German grid operators plan €128 billion extra investment to integrate wind

Germany's transmission system operators (TSOs) 50Hertz, Amprion, Tennet and Transnet plan to invest €128.3 billion to integrate more renewables, shortly after releasing interconnection plans for wind farms in the German North Sea.

German TSOs plan for grid upgrades to integrate more renewables (Image credit: Narumon Bowonkitwanchai via Getty Images)

The grid operators published the first draft of the country's grid development plan (GDP) for 2037–2045 in March. It followed publication of plans for interconnectors to network 10GW of wind farms in the German North Sea earlier that month. 

Interconnectors with neighbours

The interconnectors will link to Germany’s onshore grid and enable electricity exchanges with neighbouring countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands.

For the first time, the GDP described a power grid that can achieve climate neutrality by 2045. Electricity generated by wind and other renewables will play a key role, as the decarbonisation of the industrial, traffic and building sectors will mainly result from direct or indirect electrification, the TSOs said.

Faster grid development is crucial to a successful energy transition. 

A huge increase in renewable energy - and wind power especially - was included in the federal government’s 2022 Easter package (Osterpaket) but “this will only be effective if the green electricity can be transported to consumers,” the TSOs noted.

The political objective is to completely decarbonise the power sector by 2035, which means that most of the measures specified for 2045 will be needed in 2037. “Overall, the infrastructure for electricity, gas and hydrogen must be planned in a more coordinated manner,” the TSOs said.

Compared with earlier GDPs, estimates on the use of hydrogen – much of which will be produced with electricity generated by wind farms – have increased significantly.

By 2037, it is assumed that an extensive hydrogen infrastructure will be in place. Its design will influence development of the electricity transmission grid. 

The GDP also assumed that electrolysers will be constructed where they can support the grid, minimising congestion in the transmission grid and reducing curtailment of wind farms and other renewable energy sources. 

By 2045, meeting electricity consumption of more than 1,000TWh – twice the levels of today – will require a fivefold increase to 700GW of installed capacity from wind power and other renewables. “Integrating these renewables and enabling secure grid operations requires more grid development,” the GDP explained.

Additional investment

The additional €128.3 billion grid investment plan includes a number of new network projects with a total route length of 14,197 km – 5,742 km of which will be onshore and 8,455 km offshore. There will be five new direct current connections onshore and 20 offshore grid connections.

The TSOs said they will meet the increased requirements for reliable grid operation with innovative operating equipment such as grid boosters and modern system management concepts. 

“Another innovation consists in additional measures for meshed onshore DC structures as well as offshore measures. This will secure the necessary flexibility in terms of grid operation and will support the integration of renewable energy,” they added.

The draft GDP is open to public consultation until 25 April 2023. The feedback will be integrated into the second draft of the plan, which the TSOs will submit to the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) for review.

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