of national markets. It should also create greater capacity for cross-border trade, thereby providing better access to renewable energy. As far as the business of transmission system operators (TSOs) is concerned, rules for better coordination and closer transnational cooperation are the core of the regulatory framework. Furthermore, the functions and tasks of the regional service coordinators (RSCs) are clearly specified.

Already on 10 January the four German transmission system operators (TSOs) 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT and TransnetBW had submitted their draft scenario framework for the 2035 (2021) Network Development Plan (NEP) to the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA). With this, they want to “contribute to the success of the energy turnaround and the achievement of the climate protection goals”.

The revised European Electricity Regulation on the internal market for electricity entered into force on 1 January 2020 (picture: European Commission / Etienne Ansotte)

Linkup
> See press release of the European Commission (html)
> See Netzentwicklungsplan webpage, in German (html)
> Visit EUR-Lex site (html) for the full text of the Regulation in various languages and formats.

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