“Grid Operators Are Running Out of Time”

Expertinterview – March 05, 2024

PV systems, battery storage systems, heat pumps and e-mobility are starting to push distribution grids to their limits. There is increasing pressure to expand and digitalize power grids in order to control energy flows in a way that is compatible with the grid. One important element are secondary substations.

In this interview, Sebastian Oremek, VP Products at E.ON One, explains what grid operators need to know.

Interview with Sebastian Oremek, VP Products at E.ON One

Why are smart secondary substations so important for the energy transition?

Sebastian Oremek, Vice President Product at E.ON One

Smart secondary substations are critical to the energy transition because they shed light on untransparent low-voltage grids. Traditional grids provide little insight into the actual capacities and the dynamics of energy flows. As the share of renewables grows and demand increases, it is important to have accurate data on grid performance. Smart stations enable precise visualization and monitoring of the grid, which is essential for optimizing and streamlining grid operations. This transparency is crucial for integrating renewable sources of energy and for ensuring a reliable electricity supply.

Compared to the rest of Europe, Germany is lagging behind in the deployment of smart meters. Where does it stand in terms of digitalization and the ability to monitor low-voltage grids?

It’s true that Germany is one of the slowest countries in Europe when it comes to deploying smart meters, and this also applies to digitalization and the ability to monitor low-voltage grids. While other European countries are making good progress in grid monitoring and controlling, Germany is still in the early stages.

This delay limits the ability to efficiently respond to the challenges of the energy transition, as the lack of digital infrastructure makes it difficult to integrate renewable sources of energy and stabilize the power grid. It is necessary to invest in these technologies in order to keep up with the development in other parts of Europe.

What technological trends are you seeing in digital secondary substations?

Compact solutions also fit into small substations.

A major trend in digital secondary substations is the transmission of measurement data in one-minute intervals for detailed and near real-time monitoring of the grid status. This development allows grid operators to respond more quickly and accurately to changes in grid load.

Another trend is measuring individual secondary substation feeders for a granular analysis of the energy flow and the usage patterns. These technologies provide a high level of transparency and efficiency, which is critical for adapting to the changing requirements of the energy transition and for the integration of renewables.

What should grid operators be aware of when they modernize or digitalize their secondary substations?

When modernizing or digitalizing secondary substations, grid operators should keep several factors in mind. Since secondary substations often have limited space, a compact retrofit solution is important. Voltage measurement is essential for precise grid performance data. For a clear presentation and better accessibility of the collected data, you need an effective visualization platform.

Data transmission in one-minute intervals – as required by law – enables rapid response and adjustments to grid fluctuations. Equally important is the integration of data from existing peripheral systems and control rooms to ensure seamless monitoring and controlling of the entire grid. All of these aspects are essential to ensure high grid quality and efficient adaptation to the requirements of the energy transition.

The decentralization of energy production is progressing at a rapid pace. How much time do grid operators have left to modernize their low-voltage grids? And what about the delivery times for the required technology?

There really isn’t much time left for grid operators to modernize low-voltage grids. The rapid decentralization of the energy production, paired with the obligation to deploy smart metering systems, requires the grids to be upgraded quickly. Grid operators need to invest in assessing the grid status ahead of time in order to meet the changing requirements. Although retrofit solutions are readily available, it takes time to test and gradually implement them.

Given the rapid changes in the energy landscape and the growing share of renewables, there is no time to waste. Grid modernization isn't just a technical necessity, it’s a strategic step to ensure a reliable and efficient energy supply in an increasingly decentralized and renewable energy environment.

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