How does APG secure Austria’s supply of electricity?

Austrian Power Grid AG (APG), Austria’s largest transmission system operator, is mandated by law to operate the Austrian high-voltage grid (primarily 380 kilovolts and 220 kilovolts).

APG is therefore responsible:

  1. for the transmission of high-voltage electricity from the energy producers to the local grid operators that supply the electricity to households and companies at lower voltages, as well as
  2. for safe, reliable grid operation throughout Austria: i.e. control and monitoring of all electricity transmission and intervention whenever problems and disruptions occur, also at the national borders.

 

Financial year 2017


Employees

489

Gird length

6,971 km

Plyons

12,000

Substations and grid control systems

63

Voltage

380, 220 and 110 kilovolts

Planned investments (over 10 years)

About  €2 billion

 

 

 

 

 

Balance of supply and demand

The path electricity takes from the producer to the socket is long and complex. The current passes through different levels until it is finally converted to the standard household voltage of 230 volts. The transformation is one challenge. Having the right quantity of electricity in the grid is another. This is because the electricity supply system only works if electricity supply is matched exactly to demand at all times. This equilibrium is expressed in the grid frequency. A grid frequency of 50 Hertz indicates a balanced supply of electricity. APG ensures this throughout Austria at all times.

Energy transition – APG’s pivotal role

Increasing the share of renewable energy in total electricity generation is an instrumental part of achieving the EU’s and Austria’s climate and energy targets. This entails ramping up electricity generation from wind and solar energy. However, the grid as it stands is struggling to keep pace with the rapid growth in electricity generation from renewable energy sources. Particularly the significant variations and difficulty in predicting quantities of these sources of energy present a major challenge for grid operation. The larger their share of electricity production, the more important it is to expand the power grid accordingly. 

Backbone of Austria’s electricity supply/interface in the European power grid

APG is in charge of ensuring a sustainable supply of electricity in Austria. It is responsible for expanding the Austrian high-voltage grid and coordinates the collaboration with the local Austrian grid operators. Completion of the 380-kilovolt (kV) safety ring is a key element in fulfilling this task. This will enable a secure supply of electricity to all major consumer centres and transmission of large quantities of electricity from the wind turbines in the east of the country to the pumped storage power plants in the Alps. As an independent grid company, APG guarantees each market participant access to its grid based on transparent, objective criteria. The supraregional grid across Austria transports about half of the electricity required in the country. APG also coordinates and promotes the exchange of electricity within the European grid system, i.e. the import and export of electricity at national borders.

Further information

Grid development and expansion: the basis for a secure electricity supply and value creation for the domestic economy

Among other things, APG is required by law to develop and expand its grid to the extent necessary to meet the requirements of grid users. APG’s grid investments are long-term investments in the future of energy in Austria. They form the necessary basis for Austria to realise its plans to expand generation from renewables, thus achieving the objectives of #mission2030 as regards CO2 emission reduction and climate change. 

To this end, APG has prepared a network development plan (NDP) every year since 2011. This comprises the coordinated, Austria-wide planning of the projects of all market players (electricity producers, distribution network operators) plus the necessary grid expansion measures. In a public consultation, all market participants can comment on the NDP or effect amendments or additions. The NDP is then submitted to Energie Control Austria for approval. The approved NDP includes all projects that APG is required to implement in the following three years as well as all other projects that are planned as part of a ten-year forecast. The associated network expansion costs are thus also approved. 

The currently applicable NDP covers a ten-year investment volume of over €2 billion aimed at guaranteeing security of supply in Austria. These investments have considerable value-added and employment effects.

Balance between supply and demand: the 50 Hertz principle

The electricity supply system is based on the basic principle of physics that supply and demand must be precisely matched at all times. The measured value that provides information about this balance in the grid is the grid frequency. This must be exactly 50 Hertz for the power grid to be stable and the supply of electricity to be guaranteed. Minor variations around this value are quite normal. This is due to the fact that, for one thing, there are always slight variations in electricity consumption and, for another, power plants are continuously being connected to or decoupled from the grid. However, the permissible range of variation is very small. The grid frequency must not be more than 0.2 points above or below the 50 Hertz value. If the variations exceed this, power outages occur – in the worst case scenario, there is a risk of a blackout.

APG is Austria’s independent transmission system operator and control area operator.

As such, it is responsible for maintaining the balance between supply and demand in its area of responsibility (the Austrian control area). The Austrian Electricity Industry and Organisation Act (Elektrizitätswirtschafts- und -organisationsgesetz, ElWOG) also stipulates the following tasks in particular for the transmission system operator (excerpt):
  • operation of the power grid having regard to its safety, reliability and efficiency and taking environmental considerations into account;
  • regular maintenance of the power grid;
  • further development of the power grid in accordance with the requirements of grid users (annual preparation and submission of the network development plan)
  • in accordance with the principles of economy and efficiency.

APG is a non-profit corporation. The legality of all costs that APG incurs in fulfilling its legal mandate is reviewed by the state authority Energie Control Austria (ECA) and acknowledged by means of a cost notice. The ElWOG provides the legal basis for allocation of these costs to the grid rate that all electricity customers have to pay with their electricity bill depending on consumption.

The history of APG began with the start of the deregulation of the electricity market

When the electricity market was being deregulated in the 1990s and early 2000s, APG was reorganised as an independent transmission operator (ITO). This move was designed to comply with the unbundling obligation under European law stipulating that the areas of electricity supply, power grid operators and electricity trading must operate separately and independently throughout Europe.

Austria was a pioneer in the implementation of the EU regulations on the deregulation of the electricity market. Austrian Power Grid (APG) was founded as an independent enterprise in 1998. In the years that followed, the organisational structures within APG were successively built up, which led to the domestic transmission grid segment being split off entirely from the parent company, VERBUND AG.

As an independent enterprise, APG now operates completely independently of its parent company VERBUND. It makes its grid available to all market participants (energy producers, traders) in a non-discriminatory manner and on equal terms. Through international cooperation with the grid operators of the European partner states, APG thus creates the basis for cross-border electricity trading throughout Europe.

Web Links

 Austrian Electricity Industry and Organisation Act of 2010 (in German only)

 Website of E-Control, the Austrian regulator for the grid-based energies electricity and natural gas

 Website on the Austrian federal government’s climate and energy strategy (in German only)

 The effects frequency variations can have in the power grid are shown by this example (Der Standard, 7 March 2018): “Wer hat an der Uhr gedreht? Viele Uhren an Elektrogeräten gehen seit Wochen in ganz Europa nach.” (In German only)

 The importance of the power grid for a functioning power transition in Germany (Die Welt, 14 August 2018): “Für die Energiewende schlägt die Stunde der Wahrheit” (in German only)