How does the energy transition succeed?
Renewable energy is being expanded on a massive scale throughout Europe, and Germany remains one of the major drivers in the push for clean energy. With a full wind harvest, our northern neighbour’s installed wind capacity alone would be sufficient to cover Austria’s peak consumption almost five times over. Germany’s photovoltaic installations provide the same output again.
The power grid is becoming more and more of a bottleneck. At peak times, the grid’s transmission capacity is no longer anywhere near sufficient to deliver all of the energy to consumers that is generated when wind and solar power production levels are high. Grid operators find themselves more and more often in the situation of having to decouple wind turbines from the power grid to keep the grid stable. This is because to some extent we are still living off the “nuts and bolts” of an infrastructure that was built in the last century and requires constant upkeep and improvements.
Austria has responded by planning important line projects that urgently need to be implemented so that the efficiency and stability of the power grid can continue to be guaranteed.
We Are Building the Grid of the Future
Closing the gap in Austria’s 380-kV ultra-high voltage grid between the nodes at St. Peter (in the state of Upper Austria) and Tauern (in the state of Salzburg) is urgently necessary to cope with the growing volumes of electricity being fed into the grid from renewable energies. The Salzburg line is also pivotal in supporting the regional power grid in the state of Salzburg. The new 380-kV line section between the substations at Salzburg and Kaprun will be approximately 114 km in length. The 220-kV line connecting the substations at Pongau and Wagrain/Mayrdörfl will cover a distance of approximately 14 km.
After years in the planning stages, APG has submitted a grid concept that will greatly reduce the burden on the Salzburg substation. Following construction of the Salzburg line, it will be possible to dismantle almost 200 km of existing 220-kV and 110-kV power lines, some of which now run very close to or even through populated areas. All in all, 678 electricity plyons will be able to be dismantled. The investment volume will amount to approximately €800 million.
After a trial period of 77 months, the Salzburg line has been legally effective since March 2019 due to the positive decision by the Federal Administrative Court.
After having requested approval from the state of Lower Austria to replace the 77-km-long line, APG received the green light from the Federal Administrative Court in November 2018 upon conclusion of the appeal proceedings. APG was able to reduce the length of the route by around 15 km by improving the power line routing within the bounds of local possibility. Construction is set to commence in mid-2019. The investment volume will amount to €200 million.
The power line connections to Austria’s neighbours have gained massively in importance with the integration of the electricity market. The concept behind the European energy transition is to be able to transmit electricity to consumers Europe-wide from the major wind power plants and solar power generators. This is why APG is reinforcing one of its cross-border power lines. Construction of the 2.5-km-long, 380-kV power line from St. Peter am Hart in Upper Austria to neighbouring Bavaria across the German border began in November 2018. APG is investing around €29 million in the project. Rapid expansion of the 380-kV line running to Altheim on the German side is also important in creating a connection to the German power grid that will remain viable in the future.
From 1990 to 2016 alone, consumption in Upper Austria surged by 65%. Based on this trend, the power grid in the central region of Upper Austria will reach the limits of its capacity in just a few years.
The general evolution of Upper Austria’s central region in combination with specific plans for the future means that the region’s electricity needs and the demands on the grid will only increase as time goes on:
- The population in the Linz, Wels and Steyr demand centres is forecast to increase by 16.5% to around 340,000 people by 2040 (according to the 2015 projection from the state of Upper Austria).
- In addition, the Enns-Steyr region is evolving into a dynamic economic area with major growth potential.
- voestalpine AG will raise its power needs as it gradually replaces its blast furnaces with new, low-carbon technologies.
- The proportion of energy from renewables needs to be significantly higher in order to reach the agreed climate targets, which calls for high-performance, stable power grids.
The current 110-kV grid is not equipped to transport the amount of power that will be needed going forward to support the dynamic pace of development in the central region of Upper Austria. This is why Austrian Power Grid (APG), Netz Oberösterreich GmbH (Netz OÖ) and LINZ NETZ GmbH (LINZ NETZ) are working together to transform the power grid to meet the region’s future supply needs.
Plans to construct a 220-kV supply ring to replace the existing 110-kV lines are already underway. Once completed, the ring will join the substations at Ernsthofen, Pichling, Hütte Süd, Wegscheid and Kronstorf. The overall concept agreed between the TSOs consists of replacing certain line sections with new lines and increasing the voltage in the line sections already equipped for 220-kV operation. Converting to a higher voltage will permit higher volumes of electrical energy to be transmitted in the future.
The resulting “grid of the future” will be well equipped to support the region’s long-term development by providing a secure, efficient and ample supply of electricity.
Thanks to these projects, the European power grid – and consequently the Austrian power grid – will be able to integrate increasing quantities of electricity from renewable sources of energy, which will enable a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and thus help achieve the EU’s ambitious climate targets.