Grid de­vel­op­ment and in­tel­li­gent net­works

The nuclear phase-out, the renewable energy targets and the growing European trade in electricity make a considerable expansion of Germany's extra high voltage and gas transmission networks necessary in the coming years in order to guarantee the security of energy supply and implement the agreed energy transition. This means that the gas network will need to be overhauled and expanded over the next few years.

The Bundesnetzagentur approves the scenario frameworks developed by the electricity and gas transmission system operators (TSOs) and verifies and confirms the network development plans drawn up by each group of TSOs.

In addition, the volatile generation of electricity from renewable energy sources requires the efficient and intelligent linking of grids, generation and consumption. On the topic of "Flexibility in the power supply system", the Bundesnetzagentur initiated a discussion on the status quo and the description of obstacles and approaches to improve the development of flexibility.

Flexibility in the electricity supply system

When talking about the energy transition, we often hear about the increasing need for the use of flexibility to be able to efficiently guarantee the security of supply.

Defining flexibility

Flexibility in the electricity supply system has become a buzzword. The term flexibility can mean many different things.

Flexibility is the modification of generation injection and/or consumption patterns in reaction to an external signal (price signal or activation) in order to provide a service within the energy system.

The parameters used to characterise flexibility include the

  • amount of power modulation
  • duration
  • rate of change
  • response time
  • location

Bundesnetzagentur's discussion paper

Flexibility in the electricity system - Status quo, obstacles and approaches for a better use of flexibility (pdf / 516 KB)

The aim of this Bundesnetzagentur's publication – as with its previous discussion papers on network charges and "smart grids and smart markets" – is to take up and shape the current debate about the energy system and to highlight a number of points that are important from the perspective of network regulation.

The precondition for a secure supply of electricity is, in the first instance, a balance of electricity generation and consumption at all times. This balance is ensured through the electricity market.

Challenges posed by the energy transition

In the past, it was primarily the load to be met that was unplannable and unpredictable. In the wake of the energy transition, however, variable and intermittent generation from renewable energy sources is becoming increasingly important. In the medium term, more than half of the electricity generated is expected to come from renewables. As the percentage of renewables in the electricity mix rises, the residual load can frequently decrease to almost zero and then increase significantly within a short window of time – either days or hours. The actors in the system therefore need more flexibility to be able to efficiently guarantee the security of supply. This flexibility includes interactions with our electrical neighbours. Imports and exports at cross-border interconnectors are an essential element of a flexible energy system.

Main points of the discussion paper

Many of the key propositions put forward in the paper will be of no great surprise, given the previous opinions expressed by the Bundesnetzagentur. However, as these propositions are indispensable for functioning energy markets and a successful energy transition, they bear repeating very clearly. This includes adhering firmly to competitive solutions, which respond to price signals from the market, and the explicit refusal to grant specific support to individual players in the electricity market.

At the same time, the Bundesnetzagentur is open to a discussion on whether and to what extent network operators should take the scarcity of network resources into account and should be enabled to reflect these scarcities through improved tariff structures. In nearly every case, network expansion remains the most viable solution for a volatile energy system that is to combine low CO2 emissions, and eventually zero CO2 emissions, from electricity generation with security of supply and affordable prices.

Smart Grid / Smart Market

Due to the still very undifferentiated public discussion on the subject of "Smart Grid", the Bundesnetzagentur has prepared a key point paper that delineates the notions of "smart grid" and "smart market". 50 theses deal with the changing energy supply system.

This key issues paper (as of December 2010) is intended to further promote and structure the discussion on this topic.

Provision of reactive power

The energy transition and, in particular, the steady increase in the number of distributed generators are bringing new challenges for the network operators. Alongside traditional system services and new flexibilities, the provision of reactive power to benefit the network has also become an increasing focus of attention.

The Bundesnetzagentur's paper aims to help structure the discussion about the procurement of reactive power.