Since the end of the 1990s, the various national electricity transmission grids have evolved to form a single continental European electricity grid. The grid association comprises 24 national grids and guarantees the safe and reliable supply of electricity to approximately 450 million people.
Coordination and control within the grid association poses great challenges for the national grid operators. The international grid association does, however, bring many advantages – above all, enormously enhanced security of supply in Europe.
In the case of a power failure in larger power plants or in the transmission lines, the electricity generation gap, and, with that, the danger of a voltage or frequency drop or total blackout is mitigated by the total sum of all power plants in Europe and rapidly compensated via automatic grid regulation (primary and secondary control). In view of the growing volatility of electricity generation in the grid (e.g. through wind power plants), this balancing action of the grid and the securing of as many power plant units as possible is extremely important.
The same rules apply to all
An interconnected grid can only be managed efficiently if all the participating grid operators observe the global rules that have been jointly drawn up. These include, for example, agreeing on a common frequency and adhering to the principle that the failure of an individual grid element must not lead to the remaining grid elements being subjected to excessive or unpermitted loads. To this end, the members of the Continental European Grid Association drew up a set of common standards and rules which are set down in an "Operation Handbook”. A binding legal basis for these standards and rules is secured through a multilateral agreement (MLA) which was signed by the participating grid operators. Serious fines are levied against infringements of these regulations.
Cross-border co-operation between the grid operators
ETSO (European Transmission System Operators), an amalgamation of the four existing grid operator organisations (UCTE, NORDEL, ATSOI and UKTSOA), was founded in Europe in 1999 to contend with the new challenges emerging from the deregulation of the electricity market.
In July 2009, all of these organizations were incorporated in the newly established umbrella organization ENTSO-E (European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity). The UCTE continues in existence as "Regional Group Continental Europe" and, as such, still functions as the contact partner for trans-national coordination issues in continental Europe. Furthermore, Austrian Power Grid AG (APG) maintains close relationships with the neighbouring grid operators in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Croatia.