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Accelerating the Energy Transition in Germany: European Industry Leaders have recently Discussed the Challenges and the Opportunities

image credit: Source: Forschungsgesellschaft Energie "Accelerating the Energiewende: utilizing fast flexible grid solutions to transform power networks"

Similar to the situation in many countries around the world, the German transmission grid needs to quickly and significantly increase its transfer capacity to successfully manage an increasing level of renewables and deliver on the Clean Energy package.

German transmission system operators (TSOs) have ambitious network development plans to reduce congestion costs and facilitate the energy transition. German TSOs are seeking flexible and innovative solutions that can 'buy time' as many network expansion efforts are suffering delays due to community concerns and lengthy permitting.

Also, the country has ambitions renewables and climate targets and plans major changes to its power system in the coming years. Today, the German grid is highly constrained – congestion cost consumers €1.2 billion in 2019. German transmission system operators (TSOs) have ambitious network development plans to reduce congestion costs and facilitate the energy transition.

Where long-term network expansion efforts are delayed, proven technology can optimize the network in the near term. The German Network Development Plan includes several PSTs (phase shifting transformers) in the next few years. Since many network expansion efforts face delays, these projects are designed to help TSOs 'buy time' and increase transfer capacity by maximizing the use of the existing grid.

Last month, hundreds of people joined a virtual FGE colloquium, hosted by the Research Group on Energy (Forschungsgesellschaft Energie - FGE) at RWTH Aachen, to learn about the valuable time and flexibility offered by grid optimization technologies.

The meeting launched a recent study completed by Professor Moser and his team and featured leaders from across the European energy industry. The Institute of Power Systems and Power Economics (IAEW) at RWTH Aachen University conducted a study to analyze the advantages offered by modular power flow control in the form of m-SSSCs (modular static synchronous series compensators).

The study found that compared to PSTs with the same capacity, m-SSSCs could provide double the system benefit. These benefits were possible because of the modularity and flexibility of the m-SSSIs. These characteristics allow TSOs to install the solution quickly, scale the deployments, reduce substation space and relocate the devices as necessary. 

There was a strong consensus between the speakers concerning the need of flexible and innovative assets like the SSSC. David Wright talked about the experience of Nationalgrid (UK) from carrying out a project that aims at the better usage of present transport capacities by deploying SSSCs. He classified the SSSC as very cost-effective and innovative product, which could reduce the overall costs for grid development.

More specifically, some comments highlighted the big challenges and opportunities:

"Optimization of the grid is a no-regrets option," stated Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope in his speech at the event. "It is very important that we are having this discussion about grid optimization technologies, how to make the most out of today's existing networks and try to minimize how much we may have to spend from now until 2050," he continued.

This view was shared by Dr. Stefan Mischinger, Head of Power Networks at the German Energy Agency, DENA,

"The National Development Plan's NOVA principle says grid optimization before reinforcement or expansion. We need to reinforce this principle."

Concerning grid development, Dr. Stefan Mischinger pointed out that economy and politics especially value the market maturity of products when it comes to a long-term grid development plan, which needs to meet complex requirements on the one hand and is very cost-intensive on the other hand.

Transmission owners National Grid Electricity Transmission (UK) and Amprion (Germany) discussed their approach to embracing innovation and investing in a flexible network.

This year, National Grid Electricity Transmission is proceeding with five installations of Smart Wires technology at three substations.

"I met the CEO of Smart Wires in 2015 and saw a huge potential. We found a way to start innovating and sharing ideas," reflected David Wright, Director of Electricity Transmission and Chief Electricity Engineer.

Bartosz Rusek, Amprion's Manager of System Network Analysis, noted Amprion's long history of embracing innovation,

"we pioneered DC links for the grid, developed new innovative towers, and introduced partial cabling. I recognize the flexibility offered by solutions like Smart Wires and am open to collaborating to bring this next phase of innovation to the German grid."

Dr. Bartosz Rusek emphasised the ongoing decrease of large generation units, which also leads to the need of more innovative assets in order to guarantee frequency and voltage stability and effectively prevent network oscillations.

These leaders were reacting to study results presented by Dr. Annika Klettke, study lead at RWTH Aachen. Dr. Klettke described how the modular characteristics of Smart Wires' SSSC (static synchronous series compensators) offers substantial value in reducing redispatch, lowering congestion costs and enabling more renewables to connect quickly.

The study explored the system impacts of replacing the 'ad-hoc' PSTs (phase shifting transformers) contained in the German Network Development Plan with modular SSSCs. The study found that modular SSSCs provide double the benefits of PSTs in terms of lowering system congestion and reducing renewable dispatch.

These benefits were possible because of the modularity and flexibility of the SSSCs. These characteristics allow TOs to install the solution quickly, scale the deployments, and relocate the devices as necessary. If other benefits like easier, faster delivery are considered the benefits would be even larger.

Reflecting on the conversation that unfolded, Gregg Rotenberg, Smart Wires CEO said,

"These industry leaders understand the value that flexible investments offer – buying time by materially reducing congestion and carbon emissions while we wait for 'big bets' like HVDC come into service and ensuring these large investments are fully utilized. Germany is already considered a global leader in the energy transition, and by quickly adopting flexible solutions, they can show the world how earlier reductions in carbon can have an outsized impact on our ability to affordably mitigate climate change."

Gregg Rotenberg finally came to the conclusion that in the future, the coexistence of grid development and flexible technologies is important. After every speaker had made a statement, a discussion with participants followed.

At the end of the event, Prof. Dr.‑Ing. Albert Moser summed up that with the introduction of the SSSC, another innovative tool for an optimized [RS1] grid operation is now available in addition to already used innovative tools, which for instance are dynamic line rating, grid boosters and PSTs.

Stephane Bilodeau's picture

Thank Stephane for the Post!

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