Swissgrid analyses supply disruption in Valais

22.07.2020

On Friday, 17 July, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid carried out check-operations concerning the extension of the 220kV switchgear in the Chippis substation in the canton of Valais. At 4.23 p.m., the protection equipment of the 220kV grid node Creux de Chippis was accidentally tripped, causing the switchgear to lose voltage. As a result of the technical failure at Chippis, the switchgear of the substations in Stalden, Bitsch, and Mörel were also affected by the voltage drop, which led to a regional supply interruption in the distribution system.

The result was a one-hour power outage in a total of 60 municipalities with around 112,000 households as well as trade and industry in the Swiss Sierre district and the largest part of the Upper Valais. By 5.23 p.m., all affected switchgear and lines of the TSCNET shareholder were back in regular operation. Thanks to the good cooperation between Swissgrid and the five affected distribution system operators (DSOs) of the lower voltage levels, it was possible to gradually restore the electricity supply from 5 pm onwards. By 6.15p.m. almost all customers were back on power. Swissgrid immediately initiated a detailed investigation of the incident, which is currently in progress.

Swissgrid is investigating the voltage loss in the switchgear of the Chippis substation in Valais on 17 July (picture: Swissgrid)

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Swissgrid responds to revised legislation

15.07.2020

With the national “Energy Strategy 2050”, the Swiss electorate decided in 2017 to promote renewable energies. To extend the duration of the correlating support measures, create planning security for the energy market, and eventually achieve Switzerland’s climate policy goals, the Swiss Federal Council has developed a revision of the national Energy Act (“Energiegesetz”). The Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid appreciates that the Federal Council intends to create more incentives for the expansion of domestic renewable energies while at the same time ensuring long-term security of supply.

However, the TSCNET shareholder considers that the legal framework must also contribute to integrating renewable energies into the overall system. According to Swissgrid, this is the current situation in Switzerland: The combination of the absence of an electricity agreement with the EU, a significant increase in renewable energy with volatile generation, and the sluggish expansion of the grid affects the operation of the transmission system. Because even today, the grid expansion is not keeping pace with that of the renewables.

To meet the goals of the “Energy Strategy 2050”, it must first be ensured that approval procedures for grid projects are consistently optimised and accelerated. Secondly, innovative solutions for load management are needed to generate flexibility and provide frequency services to the transmission grid. The crowd balancing platform Equigy – a cooperation of Swissgrid, TSCNET shareholder TenneT, the Dutch-German TSO, and the Italian TSO Terna – is one example of such a solution. Thirdly, an electricity agreement between Switzerland and the EU is essential, since import and export capacity will make an important contribution to Switzerland’s supply security given the significant expansion of renewable energies. Finally, Swissgrid considers the non-discriminatory availability, quality, and transparency of data to be increasingly important for secure grid operation. This requires a legal basis for regulating data transfer between TSOs, distribution system operators (DSOs), storage and power plant operators, and other parties involved.

Swissgrid comments on the revision of the national Energy Act by the Swiss Federal Council (illustration based on a picture of Lac de Moiry in Valais, Fotoauge, Pixabay)

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Construction permit for Pradella-La Punt

13.07.2020

As the extra-high voltage line in the Swiss Engadine between Pradella and La Punt constitutes a bottleneck in the Swiss and pan-European transmission system, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid has long aimed to increase its transmission capacity to 2 x 380kV. This will improve import capacity and security of supply in the canton of Graubünden and facilitate the transport of Engadine hydropower. The project is part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, Swissgrid’s ambitious modernisation and expansion plan.

The Swiss Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (Eidgenössisches Starkstrominspektorat-ESTI) now has approved the reinforcement and new construction of pylons between Pradella and La Punt. Swissgrid has already refurbished the pylon foundations in the past two years, so that work can commence soon. Approximately 3500 tonnes of steel will be needed to upgrade the around 50-kilometre-long overhead line. The construction will be carried out in two sections and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

To reduce the overall environmental impact in the region, Swissgrid is supporting a local grid operator in replacing a 60kV overhead line with a 110kV underground cable. As a result, 1100 pylons will be disappearing from the landscape.

Swissgrid can start with the 2 x 380kV upgrade of the Pradella-La Punt line (picture: Swissgrid)

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Successful start of FCR auctions

01.07.2020

The cooperation on regional procurement and exchange of frequency containment reserve (FCR) is a voluntary initiative of eight transmission system operators (TSOs): the six TSCNET shareholders 50Hertz, Amprion, and TransnetBW from Germany, APG from Austria, Swissgrid from Switzerland, and the Dutch-German TSO TenneT, as well as Elia from Belgium and the French TSO RTE. The FCR project is the first regional cooperation for a common market based on the methodology for the exchange of control reserves set out in the EU Guideline on Electricity Balancing. Within the scope of a cooperation model with Amprion, the Luxembourg TSCNET customer Creos is also involved.

The next milestone in the development of the largest European market for primary balancing power reserve has now been reached, as the first D-1 auction for FCR with 4-hour products was successfully conducted on 30 June 2020. This means, the FCR cooperation reduces the product length from one day to four hours and thus the market for primary balancing power is brought closer to real time.

Due to stronger competition between service providers and technologies, the joint auction allows TSOs to procure FCRs at minimum cost to end-users while offering a large common market for all providers of balancing services. It also increases the market attractiveness for short-term flexibility, limits price volatility and improves the security of grid operation by executing cross zonal procurement of FCR. The FCR market, already the largest in Europe, will be extended to western Denmark and Slovenia in the first quarter of 2021, so that with Energinet and ELES two further TSCNET shareholders will broaden the project.

The FCR cooperation successfully conducted the first D-1 auction for FCR with 4-hour products 

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High-voltage pylon of Swissgrid sabotaged

28.06.2020

On the morning of Friday 26 June, motorists on the Lausanne-Geneva motorway near the municipality of Gland in the Swiss canton of Vaud noticed how a high-voltage pylon collapsed. The cantonal police of Vaud were alerted and immediately cordoned off the area around the scene. No persons were injured. TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), disconnected and grounded the two 220kV lines affected by the collapse of the pylon, Banlieue Ouest-Foretaille and Crans-Romanel. Grid stability is guaranteed and there are no supply failures in the Swiss transmission system.

Initial findings indicate that the pylon was subject to an act of sabotage, probably with the help of explosives. On-site investigations have been carried out by the Vaud Cantonal Police and the Swiss Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) while a criminal investigation has been opened by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland.

A 220kV pylon of Swissgrid has collapsed after an act of sabotage (picture: Canton de Vaud)

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Work begins on the final section of Nant de Drance

15.06.2020

The Nant de Drance pumped storage power plant in the Swiss canton of Valais is being commissioned successively in sections since 2019. The plant has a capacity of 900MW, making it one of the most powerful pumped storage plants in Europe – when it is fully operational in 2021, it will be able to generate close to 2.5bn KWh a year. TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), is responsible for connecting the power plant to the extra-high voltage grid and for to transmitting the hydropower to the urban areas of Switzerland.

Swissgrid is implementing the 380kV connection in three sections, two of which were already commissioned at the end of November 2018: the 6.5km underground cable line connecting the Nant de Drance power plant to the Châtelard substation via the plant’s access tunnel, and the 12.5km overhead line between the Châtelard and La Bâtiaz substations. The last section – from La Bâtiaz to the connecting point to the Chamoson-Romanel overhead line in Le Verney – crosses the Rhône valley over a length of 1.3km. An underground variant for this section was finally approved in January 2020 by the Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (“Eidgenössisches Starkstrominspektorat”, ESTI). It provides for a tunnel with a diameter of around 2.5m and a depth of 12 to 20m to be drilled between different groundwater levels. This is the second underground extra-high voltage line built by Swissgrid, but the first to extend at great depth for more than one kilometre.

Preparations for construction work on the two sites in Le Verney and La Bâtiaz have been underway since mid-May. Excavation of the shafts at Le Verney will commence in mid-June. In August, the mini tunnel boring machine will be installed on the main construction site in Le Verney. Tunnel driving will take about eight months and start in September 2020 at the same time as the excavation of the shafts in La Bâtiaz. After around two years of work, the third section is scheduled to be commissioned, until which time a provisional solution has been found: In 2019, the voltage of one of the two overhead lines La Bâtiaz – Le Rosel was increased to 380kV.

Swissgrid is starting construction of the final section of the connection of Nant de Drance to the national 380kV grid (picture: Nant de Drance SA)

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Luxembourg integrated into FCR cooperation

01.06.2020

Eight central European transmission system operators (TSOs) cooperate in the regional procurement and exchange of Frequency Containment Reserve (FCR). Their joint FCR project is the first regional cooperation in Europe to implement market harmonisation in accordance with the EU Guideline on Electricity Balancing. The participating TSOs are APG, 50Hertz, Amprion, TransnetBW, and Swissgrid – the Austrian, German and Swiss TSCNET shareholders –, the Dutch-German shareholder TenneT as well as the Belgian TSO Elia and the French TSO RTE. It is intended to extend the joint FCR procurement towards western Denmark, so that the central European TSOs are supplemented by Energinet from Denmark as a non-active member.

Luxembourg was missing in the cooperation so far, but cross-border primary control reserve (PCR) between Germany and Luxembourg is now also possible: Since 1 June 2020, balancing service providers (BSPs) from Luxembourg are participating in the joint tender for FCR cooperation. For this purpose, the TSO Amprion, whose German control area is bordering the Grand-Duchy, and the Luxembourgian TSCNET customer Creos have developed a cooperation model. Under this model, Amprion assumes the role of the connecting TSO, carries out the prequalification of the BSPs, concludes the framework agreement for PCR, and takes over the settlement with the BSPs from the Creos control area.

Since Amprion and Creos operate a joint load-frequency-control area, a pooling of technical units within this common area is permissible. Thus, a pool can include Luxembourgian as well as German units that provide balancing services. This means that a BSP may combine generation units or controllable consumer loads from both countries and offer them collectively on the PCR market.

The central European FCR cooperation was extended to Luxembourg (picture: Cedric Letsch)

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New 380kV line Airolo-Lavorgo in approval phase

27.05.2020

The first plans to increase the transmission capacity of the overhead lines in the Leventina Valley in the Swiss canton of Ticino date back to 1997. Today, the upgrade of the 23-kilometre-long line between the Airolo and Lavorgo substations from 220kV to 380kV is part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, the infrastructure expansion plan of the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid. This is a future-oriented measure of ecological value, because the TSCNET shareholder is not only enhancing capacity and security of supply for Ticino and the whole of Switzerland, but thanks to the new overhead line and the subsequent upgrade of the lines in the Maggia Valley, the hydroelectric power plants in Ticino will no longer be subject to output restrictions.

The planning corridor was approved by the Swiss Federal Council in March 2016, which provides for the line to run along the western bank of the Ticino River, which flows through the Leventina Valley. Based on this decision, Swissgrid – in close cooperation with the Canton of Ticino, municipalities and citizens’ communities – has designed the final routing, which has now been submitted for approval to the Swiss Federal Inspectorate for Heavy Current Installations (“Eidgenössisches Starkstrominspektorat”, ESTI).

The Airolo-Lavorgo line complements the connection under construction between Chippis in Valais and Lavorgo and secures the electricity supply of Ticino with an additional 380kV system. According to the plans now submitted to ESTI, the new route of the line in the Leventina Valley is to run far from any residential areas. Once the new line is operational, the current 220kV line, which in comparison is much closer to settlements, can be dismantled. The completion of the new lines in both the Leventina and the Maggia Valley, scheduled for 2035, will, under current planning, ultimately enable the disassembly of more than 60 kilometres of overhead lines.

Swissgrid has submitted the application for building the 380kV line Airolo-Lavorgo (picture: Swissgrid) 

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380kV line Beznau-Birr commissioned ahead of schedule

25.05.2020

The upgrading of the existing 220kV line between Beznau in the canton of Aargau and Mettlen in the canton of Lucerne to 380kV is a key component of the “Strategic Grid 2025“, the national expansion plan for the transmission infrastructure of the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) Swissgrid. The voltage increase ensures energy distribution and supply security in the Zurich metropolitan area, Central Switzerland, and the Swiss Central Plateau. The TSCNET shareholder has now put the first section between Beznau and Birr in Aargau into operation, one year earlier than planned.

This stretch was partly installed underground, namely across the so-called Gäbihübel near Bözberg/Riniken about halfway between Beznau and Birr. The cable laying at the Gäbihübel is the first time that part of an extra-high voltage line in Switzerland has been implemented using underground cables. Twelve cables with a weight of 30 tonnes each were installed in the conduit blocks in the summer of 2019. This was followed by the completion of the overhead line section. To connect overhead lines and underground cables, special structures were erected at both ends of the approximately 1.3-kilometre-long underground section. After a construction period of around two years, the Swissgrid control centre connected the new 380kV line to the transmission grid on 19 May 2020. The reasons for the early completion were Swissgrid’s successful project and implementation planning as well as the rather warm and dry weather.

Swissgrid is providing scientific support for the construction, commissioning, and further operation of the underground cable. Investigations are carried out, for example, on the thermal behaviour of the cable conductors depending on the current load, the temperature variation in the soil above the conduit block and in the surroundings, and the biodiversity in the soil. In May, work began on dismantling the old 220kV overhead line and restoration of the pylon sites to their original condition. The deconstruction work is expected to last until the end of 2020.

Swissgrid has put into operation the 380kV line Beznau-Birr, the first Swiss extra-high voltage line partially laid underground (picture: Swissgrid)

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Generation adequacy in the CWE region within standards

22.05.2020

The Pentalateral Energy Forum (PLEF) provides the framework for regional cooperation in Central Western Europe (CWE) to improve electricity market integration and security of supply. The initiative aims to give political backing to a process of regional integration towards a European energy market. As far as the concrete implementation of impulses from the initiative is concerned, eight transmission system operators (TSOs) of seven countries cooperate in the PLEF, including the TSCNET shareholders APG from Austria, Amprion and TransnetBW from Germany, Swissgrid from Switzerland, the Dutch-German TSO TenneT, and TSCNET client Creos from Luxembourg as well as the Belgian TSO Elia and RTE from France.

The PLEF is subdivided in so-called Support Groups, e.g. covering work on market integration (SG1) and on security of supply (SG2). Within the scope of the SG2 group, the eight TSOs have worked out the third edition of the Pentalateral Generation Adequacy Assessment (PLEF GAA 3.0) and have just published a corresponding report, which summarises the main findings in 71 concise pages. The study, which examines the adequacy of electricity generation in the PLEF region up to the medium-term time horizon (2025), can be considered as significant result of TSO cooperation at regional level.

The main findings are that, under base conditions, sufficient production capacity is available, so that a breach of reliability standards is not to be expected and the adequacy of production in the CWE region will be up to standard by 2025. However, adequacy simulations have also shown that adequacy risks can occur. The electrical system may be exposed to specific situations in which the system safety is under strain. Additional unforeseen events in such situations can put even greater pressure on daily system operation, which may require the activation of special measures.

The eight TSOs cooperating in the PLEF have published their joint report on regional generation adequacy assessment in Central Western Europe

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