Network Development Plan 2021
In these times of digitalisation and connectivity as well as unlimited availability of information and data, a safe and reliable supply of electricity is vital not only for the “conventional” applications of electrical energy. With power grid availability at over 99.99%, Austria’s security and reliability of supply ranks among the best in the world. Security and affordability of the electricity supply is the basis of our modern, sustainable and digital society – now and in the future. In addition to the availability of sufficient generation capacity at all times to meet electricity needs, appropriate grid capacity for the transmission and distribution of electricity must be available.
In the deregulated environment of the European electricity industry and in view of the objective of an integrated electricity market (see the European Commission’s “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package) as well as the national objectives (e.g. the Renewable Energy Development Act), transmission system operators are constantly being confronted with new challenges due to the changing requirements. The energy flows and loads in the transmission grids are heavily influenced not only by the utilisation of power plants based on market prices, but also by electricity consumption and increasingly by the massive expansion of energy from renewable sources (e.g. wind power, solar power) in the GW range. Overall, increasing and strongly fluctuating grid loads can be observed, resulting in a sharp rise in the demands on the power grids.
A high-capacity transmission grid infrastructure provides the basis for the high degree of security and reliability of the supply with electrical energy. It provides the backbone for Austria as a business location and is a prerequisite for further expansion of renewable sources of energy (wind power, solar power, and hydropower/pumped storage power plants). This will help to achieve Austria’s energy and climate targets and further the European ones.
Grid expansion projects in the Network Development Plan (NDP) 2021
In its role as the transmission system operator and control area manager, APG has an obligation to operate and maintain the transmission grid safely, reliably and efficiently, taking into account environmental considerations (Section 40(1)(1) ElWOG 2010). What is more, based on harmonised scenarios for the energy market, the European transmission system operators coordinate their planning on grid expansion plans within the framework of the ENTSO-E’s Ten-Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP).
The underlying scenarios and the projects derived from these are far-reaching and robust at both the European and Austrian levels, which means that short- to medium-term economic changes (as a result of COVID-19 or economic cycles, for example) do not have a material impact on APG’s long-term planning.
The present Network Development Plan (NDP 2021) is a legal obligation (in accordance with Section 37 ElWOG 2010). Based on the long-term planning in the TYNDP 2020, it constitutes an extension of the NDP 2020. In this, APG informs all market participants about the plans for grid expansion (expansion investments and operational investments) and grid development over a ten-year time horizon.
Extensive grid reinforcement and expansions will be required in Austria by 2031 to address the aforementioned challenges. The projects outlined in APG’s Network Development Plan 2021 are as follows:
- addition of at least approximately 240 km of new power lines;
- conversion of approximately 110 km of existing lines to higher voltage levels;
- general overhaul of around 290 km of lines;
- construction of 20 new (green field) substations by 2030 to reinforce the connections of the distribution systems and expansion of existing substations through the addition of transformers;
- addition of approximately 50 transformers with a total capacity of around 18,000 MVA for coupling the grid levels; and
- extensive measures and age-related general overhauls as well as upgrades of substations.
Execution of the extensive projects presented in the Network Development Plan requires significant efforts from APG as well as from the responsible approval authorities.
Framework for grid expansion and conclusion
A significant factor for the implementation of the necessary line projects is the duration of the approval processes, which are currently very complex and protracted. Other specific factors and also capacity bottlenecks in the administrations conducting the procedures or among experts delay the approval procedures. To eliminate these deficits and accelerate the already severely delayed grid expansion (cf. Salzburg line) as well as the electricity and energy transition in Austria, the following aspects of the operating environment need to be improved (see NDP 2021, also section 1.6):
- creation of social and political acceptance for the energy transition (also across the sectors) and the absolute necessity to expand the electricity grids as an essential “building block” for the energy and climate targets;
- amendment of the General Administrative Procedures Act (Allgemeines Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz, AVG), particularly with a view to speeding up procedures and as a key instrument for procedural regulations, also for major proceedings and EIA procedures, as well as adaptations to the opportunities presented by the Internet and the digital transformation; and
- harmonisation and appropriate approval thresholds for line and grid projects as well as protection of the existing lines and planning corridors and keeping them clear from new buildings underneath.
Implementation of the projects in APG’s Network Development Plan (NDP) 2021 and further grid expansion projects plus increasing transmission capacity are essential for achieving Austria’s climate and energy targets. Along with integrating renewable energy sources (RES) into the grid, the main focus is on sustainably ensuring grid and system security, a high level of security and reliability of supply for electricity, as well as further development of the electricity market in Austria.
All relevant market participants were given the opportunity to comment as part of the official consultation between 22 June and 16 July 2021. APG examined the nine statements it received and took them into account in the Network Development Plan 2021 that it submitted for approval, though this did not lead to any major adjustments to the content.
Submission and approval
The Network Development Plan 2021 was submitted to E-Control Austria (ECA) for approval at the end of August and approved in mid-November 2021 by way of a notice.