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Like the neuronal network in the human body, the energy system of the future can be conceived as a networked system of regional cells.


Planning for success


Michael Weinhold, CTO of Siemens Energy Management


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.

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.
Michael Weinhold


Other factors include security and resilience: If generators in one cell break down, backup must be provided through the system. We are already seeing the effects of climate change. Thus, our energy systems must feature more embedded resilience, not just against cyberattacks or vandalism, but also against extreme weather phenomena – as acknowledged, for instance, in US President Barack Obama's Executive Order 13653 "Preparing the United Status for the Impacts of Climate Change" of 2013.

Accordingly, accurate weather forecasting is becoming increasingly important. At the same time, operators need to react quickly if these forecasts should turn out to be inaccurate; they must be agile in anticipating such scenarios and equip the grid with sensors, communications, and automation and control equipment. Utilities must also prepare for these developments through more built-in flexibility.


Forward planning must take into account the growing complexity of the overall energy system: Which storage options will prevail? Will prosumers mainly use the power they generate, or will they trade it? What will be their trading patterns? Who will
organize exchanges, and under which rules? How will llegislation and market regulation develop? Different business models may suddenly be incentivized. We must therefore
look not only at the technology, but also at developments in market design and regulation and prepare for the future by actively driving change as a market participant, rather than letting ourselves be driven.

With solid planning, utilities can, for example, lay out a roadmap to show regulators and legislators how to shape the further development of the system efficiently. Gains can
be achieved with technologies like HVDC, for example. But cutting-edge grid control and transmission technology, as well as our Energy IP Platform, can be used in various
ways for market integration - from meter data management to end-user interaction via apps (e.g., adaptive protection settings).

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for all utilities and operators. So for us as a
manufacturer, it’s important to understand our customers' markets and regulatory environments. The Siemens Power Systems Consulting can help with strategic choices. This global service, which we have offered for many years, for example in the shape of the Smart Grid Compass, has given has given us expertise that we can share with our customers, helping them meet their targets through reliable, targeted planning for success.

Michael Weinhold, CTO Siemens Energy Management
Picture credits: Elisabeth Moch, Horst Moser, Getty Images