Grid expansion is an indispensable part of the energy transition
Well-developed grids make it possible to deliver electricity cost-efficiently. The is creating completely new challenges for the transport of electricity. The necessary expansion and restructuring of power grids is therefore an important aspect of the energy transition. This is because the power generation structure is changing. Increasingly, electricity is being generated by distributed wind and solar installations, some of them located a long way from the consumers. Not least, the electricity generated by wind turbines and new conventional power stations in the north of Germany has to be transported to the major power consumption regions in the west and south.
The aim of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is to continue the rapid expansion and restructuring of the electricity grids and to dovetail this better with the expansion of renewable energy. The necessary measures for the expansion of the grid are being developed with public participation in a multi-stage process. In order to ascertain the demand, the transmission system operators elaborate a scenario framework by estimating the development in power generation and consumption - taking on board the Federal Government's medium- and long-term energy policy goals. This is then fed into the updates of the transmission system operators' grid development plans, which are scrutinised and confirmed by the Federal Network Agency.
Legal framework for the expansion of the grid
Four pieces of legislation form the basis for the coordinated, accelerated and transparent expansion of the grid: the Energy Industry Act (EnWG), the Grid Expansion Acceleration Act (NABEG), the Federal Requirement Plan Act (BBPlG) and the Power Grid Expansion Act (EnLAG).
Energy Industry Act (EnWG)
The Energy Industry Act ensures transparent and coordinated annual grid expansion planning for the German high voltage grid. The grid expansion requirement is determined in a multi-stage process.
Grid Expansion Acceleration Act (NABEG)
The Grid Expansion Acceleration Act simplifies the planning of grid expansion projects which involve several federal states or cross national boundaries: power line routes are centrally planned and approved by the Federal Network Agency in a process involving early public participation. In addition, the Federal Network Agency is responsible for the statutory planning approval procedure for grid expansion projects, which means it can define the precise route of the power lines. The transfer of the planning responsibility from state to federal level streamlines the process and avoids the fragmentation of tasks.
Federal Requirement Plan Act (BBPlG)
The Federal Requirement Plan continues to be the central instrument for the expansion of the transmission grids. It identifies the priority expansion projects on the basis of the Grid Development Plan and the Offshore Grid Development Plan.
Power Grid Expansion Act (EnLAG)
Alongside the Federal Requirement Plan Act, the Power Grid Expansion Act, dating from 2009, lists other priority projects which are exclusively the responsibility of the federal states.
The process: multi-stage and with public participation
A multi-stage process determines the extent to which the grid in Germany should be expanded, and which routes this expansion should apply to.
1. Scenarios for the power supply
How much electricity will we consume in the next few years, and where? What role will conventional power stations and renewable energy sources play in future? A "scenario framework" answers these questions and thus provides the basis for the necessary grid expansion planning. This scenario framework is prepared by the transmission system operators and approved by the Federal Network Agency.
2. Grid development plan and environmental report
On the basis of the scenario plans, the transmission system operators prepare an annual draft grid development plan, which is opened up to public consultation. Once the public consultation has been concluded, the transmission system operators revise the draft, which is then presented to the Federal Network Agency for scrutiny and confirmation. The Federal Network Agency then draws up an environmental report for the confirmed grid development plan. This process was first carried out in 2012 (for target year 2022). In November 2012 the Federal Network Agency handed the first national grid development plan and the environmental impact report to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (for target year 2022).
In 2013, the transmission system operators produced not only the draft grid development plan (for target year 2023), but also an offshore grid development plan for the power lines connecting the offshore wind turbines. Since then, the offshore grid development plan has formed part of the process described here.
3. Federal Requirement Plan
The Federal Requirement Plan is compiled on the basis of the grid development plans. In this process, the projects cited in the Power Grid Expansion Act (the "start network") are regarded as predefined. The Federal Requirement Plan Act then defines which additional grid development projects are necessary for the energy sector and are deemed a priority. The Federal Requirement Plan Act is updated at least every three years.
4. Decision on power line routing
The Federal Requirement Plan only defines the starting and finishing point of identified projects; there is also a need to decide on the route corridor. There are clearly defined responsibilities for the selection of corridors for grid expansion: if the planned power lines cross state or international boundaries, the Federal Network Agency decides on the selection of the corridors (federal planning). Decisions about power line routes within one federal state are made by that federal state.
5. Defining the exact power line routes in the statutory planning approval procedure
The corridors identified in the fourth stage form the basis for the statutory planning approval procedure. The transmission system operators must initially consider several alternative routes for each corridor. Their suggestions are publicly discussed and checked for environmental compatibility. The process ends with the official planning approval which defines the exact power line routes which are deemed to create the least impact for people and the environment.
In the expansion of the power grids, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy aims for comprehensive information and early dialogue with the affected citizens. The grid expansion can only be successfully carried out if there is high acceptance of the planned projects. For this reason, the Federal Network Agency ensures early and comprehensive public participation in all the stages of the process to expand the grid.
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