Navigant Research Blog

Major Shifts Ahead for European Power Generation

— May 4, 2015

Across Europe, major changes in the power generation sector are driving the development, expansion, and deployment of new and reconfigured electric transmission and distribution systems. The forces driving these changes include the retirement of much of the existing coal and nuclear generation fleet, the European Union’s energy policy goals, concerns over security of supply, climate change mitigation efforts, and the ongoing integration of distributed energy resources (DER) across the region. Power peak load is expected to grow between 8% and 28% by 2030, according to the Ten-Year Network Development Plan produced by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, or ENTSO-E.

The net generation capacity of the European power sector must grow from about 1,000 GW today to between 1,200 GW and 1,700 GW by 2030 in order to keep up with demand, according to the Plan. To accomplish this massive increase, the generation fleet must not only add new capacity, but also replace present units that will be retired in the next 15 years. This represents a 3%4.6%  expansion per year across all potential resources.

Age of Wind

Looking to 2030, the generation fleet in Europe will morph in a number of significant ways, including:

  • Major nuclear generation plant retirements will happen across the region, including those in Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland. All present nuclear units in the United Kingdom are scheduled to be shut down, and France plans to reduce the share of nuclear to 50% of the country’s power supply by 2025. This adds up to a net 30 GW and 45 GW of nuclear capacity being shut down. At the same time, 20–30 GW of new nuclear capacity is expected to be added. New plants may be added in the United Kingdom, Finland, and Central Europe.
  • New generation additions will occur in new locations. Wind farm development will be located where wind speeds are optimal; a significant share of the new generation fleet in Western Europe is being built on new sites, mostly in harbors.
  • The shutdown of nuclear and fossil-fired units across Germany will require additional grid investment necessary to transport remote power to population centers.
  • New generation capacity will primarily be made up of distributed wind and solar systems. The generation capacity of wind, solar, and biomass is expected to reach at least 405 GW and could triple, reaching more than 870 GW by 2030.
  • DER will be located in Germany and in countries with favorable wind conditions, such as the Iberian and Italian peninsulas and Nordic countries bordering the North Sea.
  • New hydropower capacity is expected to increase from 198 GW to between 220 GW and 240 GW, with most new development in the Alps, the Iberian Peninsula, and Norway.

These major generation shifts will be the primary drivers for investments in high-voltage transmission systems across the region. Navigant Research’s forthcoming report, Submarine Cable and High Voltage DC, will detail many of these changes and additions, which promise to transform Europe’s power sector.

 

 

In Europe, Renewables Drive Big Transmission Projects

— May 4, 2015

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, or ENTSO-E, has released its Ten-Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP 2014) on the state of the European transmission system. The report details a huge number of new projects to be completed between 2015 and 2030, driven by large-scale wind power developments in the Nordic countries and the North Sea, along with the reconfiguration of the existing high-voltage alternating current (HVAC) transmission system required to address the problems caused by the large-scale retirement of nuclear plants across Northern Europe in the coming years. This year’s report describes a number of new projects that were not part of the TYNDP 2012, including large high-voltage direct current (HVDC) and submarine cable projects linking Northern Europe with the Nordic countries.

Data from ENTSO-E illustrates the spread of HVDC and submarine cable DC and AC deployments, which are now on parity or are moving ahead of traditional overhead HVAC transmission systems. Planned HVDC cable and submarine HVAC cable projects each represent almost 18,000 kilometers of new line over the next 15 years.

Super Connector

ABB’s recently announced $900 million HVDC and submarine cable project, called NordLink, will be Europe’s longest HVDC power grid interconnection. Enabling the transmission of 1,400 MW of renewable energy, NordLink will represent the first interconnection between the Norwegian and German power grids and will bring together a consortium of major utilities in each country, including Statnett and TenneT supplying onshore HVDC converter stations. Nexans will supply the submarine cable. The epic nature of this project is illustrated by its size: it will be 387 miles long, making it the longest HVDC and submarine cable connection in Europe. It is scheduled to go into commercial operation in 2020.

NordLink will be key to creating an integrated European Union energy market, increasing energy security in the region, and supporting the integration of renewable energy into national grids. The project facilitates the transmission of surplus wind and solar power produced in Germany to Norway and hydroelectric power to be moved in the opposite direction. The link will transmit enough electricity to supply 3.6 million German households.

Navigant Research’s forthcoming report, Submarine Cable and High Voltage DC, will include 10-year market forecasts and summaries of major planned submarine projects across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the rest of the world. ENTSO-E’s TYNDP demonstrates that this market is about to expand rapidly, driven by utility-scale renewable power projects and the retirements of aging coal and nuclear power plants.

 

High Resolution Sensors Open New Windows onto the Grid

— March 26, 2015

The advances in transmission and distribution (T&D) system sensors, communications, and visualization technology are remarkable. At DistribuTECH 2015, I was able to talk to key vendors in the T&D marketplace, including established players, such as ABB, GE, Landis & Gyr, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL), and Siemens, as well as emerging companies, such as Genscape on the transmission grid and Tollgrade on the distribution grid, which both offer innovative new monitoring and visualization solutions. These relatively young companies are taking the industry to a next level in sensor technology, wireless communications, and visualization/analytic tools.

While Genscape is a new entrant in the transmission operator/utility marketplace, it operates the world’s largest private network of in-the-field monitors, providing cloud based software as a service (SaaS) applications for market intelligence across the power, oil, natural gas, petrochemical, agriculture, biofuels, and maritime freight sectors. The company’s applications are used by most energy trading companies, and are used to non-intrusively monitor generation plant outputs, outages, and other transmission line conditions.

Unbound

Genscape has a wide range of customers in electric power trading and oil & gas commodity markets.  With the recent acquisition of Promethean Devices in 2014, Genscape also provides high resolution, sub-second transmission line monitoring of current, conductor sag/clearance, conductor temperature, and voltage, using an easy to deploy ground based solar powered sensor system. With the high cost of land-based fiber systems typically installed by utilities, Genscape’s solution offers an elegant and relatively inexpensive cloud-based solution.

Focused primarily on the medium-voltage (MV) and low-voltage (LV) distribution grid, Tollgrade offers bolt-on line sensing units with high speed wireless communications capabilities, as well as a cloud-based SaaS optimization and visualization tool set that can be tied into a utility’s distribution automation system. The company’s fault-detection hardware and predictive analytics software are designed to assist distribution network operators in avoiding network outages and reducing customer downtime. The sensing units are low cost and can be installed by a distribution system lineman in minutes at any location on the distribution system.

The really striking thing about Tollgrade’s technology is the analytics and visualization tools, which can be used to drill down in outage and fault data to screen, locate, and then analyze breaker trips and outages anywhere on the monitored portions of the distribution network in real time.

Both of these companies have the potential to significantly change the level of visibility into T&D grid performance, providing tools for understanding the disturbances that are never seen in the data typically collected by utilities using conventional solutions.

 

Robots Reduce Risks for Utility Line Workers

— March 11, 2015

In 2014, Time magazine reported on the 2013 rankings of America’s most dangerous jobs. Electrical power line installers and repairers suffered 27 fatalities per 100,000 workers, making these the 7th most dangerous jobs in the country. While fatalities are down from around 30 to 50 annually in past years, according to T&D World magazine, the fatality rate is more than twice that of police officers and fireman. Fortunately, new technologies are expected to reduce these deaths in the coming years.

The most common cause of death to linemen is live, energized wires. T&D World also reports that new technologies used to maintain, repair, and rebuild lines and transmission equipment are now being developed and deployed. These technologies include a range of robotic devices that are designed to minimize risk to field employees while at the same time reducing operational costs and maintaining or improving transmission and distribution system reliability.

Almost Indestructible

With the speed of technical development and advances in artificial intelligence, new applications and technologies are certain to emerge in future years. For now, robotic grid technologies fall into three categories:

  • Line-suspended robots: Deployed over the last 8 years, these devices are designed to perform visual inspections and maintenance functions previously completed by utility linemen under sometimes dangerous conditions. They use cameras and specialized sensors for inspections, and can make basic repairs and adjustments to transmission lines, as well as other necessary applications. These robots can travel over and across live transmission system conductor lines under most conditions. Hydro Quebec has developed a line-suspended robotic device called LineScout that is being deployed on power lines where it has the capacity to cross obstacles. Another robotic device called LineROVer is used by the utility as a remotely operated vehicle for work on live overhead lines.
  • Ground-based robots: Designed to manipulate energized conductors remotely and execute tasks that are far too dangerous for linemen, these technologies have been in use for more than 10 years and are increasingly able to handle large, heavy conductors. These machines are best at tasks like maintenance, upgrades, and construction of transmission lines, performing jobs such as replacing structures and conductors and changing insulation.
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs): Often called drones, UAVs are designed for visual inspections of transmission line components, right-of-way (ROW) conditions, vegetation under the ROW, access into structures, landslides near structure footings, and other unusual conditions. You can read more about drones in my previous Navigant Research blog.

The spreading use of robotics could improve grid operations and, more importantly, reduce the danger to electrical power line installers and repairers. If that happens, linemen will soon drop out of the top 10 rankings of dangerous jobs.

 

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