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January 2024

“Don't be afraid of 14a”

The proposals for the design of Section 14a EnWG are welcomed by grid operators in principle, but questions remain unanswered with regard to economically viable implementation. With GridCal, PSInsight wants to provide a solution that promises immediate and long-term added value.

As we know, the energy transition will not only bring numerous decentralised generation plants to the grid, but also a large number of new electrical consumers. In the foreseeable future, these will call up loads for which even our generously dimensioned distribution grids are not designed - especially in existing grids, the load limits could quickly be reached if the heat pump is working and the electric car is charging in every second household.

Data-based control

In order to provide grid operators and connection customers with a legal basis for any necessary load control measures in the low-voltage grid, Section 14a was included in the Energy Industry Act back in 2011, which has since been adapted to the changed framework conditions after some resistance and numerous delays. Currently, the second key issues paper from the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) has created a regulatory framework that, in the opinion of experts, will only change marginally. According to this, the grid operator is authorised to use so-called grid-oriented control in the event of imminent overload. It may then reduce the power available for the controllable consumer to a maximum of 4.2 KW for a maximum of two hours per day.

The grid-orientated control action - curative - may be triggered at the earliest three minutes before the expected overload. Preventive interventions with a longer lead time are permitted until 31 December 2028 at the latest if the required grid status data cannot be technically provided. Grid operators are therefore faced with the challenge of integrating measurement and monitoring systems relatively quickly in order to determine and prove the need for control in the low voltage.

As part of the legislative changes to accelerate the smart meter rollout, grid operators will also participate in the financing of smart metering systems and, in return, will be given the opportunity to collect grid status data at the respective connection points. It is not yet possible to conclusively assess how and, above all, when this option can be utilised efficiently.

Numerous companies cooperate in the GridCal Alliance to offer a full service for grid digitisation - here a GridCal-ready grid station from Betonbau and Ingenieurbüro Pfeffer. (Photo: PSInsight GmbH)

Uncertainty about implementation

In view of this complex situation, it is hardly surprising that Dr Philipp Huppertz, Managing Director of the Krefeld-based technology provider PSInsight, senses a great deal of uncertainty in his discussions with customers. "Many grid operators are asking themselves how they can equip their operating resources to fulfil the requirements of Section 14a within the specified timeframe and at the same time be able to react to acute challenges at short notice with reasonable economic and personnel costs."

Most people do not want to wait for the data from the smart metering system. According to Huppertz, the issues concern both the conversion of existing grid stations and the selection of suitable new ones. In addition, many grid operators are afraid of implementing solutions that are once again inadequate for further possible requirements or whose large-scale operational advantage is still far in the future.

With their GridCal system solution, Philipp Huppertz and his team want to effectively address the challenges outlined and also refute a preconception: "In Germany, we have one of the most efficient and reliable electricity grids in the world - and this is also due to the large number of grid operators with their expertise, who know their infrastructure very well. Nevertheless, it is often suggested that the energy transition cannot be realised because we have too many grid operators with too many different grids and requirements. With GridCal, we are proving this wrong," says Huppertz.

Using the GridCal nodes, simulations of the local grid can be carried out in real time at the grid stations in order to recognise grid bottlenecks as quickly as possible. (Photo: PSInsight GmbH)

The technology pursues a hybrid approach consisting of decentralised GridCal Nodes (GCN), which can be easily integrated into existing local grid stations, and the central GridCal Operator (GCO) - a software solution that can be installed directly in the IT infrastructure of a grid operator. GridCal makes it possible to fulfil the requirements for monitoring the grid as well as reacting directly to critical grid situations, which Section 14a EnWG expects grid operators to do in future.

"The nodes continuously monitor and evaluate the grid without any time delay and report any detected bottlenecks to the control centre, the operator," explains Huppertz and continues: "The operator can then either initiate a lockdown immediately or carry out another check themselves first. For example, following a station report, he is able to call up additional smart meter data from the affected area as required in order to derive measures."

With this concept, PSInsight wants to take account of the decentralisation of feed-in and consumption on the one hand and also strengthen the grid operators' individual scope for action on the other, as the Managing Director explains: "By using edge computing to collect and analyse the grid data directly on site, the grid stations become the key drivers of the energy transition in the distribution grid. Thanks to the operator, the grid operator remains the final decision-maker, taking action when a specific event occurs - in stark contrast to the blanket mass data transfer of purely centralised approaches, which makes them dependent on third parties such as metering point operators or cloud services."

Fulfilling requirements even in existing networks

For grid digitalisation that complies with Section 14a EnWG, Philipp Huppertz and his team are actually bringing the algorithms for grid analysis into the local grid stations, the most important asset for grid operators in the medium and low voltage range. The majority of the work takes place directly at field level - the grid data is collected, calculated and stored where it is generated. This also brings many economic and practical advantages, as Huppertz explains: "Regardless of whether the system is decades old or new: GridCal Nodes are designed so that they can be integrated with a perfect fit in just a few simple steps and can record and store highly aggregated grid data for years."

Equipped for the future

The energy, transport and heating transition, a shortage of skilled labour and regulatory measures - utilities have been and continue to be confronted with a variety of challenges. This is likely to remain the case in the future and grid operators know that the requirements for analysing and managing grids will continue to increase.

"With GridCal, we offer a flexible tool for operational management that can be easily adapted to the increasing requirements - a customised suit for the distribution grid that grows with you, so to speak," says Huppertz. This applies to the nodes and even more so to the software component, the operator. By orchestrating the nodes and bundling the collected grid information, the operator can not only carry out central spatial and temporal analyses of the grid status. It is also able to control the network stations remotely via a secure connection. (pq)

  • Fulfil the requirements of §14a EnWG for controllable consumption devices in the low-voltage range.
  • Data sovereignty from the very first minute. Your network, your data.
  • Future-proof thanks to maximum flexibility in hardware and software.
  • Simply get started and achieve immediate results thanks to state-of-the-art edge computing technology.

The GridCal nodes (shown here as a digital strip) can also be easily installed in existing systems and are ready for use in just a few minutes. (Photo: PSInsight GmbH)

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