Sustainability Report 2017

Interview with Dr Dirk Biermann


„The share of renewable energies will increase drastically.“

Dr Dirk Biermann, Chief Markets and System Operation Officer

What do you mean by sustainable management?

— Dirk Biermann: For 50Hertz, sustainable management means facilitating and driving the energy transition. To this end, we are strengthening the grids, expanding them as needed and are committed to keeping adverse effects on nature as low as possible. We are also enduring security of supply through the maintenance of our grids. In all aspects, we as a company can only act responsibly and sustainably if we maintain good communication and build understanding with our stakeholders.

How important is the role of cooperation in doing so?

Dirk Biermann: In Germany, we operate the grid with three other transmission system operators (TSOs). Together, we ensure stable grid operation and protect the power supply around the clock. We succeed through good cooperation and close coordination of our activities: So every two years, we prepare and revise the grid development plans, in order to further optimise the expansion of the grid to meet the requirements of the energy transition. Unlike the electricity market, we TSOs have to act as if there were only one transmission system operator in Germany.

The European electricity market is also becoming ever more closely intermeshed and so many of our processes are cross border ones and part of the European interconnected system. In particular, trusting international cooperation is indispensable for the joint operation of the European electricity system.

With the increasing feed-in of renewable energies to our grids as well as decentralisation, new flexible players are emerging, who are both producers and consumers at the same time (so called prosumers). They are usually connected to the distribution grids. The distribution grid operators (DSOs) are therefore one of our most important partners – therefore, our cooperation with them will continue to intensify.

We can only implement our large infrastructure projects if – in addition to the grid operators – politics, society, interest groups and citizens in the regions concerned are involved in these projects at an early stage. We also professionalised and intensified these dialogues perpetuated in the last year.

Biermann knows that security of supply and market security have to go hand in hand.

In the “WindNODE” project, among others, 50Hertz works closely with producers, DSOs, industry, IT and science, in order to create an intelligent energy system for the future.

Dirk Biermann: WindNODE shows very impressively how seriously we take our dialogue and how intensively we are engaging in it. With over 70 partners, we develop new decentralised and sustainable solutions for the energy transition. The aim is to efficiently integrate large quantities of renewable energies into the energy system and at the same time to keep the power grids stable. WindNODE uses the possibilities presented by digitisation to make the energy system intelligent, and to allow a multitude of different, intelligently networked partners to act within a distributed system. This is about specific, real applications that we develop up to field testing. We present them as transferable models into a big “showcase”*, supported financially by the German Ministry of Economy, in order to make the energy transition something that can be understood and experienced and in order to drive the required innovation.

In a sub-project of WindNODE, 50Hertz investigates how small-scale flexibility can be integrated both on the producer side and on the consumer side in the new energy system. Together with our project partners, we developed a flexibility platform on which these decentralised flexibilities could be recorded and efficiently integrated into grid congestion management processes.

What kind of flexibility are you talking about?

Dirk Biermann: The share of renewable energies will rise dramatically. We estimate that we will have a good 1.6 million small installations feeding into the power grid. How can we ensure power supply with these distributed producers as well as we previously did with hundreds of large power plants? This is one of the questions we are asking ourselves. The boundaries between energy producers and consumers are becoming increasingly blurred. The electricity customer with a photovoltaic system on the roof, a battery storage unit in the cellar, an intelligent energy management system in the house and an electric car outside the door will soon be the norm. This customer will be as flexible as never before.

What does that mean?

Dirk Biermann: Many very small, very complex players have to be integrated into the grid infrastructure and optimally coordinated via the electricity market. Digitisation will help us in doing so and we will see that the new world of energy will work at least as well as the old one and will not lead to any comfort losses.