APG - Gerhard Christiner, Thomas Karall
Power Grids at the Limit
The energy supply during the corona pandemic provided Austrian Power Grid (APG) an insight into the future: and the future of a secure energy supply has to be decided now. During the pandemic the consumption dropped considerably while at the same time energy generation from renewables was at a high level. Apparently ideal developments in the power supply industry: however, there is a lack of efficient, high-capacity grid infrastructure.

APG was able to cope with the situation only due to numerous emergency measures. “We have a massive problem. Currently we are stabilizing the system by powering up gas-fired power plants in Austria. But this is like having a modern electric car and having to install a gas-engine to support the driving. This is not only preposterous but also expensive. The ‘gas bill’ for only this year already amounts to almost 100 million Euros. These are the costs we had to expend for powering up and running the gas-fired power plants. Without grid expansion and modernization the integration of renewable energies remains pure lip service”, says APG’s CTO Gerhard Christiner.

Grid expansion is the pressing need of the moment

Without an immediate expansion and modernization of the grid the energy transition is truly jeopardized. Only with high-capacity grids it will be possible to transport the energy from renewable sources to the areas of high population density, to industrial sites or to other countries. If the energy quota produced from water, wind and photovoltaics are added up, the supply of all consumers with renewable energy would have already been possible in certain areas (cf. diagram) if the grid infrastructure had been appropriate. “The necessary transmission lines are missing. An appropriate grid infrastructure is indispensable since the energy need will increase over the next few years due to the decarbonization of industry and economy alone”, explains Christiner.

The energy supply is based on the principle of give and take. Austria is well integrated in the efficient and well-functioning Western European energy market. “Without the expansion and modernization of the grid we run the risk of losing this integration. This would inevitably lead to higher electricity prices in Austria. Today‘s concern is to provide secure, green and affordable electricity. We clearly recognize the challenges that lie ahead of us. We are at a crossroads and we need to take the right path to not end up in a dead-end street. Today’s decisions will affect generations to come. At present, the future of our society and energy supply is at stake”, emphasizes Thomas Karall, APG’s CFO.

Austrian Power Grid (APG) is Austria’s independent transmission system operator in charge of monitoring and managing the nationwide transmission network. Its infrastructure is the lifeline of the country, its population and its businesses. The APG network totals a length of about 3,400 km and is operated, maintained and continuously adapted to the increasing challenges of economy and society by a team of more than 600 specialists. APG guarantees security of supply to ensure that everybody has enough electricity when needed. As one-stop-shop APG is an important service provider of the energy sector. APG’s staff develop suitable market products, have an excellent knowledge of physics and ensure security and efficiency of supply for Austria. With an investment volume of 350 million Euros in 2020 for the expansion and renovation of the grid infrastructure, APG will provide an important impulse for the domestic construction industry. Over the next ten years APG will invest a total of 2.9 billion Euros in grid expansion and renovation projects, which amounts to approximately 16 percent of the total of 18 billion Euros which the energy industry will invest in the grid development over the next ten years. In the Sustainable Brand Rating 2020 APG has been voted number one in the category ‘public utility infrastructure’, and finished second in the overall ranking of the category ‘investment’.

Press Images © Rudi Fröse