By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail – especially in an increasingly complex energy system. Planning is a great way to avoid wasting energy. This applies particularly in the design of power grids. German transmission grid operators – and thus, energy customers – are faced with increasing redispatching cost of several hundred million euros per year. Redispatching occurs, for example, under strong wind conditions in northern Germany. Then the wind parks have to lower their output to prevent grid overloading; at the same time, reserve power plants have to be activated in southern Germany as well as in neighboring countries to provide supply security. The solution is to plan and realize stronger grids, for instance with High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) technology and gas-insulated lines (GIL).
In Germany, there is a sense of urgency due to the decommissioning of the country’s nuclear power plants by 2022. Strong grids and power lines will need to be in place as the reactors are shutting down.
In the study “New planning and operational guidelines for rural distribution grids”, carried out by Wuppertal University and Siemens together with the utilities Avacon and Mitnetz, we evaluated scenarios for most cost-efficient integration of renewables. The study quantitatively confirmed the need for more intelligence in the grids, for example by utilizing controllable transformers, line monitoring, generation management, and energy storage in addition to upgrades of cables and transmission lines. Applying these planning guidelines will help the utilities to prepare their grids for the coming additional renewable ramp-up in the most cost-efficient way.
When it comes to overall system optimization, we are also discussing the concept of regional energy cells, so-called Decentralized Energy Systems (DES). Just as the body’s cells are linked to the brain, the electricity system of the future is based on an interconnected communication system that organizes the network and creates local energy markets. Although we expect more localized generation and storage, the cells will stay connected to the overall electricity system. Just like the body’s cells, these energy cells will need to be connected to the overall system. And the neuronal network is provided by digitalization.