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Innovate business

Since TenneT was founded 20 years ago, we have seen a revolution in the energy market, as renewables have moved from niche to mainstream. The coming decades will see even more change, with international co-operation and ground-breaking innovation required to meet both the energy needs of society and the national and international carbon-reduction targets.

The energy transition and the resulting in-flows of wind and solar energy, require radical new thinking. For decades, society relied on a relatively simple and linear electricity model, where one power station would serve a large area, with electricity carried over relatively short distances. Today, electricity can be generated in any place, from wind farms far out in the North Sea to solar panels on the roofs of home-owners. Feeding this electricity into the grid, balancing its volatility and fluctuating supply with growing demand, transporting it over longer distances and maintaining affordable electricity prices and security of supply, requires radical new thinking and innovative solutions.

And renewable energy is not the only transformational change driving the need for innovation. The rapid development of an interconnected cross-border North West European (NWE) electricity market is another major technological challenge. TenneT is leading the way in facilitating this change and helping other TSOs, governments and technology providers build the infrastructure and high-tech backbone this model needs to function. 

To create a grid that is fit for the future, old market rules and models must be upgraded to unlock modern technology options and new players need to step forward to provide previously unforeseen solutions. For TenneT, innovation is critical to developing the systems, services and technology we need to address the changes we face.

We define innovation as 'the successful exploitation of new ideas to create value for the company and society'. Our approach to innovation is to create benefits for our stakeholders with a focus on our strategic goals, to enhance system flexibility and ensure security of supply. We also rely on innovation to advance the use of data and analytics and to drive the integration of the NWE electricity market. As such, our approach fits closely with SDG 9, ‘Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure’, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and innovation. Currently, we are working on ways to further improve how we manage this strategic innovation goal to monitor our progress. 

Results

TenneT relies on continuous innovation to stay ahead in our fast-changing industry and to add value for society. Our people are experts in their field and we value their creativity. This ensures innovation, which helps us in our ongoing success and improvement.

To incorporate innovation in the core of our operations, we have designed and implemented an innovation programme that is connected to our strategy and overseen by our Innovation Board. Experts from the academic world, research centres and other TSOs help to push us further and make sure we are fully aware of cutting-edge technologies. 

Innovating with stakeholders

10 year partnership with TU Delft

External stakeholders – and stakeholder engagement – play an important role in our approach to innovation. This includes close cooperation with universities, as research and innovation is essential for developing a sustainable energy system of the future. In this respect, TenneT has entered into a partnership with TU Delft to develop a new Electrical Sustainable Power Lab (ESP Lab).

Multi supplier challenge for 2 - 5 km horizontal drilling technology

To plan for the future we also seek innovation with other stakeholders, such as contractors and cable suppliers, especially as demands increase to lay cables underground. As we explore innovations in this area, we aim to cause as little disruption for the environment and local residents as possible, while also realising projects more quickly. Horizontal drilling over longer distances could be a solution, with the possibility to drill distances of five or more kilometres for our high voltage grid. We are now cooperating with contractors and cable suppliers to make this innovation a reality.

Supporting market parties for future flexibility products

As more renewable electricity is fed into the grid, demand for commercially viable energy storage solutions is growing. TenneT is facilitating the process with the Electricity Storage Valuation tool. This is designed for business users who need insight into the costs and benefits of large-scale energy storage allowing them to determine the optimal storage capacity for specific applications and plan large-scale storage projects.

The Flexibility Monitor is another innovation that will help manage a future energy system with variable renewable generation. Developed by TenneT, this aims to quantify the assets in the Dutch electricity market that provide flexibility when supply and demand need to be balanced in the grid. An understanding of the actual volume of flexibility in the market is important for TenneT as system operator, and also for energy producers, consumers and investors. To get this insight, TenneT teamed up with organisations such as VEMW, Unie van Waterschappen and Energie Nederland. A questionnaire was distributed among different market parties, including grid users, Balance Responsible Parties and aggregators. They were asked to provide their expected amounts of demand, storage and generation. The acquired data from the questionnaire and accompanying data analysis are being assessed and first results will be compiled in 2019.

Sector coupling as option for renewable integration

Sector coupling is an important area of innovation that also requires TenneT to cooperate with external stakeholders as we seek new solutions to manage the complexity of multiple energy sources. Sector coupling aims to harness the flexibility and/or storage capabilities of other energy sources and infrastructure to keep the power system balanced and stable. For example, the electricity sector can be coupled with the mobility sector (e.g. electric vehicles), green gas transmission and storage, (dual fuel heat boilers, steel industry transferring to green gas and micro grids fuelled by hydrogen). Exploring these kind of options shows that TenneT is not solely focused on electricity solutions, but is also looking for solutions that support an affordable and secure power system and the evolution of a carbon-free future.

Engaged in research consortia such as PROMOTioN and MIGRATE

To better understand how energy can be brought onshore, TenneT is also actively engaged in research consortia of two EU Horizon2020 projects; MIGRATE and PROMOTioN. By 2020, high levels of wind and solar energy will flow through the pan-European high-voltage grid. As this occurs, more and more devices that generate and consume electricity will be connected to the grid through Power Electronics (PE). This will lead to technical challenges due to the lack of rotational inertia in the future power system, which endangers stability at 50 Hz. The MIGRATE research programme seeks to develop solutions to these technical issues, aiming to maintain grid availability and stability, quality of supply, control and grid protection. PROMOTioN will set out the development plan and optimise the regulatory and financial framework for Meshed Offshore Transmission Networks.

Innovation to secure supply

Blockchain pilot with Vandebron and Sonnen

In the future, decentralised energy sources will become increasingly important to maintain the balance between the supply and demand for electricity. To explore this, TenneT is undertaking a pilot project in collaboration with seven market parties: Engie, Enova, Escozon & Energie Samen, Next Kraftwerke & Jedlix, Scholt Energy & Enervalis, Sympower and Vandebron. This is a follow-up to a previous collaboration with Vandebron and uses blockchain software to manage transactions for electricity demand and supply. To model how electricity can be supplied from a growing number of sources, the project partners will apply a software management tool to energy sources including wind, solar, combined heat and power (CHP), heating grids, electric cars, electric boilers and electric pumps. During the pilot project, new data communication technologies will be tested to enable TenneT and suppliers of flexible generating capacity to exchange the required information for balance maintenance purposes.

InnoSys 2030

TenneT is exploring IT solutions for balancing the grid in Germany. It is leading a research project to investigate new IT concepts and tools to help in the energy transition, called InnoSys 2030. The German government initiated this programme with the four German TSOs, to investigate new ways to optimise grid utilisation through automated system operation.

Next Generation Scada project

Internally, TenneT is upgrading its own operating system to manage more complex electricity flows. The Next-Gen operating system will be designed to meet the challenges of the more complex energy landscape. In 2018 we conducted a market consultation to identify our requirements and potential suppliers, to be followed by a tender process in 2019.

Standardised substation replacement program

To make our 110/150 kV substations ready for the future, we need to replace approximately 140 substations over the next 10 years. These are over 45 years old. This means replacing an average of approximately one substation per month. To achieve the desired predictability and acceleration of replacement, we will introduce common technical standards and take a uniform approach to replacement, maintenance and management. Our Bay Replacement programme, which started in 2017, has largely designed this new approach in 2018, with inputs from market parties. The new concepts will be tested in 2019 with the replacement of six proof of concept-substations with AIS and GIS technology. Based on the results of the proof of concept phase from technical, organisational and financial perspectives, TenneT will proceed with the large volume replacement of 110/150 kV substations using the new technical standards and ways of working, for which TenneT will start preparations in 2019.

Energised working

As work on our assets becomes essential to secure supply and future-proof our infrastructure, we face the challenge of working with live installations, also known as ‘Energised Working’. In the Netherlands this is prohibited by law, although the practice is permitted in other European countries. However, given the importance of the availability of the high-voltage grid and the complexity of electricity supply as a result of the energy transition, it is increasingly difficult to switch off the operating voltage when we need to perform work. As a result, it has become difficult to maintain certain parts of the grid or to do so on time. Energised Working offers a safe alternative and does not pose greater risks than working on disconnected installations. To explore this further, TenneT collaborated with its partners. 

Innovation to facilitate North West Europe market integration

North Sea Wind Power Hub

As TenneT plays a leading role in facilitating the evolution of a cross-border NWE electricity market, new approaches must be investigated to connect large scale offshore wind to the onshore grids. This will become even more important as wind generation capacity grows in the North Sea, with WindEurope forecasting a planned deployment of up to 70 GW by 2030. In this context, TenneT’s vision for a North Sea Wind Power Hub, as part of a consortium with Energinet.dk, Gasunie and Port of Rotterdam, is a particularly important innovation. The concept of one or two hubs located in the North Sea, with interconnectors linking to neighbouring countries, would allow the mass-scale harvesting of wind power, delivered under the sea and across borders to North Sea bordering countries. Together with external experts, TenneT and its consortium partners are investigating feasible design options, the economic rationale, and the regulatory and market requirements for this ambitious international infrastructure.

The current regulatory framework incentivises grid maintenance and investments, whereas TenneT believes that investments in smart technologies and big data will enable us to optimise the use of our grid. To maintain an affordable cost for society, we continuously balance possible innovations against regulatory reimbursements.

Challenges

ChallengeAction
Innovate business
1One of the biggest challenges in this dynamic environment is the relentless pace of change and the constant need to deliver solutions to meet the needs of society, regulators and government. Particularly challenging is spearheading innovation within an EU regulatory framework that has not fully caught up with the reality of today’s electricity market.As TenneT, we believe innovation is crucial to realise an affordable energy transition whilst meeting the demands of society, regulators and government. Through engagement with our stakeholders we continuously seek opportunities to enhance our toolbox of solutions meeting these demands. This has resulted in a joint assessment framework "Netverzwaren tenzij" in the Netherlands. This allows TenneT to consider in a transparent and verifiable way when it is socially efficient to include flexibility from the market as a (temporary) alternative to a grid reinforcement. The framework is now being discussed for regulatory implementation. In Germany the research project consortia of InnoSys 2030 with 17 partners has started research in 2018 to deliver innovative system operation concepts to increase transport capacity on existing lines. And together with Gasunie, TenneT has developed an Infrastructure Outlook 2050, exploring the opportunities of sector coupling based upon Dutch and German studies for our networks in the Netherlands and Germany. Participation both in Netherlands and Germany to support development of a 1 GW electrolyser solution by 2030 with significant cost reduction targets is also part of our commitment.
2Keeping pace with the demand for transmission increase and renewals in our existing grid requires innovative approaches. As TenneT we rely on our suppliers to have the capacity and capability for delivery of the solutions we require.We are in close contact with our stakeholders, also our suppliers to keep each other informed and to make sure delays are avoided as much as possible.

Strategic Risks

It is clear that technological innovation plays an essential role in achieving the energy transition. Although innovations abound in the energy sector, there are currently no decisive breakthroughs that will simultaneously guarantee security of supply, affordability for society and competitiveness of industry prices. It is not clear which technological developments hold the most promise; most likely it will be a mix of digitalisation, big data, market and price models, sector coupling, new types of cables, lines and other assets to transmit energy.

As new technologies are introduced, whether in physical assets or software solutions, there could be an increased risk of outages caused by malfunctioning. As such, TenneT demands high quality standards from its suppliers and service providers. As an additional measure, TenneT builds test procedures, test periods and guarantee periods into its project planning and supplier contracts.

In a highly dynamic market, there is some risk attached to the emergence of new players who may either over-reach themselves, fail or go out of business. To avoid a consequential lack of support or (spare) parts, TenneT assesses the financial stability of suppliers and prescribes a long-term availability of parts and services as one of its contractual pre-conditions.

On the other hand, digitalisation can also be an opportunity, helping to reduce costs and achieve a secure energy transition. However, that comes with high requirements, not only regarding data security, but especially for information management and human resources in the fields of designing, developing, maintaining and operating the systems. Therefore, TenneT continuously develops its IT capabilities, enhancing its organisation, training employees and reviewing the performance of IT service providers.

Outlook

The challenges facing TenneT require us to embrace truly pioneering inventions, such as green hydrogen. This will likely be among the solutions to help society achieve its ambitious carbon targets. To explore the possibilities, we are part of the Hydrogen Coalition, led by Greenpeace Netherlands, with 23 industry players. The coalition has presented government with a manifesto to stimulate the production of emissions-free green hydrogen, which is produced through the electrolysis of water by renewable electricity. TenneT is actively exploring the possibilities for new services made possible by converting wind-generated electricity into hydrogen. As well as being a carbon-free alternative to natural gas, the key benefit of this process is that hydrogen can be stored. This addresses an important challenge in the energy transition, as storage will help to even out imbalances between the supply and demand of renewable electricity.

TenneT and other industry players are engaged in a pilot project in Germany called Element 1, to bring green hydrogen solutions to market. TenneT is joining forces with the gas transport network operators Gasunie and Thyssennet to jointly build a power-to-gas installation with a capacity of 100 MW. Upon completion in 2022, this facility will be the largest power-to-gas installation in Germany. It will be constructed near a TenneT transformer station in Lower Saxony, where electricity from offshore wind turbines is distributed.

By storing wind energy surplus as hydrogen via power-to-gas conversion, TenneT has access to an important means to increase flexibility in its power system. This is a relevant solution for balancing the ever-increasing share of weather-dependent power production from wind and sun in the system. Hydrogen can also be mixed in the natural gas distribution networks and sold in hydrogen filling stations. From 2022 onwards, the three partners envisage to start storing green electricity as green hydrogen and thereby gain experience with power-to-gas on an industrial scale.

Case study: Grid booster

In Germany, the power generating landscape is changing fast. At the same time, the grid infrastructure needs to expand. As a result, the German power grid is reaching its thermal and stability limits. Consequently, congestion measures like Redispatch and EISMAN are needed. To cope with these challenges, the idea is to use unexploited transmission capacities, for example by implementing concepts of automated grid operation which are about to be investigated in the InnoSys2030 research project. Among the most promising of these concepts is the Grid-Booster. In contrast to the classic preventive approach, the Grid-Booster ensures a (n-1) secure grid operation reactively, i.e. after fault occurred. Therefore, the power load of existing power lines can be increased beyond presently valid stability limits saving preventive Redispatch. In order to implement and test the Grid-Booster concept a pilot project has been started. Specifically, two spatially separated energy storage devices are planned to be installed in the north and south of the main grid congestions which act as source and sink of a “virtual power line” in case of emergency.