Bundesnetzagentur and grid expansion
The Bundesnetzagentur is Germany's regulatory authority for the electricity, gas, telecommunications, postal and rail markets. Since 2011, it has also taken on responsibility for implementing the Grid Expansion Acceleration Act (NABEG). On this website you can find out more about the upcoming changes in the transmission networks, the planning procedure for new electricity lines, and how the European partners are consulted in the process.
- Role of the Bundesnetzagentur
- Why is grid expansion necessary?
- Energy in the European market
- Legal framework
Role of the Bundesnetzagentur
The demands on the energy networks of the future are diverse. Consumers want a reliable energy supply at the best possible price. Energy suppliers and network operators need framework conditions in which their investments will pay off. Conservationists want to make sure that animals and plants are not affected by the changes. And local residents expect their property to be protected. The Bundesnetzagentur's role is to find the right balance.
The Grid Expansion Acceleration Act (NABEG) and the Energy Act (EnWG) passed in 2011 gave us an extensive range of new tasks relating to the expansion of Germany's extra-high voltage networks.
These tasks include
- approving the Scenario Framework, having evaluated the responses to the public consultation,
- examining and confirming the Network Development Plan,
- assessing the environmental impact of the network projects and compiling an environmental report,
- submitting the Network Development Plan as a draft Federal Requirements Plan to the federal government,
- regional planning activities as part of the Federal Sectoral Planning process and
- laying down the exact routes for the projects spanning federal state or national borders in the planning approval procedure.
There are a wide range of opportunities for people to access information and become actively involved, enabling anyone wishing to do so to gain comprehensive information and contribute their opinions, concerns and ideas. These contributions feed through us into the ongoing proceedings.
Putting the planning approval decisions into practice – installing or upgrading the lines – is the task of the transmission system operators. The operators recoup their investment through their network charges, meaning that it is the consumers who indirectly bear the costs of the investment. Our goal is therefore to ensure that Germany's networks are expanded only as much as is necessary for a secure energy supply.
Why is grid expansion necessary?
As is always the case with sophisticated infrastructure, the electricity transmission network needs to be constantly adapted to current engineering standards. The requirements to be met by the grid have been changing for some years. So much in fact, that small fixes just do not fit the bill any more. This is clear when looking at the goals that Germany has set for itself: the shift to renewable energy sources, maintaining a high level of supply security and the realisation of a single European energy market.
Renewable energy sources
The expansion of energy from renewable sources has caused the focus of electricity generation to shift. In the future, coal-fired power plants are to play a much smaller role, whereas nuclear power plants are to play no role at all. Such conventional power plants are, however, mostly located in regions where energy demand is high – for example in the Ruhr region and close to southern German metropolitan areas.
These central points of energy consumption seldom overlap with regions suitable for photovoltaic systems and wind farms. Renewable facilities are often operated most economically in locations where electricity consumption is low. This is the case with offshore wind farms and renewables in relatively sparsely populated areas in eastern and northern Germany. The electricity generated there must often be transported over long distances to the consumers. In the process, the existing network is frequently reaching its capacity limits.
Security of supply
Hardly any other country experiences so few power outages as Germany does. To hold on to this edge, a well-developed transmission network is essential to keep the security of supply at a high level. Such a transmission network brings the various regions and methods of energy generation together, making energy supply from renewable sources more stable.
Looking ahead, situations will still arise where sun, wind and biomass will not suffice to meet electricity demand. Gas- or coal-fired reserve power plants will have to step in and help out if we want our trams to run smoothly, our fridges to stay cool and the lights to always go on. The electricity generated from these conventional sources will also flow through the new lines, since they, as with the entire grid, will be transporting the whole energy mix being produced.
Energy in the European market
Future-proofing Germany’s energy supply requires close cooperation with our partners in Europe. A key requirement for this is common regulations and goals. This is the only way to use the full potential of the European energy infrastructure.
The German energy network is connected with those of other countries. Cross-border energy projects are a symbol of the European Union's common climate and energy policy and it is important for European countries to work together on energy issues. The expansion of the network in Germany affects the energy network in Europe via cross-border connections and, conversely, expansion elsewhere in Europe affects the German network.
For example, when Germany expands its electricity grid, it can have a direct effect on its neighbours if a planned line runs near or even crosses a border.
Projects intended to strengthen the European energy network are included in the Ten Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) , which is the equivalent of the German Network Development Plan (NDP). Some projects in the TYNDP are European Projects of Common Interest.
Projects of Common Interest
Projects that are of special importance to the European energy network are designated Projects of Common Interest (PCIs). They have to bring economic and ecological benefits. An example of an ecological benefit might be helping to feed more electricity from renewables into the grid. An economic benefit might be helping to strengthen the European internal market in electricity. PCIs should have top priority at national level.
The Regulation on guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure (TEN-E Regulation) details how a project becomes a PCI. It defines special areas, or corridors, in which the existing energy network is to be improved. Projects that help to achieve this aim – whether they are new lines, smart grids or pumped storage plants – can be given PCI status. Project promoters put forward suggestions for PCIs, which are then reviewed by Regional Groups in which representatives of several nations work together with the European Commission. As well as Member States, the groups include network operators, regulatory authorities and project promoters. Each Regional Group proposes PCI projects. The results are then assessed by ACER (the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators). ACER's assessment forms the basis for the full list of PCIs.
Notable features of the PCI permit granting process
There are two particular areas of focus for PCIs. First, they should be completed quickly. Second, the public has the chance to get involved to a greater extent than for other projects. The TEN-E Regulation sets out provisions relating to these areas, although German law often goes even further in giving the public an opportunity to state its views, including for projects without PCI status. As a result, people in Germany may not really notice if a project is a PCI, but this might be different in other EU countries. Where national legislation does not provide as much opportunity for public participation, it must at least allow for people to give their views on PCIs.
Each Member State needs to have a central point, known as a "one-stop shop", for coordinating all PCI-related issues. In Germany, the Bundesnetzagentur has this role. The one-stop shop is intended to improve efficiency and transparency as well as promoting cooperation between EU Member States, authorities and project promoters.
Contact details for the one-stop shop
Bundesnetzagentur für Elektrizität, Gas, Telekommunikation, Post und Eisenbahnen
There are various national laws regulating grid expansion. The purpose of the Energy Act (EnWG) is to secure an environmentally sound energy supply for society as a whole, based increasingly on renewable sources.
The Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) goes further with its sustainable development strategy: renewable energy should account for at least 50 per cent of production by 2030, with priority given to feeding in and transporting electricity generated from renewables. These targets can only be met by stepping up expansion of the extra-high voltage grid, which in turn requires accelerated planning and approval procedures as provided for by the Power Grid Expansion Act 2009 (EnLAG) and the Grid Expansion Acceleration Act 2011 (NABEG). Projects that are regarded necessary to meet these targets are listed in the Bundesbedarfsplan. The respective law, the Bundesbedarfsplangesetz (BBPlG), came into force in 2013.
The goal of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (UVPG) is to ensure that uniform principles are applied in specific projects aimed at effective precautionary action in environmental protection. Here, environmental compatibility and strategic environmental assessments serve to identify and evaluate the potential impacts on the environment.
Further information on participation