Shaping the network landscape together with Europe

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.

map of Europe

European energy policy

Europe's energy policy has continued to gain importance over the last few years. The European Union's framework aims at optimising network infrastructures and promoting renewable energy sources. It helps to develop the internal European market and cross-border trade in electricity and plays a vital role in environmental and climate protection.

In 2008, the Member States of the European Union agreed on the first climate and energy package containing the so-called 20-20-20 targets. With this package the Member States set themselves a number of objectives for the year 2020:

  • to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared with 1990 levels,
  • to increase the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable sources to 20%, and
  • to make a 20% improvement in energy efficiency.

The Energy 2020 strategy adopted in 2010 and the Energy Roadmap 2050 adopted in 2011 set the direction for Europe's energy policy. The goals defined include:

  • securing new supply and transport routes,
  • simplifying and speeding up approval procedures,
  • developing alternative energy sources,
  • creating fair competition within Europe,
  • intelligent integration of all internal EU markets, and
  • energy security and consumer protection.

These goals can only be achieved by modernised and innovative grid planning and design. The European Commission has therefore put forward an energy infrastructure package containing specific support measures and common rules for expanding the energy infrastructure networks spanning regional and national borders, with faster approval procedures at the forefront.

Networked in Europe

Considering the growing internal energy market, cooperation amongst the European transmission system operators (TSOs) and the European regulatory authorities is indispensable.

Following the EU Third Internal Energy Market Package, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) became operational in 2011. A total of 41 TSOs from 34 countries are working together under ENTSO-E. The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG) comprises 43 TSOs.

ENTSO-E and ENTSOG each develop and publish a joint network development plan (NDP) for the electricity and the gas sector every two years. This Ten Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) plan sets out the network expansion measures needed over the next ten years or so, with the focus on developing interconnectors and relieving congestion in the transmission network. The TYNDP is the basis for determining projects of common interest (PCI).

Network development plans in a European context

In 2001, the European Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), based in Ljubljana, was established. ACER's tasks include verifying and evaluating the European network development plans to ensure that they are consistent with the national network development plans.

Cross-border energy transport plays a vital role in drafting the German network development plans. Market simulations are based on trading capacities, that is the maximum transmission volumes to Germany's neighbouring countries. As an example, the TSOs presented the following trading capacities for 2023 and 2033 (excerpt, all figures in MW):

SwitzerlandThe NetherlandsFrancePoland
20234,400/4,2003,8003,0002,000/3,000
20336,0005,0005,0003,000

Source: Electricity Network Development Plan 2023, second draft by the TSOs.

Projects of common interest

The Regulation on trans-European energy infrastructure guidelines (TEN-E Regulation), which has been in force since June 2013, aims at achieving the EU's energy policy objectives and ensuring a well-functioning internal energy market and security of supply. At the same time, the development of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency will be promoted. One of the ways to realise these objectives is by effective and accelerated grid expansion. In this regard, four trans-European electricity corridors have been established:

  1. the Northern Seas offshore grid (NSOG),
  2. the North-South electricity interconnections in Western Europe (NSI West Electricity),
  3. the North-South electricity interconnections in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe (NSI East Electricity), and
  4. the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan in electricity (BEMIP Electricity).

The TEN-E Regulation defines how to identify and determine projects of common interest. Amongst the criteria to be considered are the project’s economic, social and environmental benefits and the transboundary effects for at least two Member States.

The Member States, regulatory authorities, TSOs and project developers come together in various regional groups chaired by the European Commission to develop and assess proposals for projects of common interest. After taking into account ACER's comments, the Member States together with the European Commission as the decision-making body decide upon the regional PCI lists. These regional lists are then combined to form a comprehensive Union wide list to be adopted as a delegated act by the European Commission.

In addition, the TEN-E Regulation defines tools for accelerated grid expansion and the corresponding financial support. Projects of common interest are thus given priority status since they have a significant impact on cross-border transmission capacity.

The second Union-wide list of projects of common interest entered into force on 18 November 2015 and will be updated every two years. It contains 20 projects in the electricity sector, one in the gas sector and two in the oil sector relating directly to Germany. To help facilitate and coordinate the permit granting process, the Bundesnetzagentur has been designated as a "one-stop shop" authority under Article 8 of the TEN-E Regulation.

The PCI should be given highest priority at national level, taking into account their specific requirements such as focusing and streamlining the permit granting processes, as has already happened in Germany, in particular under the Grid Expansion Acceleration Act.