Grid Development Plan Consultation: 3,800 km of New Power Lines and Grid Modernisation

The four German transmission system operators (TSOs) Amprion GmbH, 50Hertz Transmission GmbH, Tennet TSO GmbH and Transnet BW GmbH have presented the first national ten-year grid development plan. It contains measures to modernise, enhance and extend the electricity networks that the TSOs consider necessary over the next ten years. The grid development plan is up for public consultation from 30 May to 10 July 2012.

The TSOs emphasised that grid expansion was crucial for a successful implementation of the Energiewende away from nuclear power towards a renewable energy supply, with a higher input of intermittent energy. The speed of grid extension determines how quickly the renewable power generation can be increased, they said. The tense situation in the German grids in winter 2011/2012 shows that in the future a suitable balance between the two has to be found. Besides, sufficient energy from conventional sources will have to be available to supplement and back-up renewable energy sources.

The grid development plan presented by the TSOs is based on the scenario framework for grid development, which the grid regulator, the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA), approved in December last year. The expansion measures identified as necessary are derived from the lead scenario B 2022, which itself is based on a study commissioned by the Federal Environment Ministry. An outlook is also given until 2032.

The grid development plan sets out the need for transmission in respect to a starting point and an end point, but does not describe exact power line routes, as they will be defined as part of federal planning (Bundesfachplanung) by BNetzA respectively during the regional planning (Raumordnungsverfahren) by the permitting authorities of the federal states, the TSOs point out.

The calculations by the TSOs show that there is a considerable need to extend and optimise grids, in particular for high-performance power lines that can help transmit power from the north (were many new offshore wind parks are being planned and constructed) to industrialised areas in southern Germany with a high energy demand. The TSOs propose to build new direct current transmission lines, arguing that they are best suited to transmit power over long distances. They shall supplement the 380 kV alternating current power lines, which also have to be extended and optimised.

To keep the need for new power lines as low as possible, the TSOs want to enhance existing power lines wherever possible. With regard to the lead scenario they have identified the need to optimise power lines with a length of 4,400 km. In addition, 1,700 km of new alternating current power lines and 2,100 km of new direct current power lines, i.e. 3,800 km of new power lines in total, are needed, the TSOs say. They estimate that costs for the expansion of the transmission grid will amount to roughly EUR 20 billion over the next ten years.

The TSOs point out that a successful implementation of the ambitious investment programme will hinge on the regulatory framework, speedy permitting procedures as well as broad public and political support on all levels.

The feed-back from the consultation that ends on 10 July will be included in the update of the grid development plan, which will be handed over to BNetzA in the second half of August, the TSOs announced. BNetzA will then review the plan and once again launch a public consultation. The agency can demand changes. The approved 10-year grid development plan has to be handed over to the federal legislator at least every three years. It shall serve as a draft for the “Federal Requirement Plan for Transmission Networks” (Bundesbedarfsplan Übertragungsnetze – Section 12e EnWG). In April Chancellor Angela Merkel said she wanted to pass the law on the requirement plan by the end of the year.

Source: Tennet; Federal Network Agency

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