Ernen-Ulrichen 380kV line in operation

21.10.2019

With the erection of the last of a total of 57 pylons, the new extra-high voltage line between the Ernen and Ulrichen substations in the Swiss canton of Valais has now been completed. The 30-kilometre section is part of the 380kV Mörel-Ulrichen line project of TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO). The line upgrade in the Rhône Valley is vital for the future of Switzerland’s energy supply: In order to fully transfer the hydropower generated in the Valais to the urban areas of Switzerland, the lines of the south-western canton must be connected to the supra-regional 380kV transmission grid, particularly in view of the commissioning of the new Nant de Drance pumped storage power station, scheduled for 2020.

The existing 220kV overhead line between Ernen and Ulrichen is already disconnected. Its 177 pylons will be dismantled from spring 2020 and the former pylon locations will be recultivated. Swissgrid is additionally carrying out nature conservation projects of national importance in the vicinity of the new line. Also starting next year, the Swiss TSO will continue its Valais upgrade project with the new construction of the next section between Ernen and Mörel-Filet, which is expected to be commissioned as 380kV line by the end of 2022.

Swissgrid has commissioned the new 380kV line between Ernen-Ulrichen (picture: Swissgrid)

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Delay for the Bassecourt-Mühleberg line upgrade

07.10.2019

With the decommissioning of the Mühleberg nuclear power plant in the canton of Bern at the end of 2019, part of Switzerland’s energy production in the central Swiss Plateau will cease. In the medium term, this shortage will have to be offset by higher production from Swiss power plants or by energy imports from abroad. This is particularly important in winter, when Switzerland is dependent on additional energy imports.

TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), is therefore upgrading the Bassecourt-Mühleberg power line from 220kV to 380kV and equipping the Mühleberg substation with a new 380/220kV transformer to ensure security of supply in the greater Bern area and the entire central region of the Swiss Plateau. The modernisation of the line will require adjustments to 54 of a total of 142 existing pylons and will not affect the landscape. Both upgrade measures are part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, Swissgrid’s ambitious grid modernisation and expansion plan.

While the installation work for the new transformer in Mühleberg continues, a delay of two years in the voltage increase of the Bassecourt-Mühleberg line is expected due to legal complaints against the line upgrade. In August, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy approved the line upgrade and rejected the objections, which mainly concerned the exposure to magnetic fields and noise or the need to relocate the line or to use underground cables. Various complainants have now appealed against this decision of the Federal Office to the Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland, thus preventing further progress.

The upgrading of the Bassecourt-Mühleberg power line by Swissgrid will be delayed (picture: Swissgrid)

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50 new pylons for the Pradella-La Punt line

19.09.2019

The extra-high voltage line in the Swiss Engadine between Pradella/Scuol and La Punt represents a bottleneck in the Swiss and the European transmission grid. To remedy this shortcoming, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), began upgrading the 380kV line to 2 x 380kV in October 2017. This will increase import capacity from the north, strengthen interconnections with Austria and Italy and facilitate the transport of hydropower in the canton of Grisons. The project also improves security of supply in Switzerland and is part of the “Strategic Grid 2025”, Swissgrid’s ambitious modernisation and expansion plan.

Basically, the upgrade means that Swissgrid will attach a second 380kV line to the pylons, which are originally fitted with only one line on one side. Over the past two years, the TSO has reinforced the mast foundations between Pradella and La Punt and will complete this work in autumn. But Swissgrid has also examined the static of the pylons and discovered that some of them have insufficient load capacity for the second circuit. For safety reasons, it was thus decided to replace 50 of altogether 127 masts instead of reinforcing them. This change has no impact on the routing, but on the schedule: The commissioning of the upgraded line will be delayed by at least one year and is now planned for 2022.

Swissgrid has to erect 50 new pylons for the Pradella-La Punt line (picture: Swissgrid)

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Swissgrid adjusts export capacities to Germany

03.09.2019

All participants in the integrated European electricity market have agreed on common definitions of the transmission capacity for international electricity exchanges, including the Net Transfer Capacity (NTC). The NTC is an important basis to anticipate and plan cross-border transactions. Thus, the establishment of NTCs is one of the essential tasks of the transmission system operators (TSOs) to enable market participants to carry out energy trading without jeopardising grid stability. TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss TSO, along with the neighbouring TSOs, determines the NTC values on all four Swiss borders on an annual, monthly and daily basis.

In the summer of 2019, Swissgrid had to reduce the NTC on the national northern border to Germany to ensure reliable grid operation. Originally, a static NTC value of 4,000 MW for exports from Switzerland to Germany had been defined with the neighbouring German TSOs. However, the load flows between the two countries have changed in the last two years. Situations in which Germany is dependent on imports, especially from Switzerland, occurred increasingly in the summer months. As a result, the previously typical north-south flow towards Italy reversed to a south-north flow towards Germany.

Other simultaneous factors also affected the Swiss grid load, such as the high level of Swiss hydropower production, the inspection times of the Swiss nuclear power plants and the seasonal decommissioning and construction work on the grid. In combination with the growth in exports to Germany, this led to significantly higher load flows in the Swiss 220kV grid, which were additionally reinforced by increased export opportunities from France to Germany through Flow-Based Market Coupling (FMBC) in the Central Western Europe (CWE) region and transit through Switzerland.

In fact, exports of up to 8,000MW were recorded on several days this summer. For this reason, Swissgrid, together with its neighbouring TSOs, has limited the NTC values for a secure grid operation. Swissgrid continues to cooperate closely with these TSOs to optimise cross-border capacity. The current static value of 4,000MW is expected to be substituted by seasonally adjusted dynamic NTC values. However, due to the implementation of the “Clean Energy for All Europeans Package” (CEP) of the European Commission, it is not yet possible to predict exactly how the NTC values at Switzerland’s northern border will develop.

Swissgrid adjusts the NTC values for electricity flows at the Swiss-German border

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Swissgrid commissions new transformer in Laufenburg

28.08.2019

TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), has successfully taken a new transformer into operation in the Laufenburg substation. It is part of the “Strategic Grid 2025” and plays a central role in the Swiss transmission grid. The new transformer connects the 380kV and 220kV grid levels and increases the capacity of the Laufenburg substation from 600 to 800MVA. It ensures the supply of electricity to the Swiss population, even in the event of increased electricity demand in the future.

The transformer consists of four poles, three active poles and one reserve pole. In the event of a fault, the reserve pole can replace the defective pole without time-consuming displacement. What would otherwise take weeks can be carried out in Laufenburg in just a few days. The protective measures correspond to the highest standard. The new transformer replaces the old one after 53 years of operation.

Swissgrid has put a new transformer into operation at the Laufenburg substation (picture taken from the Swissgrid video “Ein Riese geht ans Netz”, YouTube)

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Completion of repairs at Albula Pass

30.07.2019

In mid-April, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO), began repairing the 380kV lines on the Albula Pass in the canton of Grisons, which had been damaged by the windstorm Adrian (Vaia in the German-speaking area), in the night of 29 to 30 October 2018. Since then, the two affected lines (Filisur-Robbia and Pradella-Robbia-Sils) were out of service, as Swissgrid decided for safety reasons not to erect a temporary connection in winter due to the danger of avalanches. The four damaged pylons and the conductors have now been replaced. On 29 July 2019, the lines were put back in operation as scheduled.

During the outage of the lines, grid security in the transmission system was always guaranteed and there were no supply interruptions. But the importance of the line as a north-south link made the repair particularly urgent. Thanks to partial snow clearance by the Civil Engineering Office of Grisons and a temporary avalanche protection system, Swissgrid was able to start work even before the official opening of the Albulapass road. Thus, Swissgrid was already able to start work on the four pylons on 15 April. The old foundations were removed, and new ones laid. The pylons were then built, and the conductors installed. The new pylons withstand even greater wind forces due to their stronger foundations and supporting structures. Two pylons now also have foundations with integrated avalanche protection.

Strict safety regulations were followed during the work. The high alpine terrain and the unpredictable weather of the snowy winter of 2018/19 presented the repair team with major challenges. The local avalanche commission issued an avalanche bulletin every day and activities were planned based on this information. The specialists on the construction sites were equipped with avalanche detectors and a container would have provided 48 hours of protection in an emergency. The work was accident-free. The Swiss TSO also developed and implemented a comprehensive environmental plan to protect the high alpine landscape. For example, the soil layers were removed and stored separately and returned to their original place after completion of the foundation work. The original state of the surroundings was then restored as far as possible.

Swissgrid has finished repair work on the damaged overhead lines at the Albula Pass (picture: Swissgrid)

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New FCR market design

04.07.2019

The collaboration of central European transmission system operators (TSOs) in the procurement and exchange of Frequency Containment Reserve (FCR) is the first regional cooperation in Europe to implement market harmonisation in compliance with the EU Guideline on Electricity Balancing (EBGL). The TSOs that make up the FCR consortium are: the Austrian, German and Swiss TSCNET shareholders APG, 50Hertz, Amprion, TransnetBW, and Swissgrid, the Dutch-German shareholder TenneT as well as the Belgian TSO Elia and the French TSO RTE, which are supplemented by further TSCNET shareholder Energinet from Denmark as non-active member.

The FCR cooperation was founded in the summer of 2016 and has conducted two consultation rounds in the last two years, resulting in a final proposal, which was approved by all national regulators involved. The first milestone in the advancement of the largest FCR market in Europe has now been reached in the implementation of a new FCR market design. In addition to shortening the product length from a week to a day, the cooperation introduces a marginal pricing system. The aim is to reduce procurement costs and create incentives for new balancing power providers and technologies to enter the market.

The FCR cooperation introduces a new market design

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New ENTSO-E leadership team elected

28.06.2019

The Assembly of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) has elected a new leadership team for the next two years, taking office today. The new President is Hervé Laffaye, Deputy CEO of RTE (Réseau de Transport d’Electricité), the French transmission system operator (TSO). Vice President is Zbyněk Boldiš, member of the Board of Directors of our shareholder and customer ČEPS, the Czech TSO. The Board is chaired by Joachim Vanzetta, Director of System Control at Amprion, one of the four German TSOs. Of our shareholders and customers, also Tahir Kapetanovic (APG), SØren Dupont Kristensen (Energinet), Konrad Purchała and Robert Paprocki (both PSE), Frank-Peter Hansen (TenneT), Michael Jesberger (TransnetBW), and Yves Zumwald (Swissgrid) belong to the ENTSO-E team.

“ENTSO-E’s agenda comprises several strategic targets to support the TSO community in preparing the power system of 2020, 2030 and beyond, in ensuring transparent implementation of existing and new legislation while keeping an excellent level of system security,” explains Joachim Vanzetta. The background is shaped by the implementation of the Clean Energy Package and the design of the future European electricity market design. Particular attention will be paid to the issue of system security in times of energy system transformation and European climate targets.

The ENTSO-E Assembly has elected a new leadership team – on the left the new ENTSO-E President Hervé Laffaye (RTE), on the right Chair of the Board Joachim Vanzetta (Amprion)

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Swissgrid analyses critical situation

27.05.2019

On the critical situation in the Swiss transmission grid on Monday, 20 May 2019, when individual grid elements were considerably overloaded or threatened to be overloaded, TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission grid operator (TSO), has already completed an initial analysis. On that day, with a high Swiss domestic electricity production of around 12 GW, a total of around 4.5 GW was exported, most of it to Germany. Since the load flows typically run in the opposite direction, this atypical situation led to security breaches in the grid.

For reasons unknown, the European grid forecasts did not anticipate that export volumes would increase in the short term from Sunday to Monday. Swissgrid had thus to resolve the grid security breaches in real-time operation in cooperation with colleagues from the European TSOs. This incident shows that the forecasts can deviate considerably from the actual load flows. It also indicates the crucial importance of integrating all transmission grids in Europe, including Switzerland, into the grid modelling, so that any threats to grid security can be identified in advance and coordinated measures can be taken.

However, since Switzerland is excluded from market coupling due to the lack of an electricity agreement with the EU, the deviations between forecasts and effective load flows are likely to increase. An agreement, on the other hand, would include Swissgrid in the models for load flow calculation and capacity allocation of the European partners and provide the TSO with better information on the load flows through Switzerland.

Swissgrid presents first analysis of the grid security breach from 20 May (picture: Swissgrid)

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Pylon repair started at Albula Pass

25.05.2019

The windstorm Adrian (Vaia in the German-speaking area) was one of the most devastating storms of the European storm season 2018-19, mainly affecting the northern Mediterranean and Alpine regions. It not only damaged the Venetian Basilica of San Marco and flooded 75% of Venice, but also destroyed transmission lines at the Albula Pass: In the night to 30 October 2018, four pylons from TSCNET shareholder Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission system operator (TSO) bent or collapsed at the high mountain pass in the Canton of Grisons.

Since then, the two affected 380kV lines (Filisur-Robbia and Pradella-Robbia-Sils) have been out of operation, as Swissgrid has decided for safety reasons not to erect a provisional connection with emergency masts in winter due to the danger of avalanches. Nevertheless, grid security in the transmission grid is ensured at all times and there have been no supply interruptions. While security and supply are guaranteed, however, transit capacity to Italy had to be reduced until the line is restored.

Swissgrid began repairing the 380kV lines in mid-April and is now replacing the four broken pylons whose foundations are currently being reconstructed. New pylons and the conductor ropes will then be installed. If everything goes according to plan, the two lines will go operational again at the end of July.

Swissgrid has commenced repair work on the damaged overhead lines at the Albula Pass (picture: Swissgrid)

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