Reimund Gotzel: The challenge of energy transition for the industrial location of Bavaria

Bayernwerk AG, headquartered in the Upper Palatinate region of Regensburg, plays a key role when it comes to energy transition in Bavaria. The company operates power supply systems at medium and low voltage levels across vast areas of Bavaria, particularly in rural regions. Bayern­­werk’s subsidiary, Bayernwerk Natur, has also been active in the field of decentralised, energy-­efficient and renewable energy for many years. The company is a successor to E.ON Bayern AG, and was established as Bayernwerk in July 2013.

Bayernwerk is the largest regional distribution grid oper­­ator in Bavaria. The grid area extends across Lower and Upper Franconia, Lower and Upper Bavaria as well as Upper Palatinate. The company’s medium and low voltage grid is 180,000 kilo­­metres long. The company, em­­ploying approximately 2,500 employ­ees, secures the energy sup­­ply for vast areas across Bavaria thanks to its grid infrastructure. The decentralised corporate structure comprising 19 grid centres in all regions of the grid re­­gion provides a key foundation when it comes to achiev­­ing a high-quality supply. It is a far more costly endeavour to supply a expansive mountain region than providing a secure supply to closely intertwined, urban networks. That is why a secure supply, like the one Bayernwerk is providing, is a key eco­­nomic and social factor particularly for rural regions.

In addition to providing a secure supply, Bayernwerk’s core areas of business also include the expansion and technological development of a grid infrastructure, de­­centralised production and provision of a diverse range of energy services.

Energy transition is a reality within Bayernwerk’s regional distribution grid. Already more than 50 per cent renewable energy is currently flowing through our grid. Today, the company operates more than 240,000 photovoltaic systems with an output of approximately 5,300 megawatts within the power supply grid. The total output of renewable energy which is fed into Bayernwerk’s grid amounts to almost 7,000 megawatts. As a result, the proportion of renewable energy within Bayernwerk’s grid is higher than that of conventionally generated power. We are proud to be able to maintain a secure supply at the highest level despite an increasingly challenging mains operation.

 

Erzeugung1

However, developing the energy of the future is more than just a technological project. Innovation and technol­ogy need to be accepted by society. Therefore, citizens who create new momentum for future energy in their own region are important forerunners of energy transition. That is why Bayernwerk is supporting these initiators of future energy with the “Bürgerenergiepreis” (citizen energy prize) as part of its social commitment activities, which include other cultural and educational projects.

The energy transition for the electricity grid involves a paradigm shift. In the past, the consumers used to consume electricity whenever they needed it. The producers had to adapt to this behaviour: conventional large power stations were controlled so that production and consumption were compatible with one another, and grids were designed to ensure their capacity met the levels of consumption. Fundamental changes are underway now: today, the high photovoltaic output with its strong feed-in fluctuations already dominates the operations of Bayernwerk‘s distribution grid. As power generation tends to exceed the local and regional demand in electricity generated during times of intense sunlight, the surplus of electricity of medium and low voltage must be transferred to the next highest grid level: high voltage. This process is carried out using so-called substations. The current substation structure is not designed to handle this. Since 2012, Bayernwerk has been working intensely on a completely new dimensioning of the substation capacities in its grid to avoid that the combination between low and medium voltage level on the one hand and high voltage level on the other hand result in a bottleneck, which could ultimately jeopardize the secure supply of energy.

The company spent approximately 365 million euros in 2013 so that it could establish a secure supply of energy and promote business development in line with the German Renewable Energy Act (EEG).

There is still a long way to go before the energy system of tomorrow is established. Intensive developments need to be made in storage technology and in innovative grid elements as well as the establishment of a comprehensive grid extension, before any changes can occur in the energy sector. While today we combat this excessive electricity feed-in by means of grid extension and regulatory mechanisms for feed-in systems, in the future, intelligent control systems (“smart grids”) will ensure that any surplus electricity is dissipated into storage devices, or alternatively, that consumption is shifted spe­­cifically to these times. This could be made possible by activating household appliances or the charging of an electric car by means of remote control.


IMG_1981

Bayernwerk has been carrying out research on grids of the future for several years together with universities and partners from business. As a result, innovative and variable local grid transformers contribute to keeping the grid stable, despite a fluctuating feed-in. In other projects, energy storage devices are put to the test, re­­search is conducted into charging technologies for electric vehicles or intelligent inverters are tested.

Thanks to these projects, the continuous grid extension and the constant maintenance and servicing of grids, Bayernwerk is making a significant contribution to se­­curing the future of energy – and retains a secure supply within the grid area at the highest level, despite an increasingly challenging mains operation.

Bayernwerk has been a partner of the Bavarian munici­palities for many years. The company offers expertise in the energy industry and provides advice on matters concerning energy transition in the region. The company also assists in devising energy utilisation plans, while its subsidiary Bayernwerk Natur deals with all issues concerning the construction and operation of the decen­­tralised generation systems and provides an energy consulting service for buildings. Public street lighting is also an important aspect of the partnership between Bayernwerk and the municipalities.

 

Reimund_Gotzel_hThe author, born in Lübeck in 1966, is a qualified bank clerk and studied business administration at the TU Berlin. Reimund Gotzel joined PreussenElektra in 1992 and held a diverse range of managerial positions within the E.ON Group. He has been the CEO of Bayernwerk AG since July 2013.