EURACTIV — 2023-11-29
Across Europe, investments into grids are lagging behind what’s needed as the continent embraces heat pumps and electric vehicles.
“Waiting time for permits for grid reinforcements are between 4-10 years, and 8-10 years for high voltages,” the European Commission said on Tuesday 28 November as it unveiled a new Action Plan to accelerate the deployment of electricity grids.
“Grids need to be an enabler, not a bottleneck in the clean energy transition,” said Kadri Simson, the EU’s energy commissioner.
In Germany, the network regulator, the Bundesnetzagentur, is now taking steps to throttle the electricity delivered to EVs and heat pumps to alleviate pressure on the grid.
“We are taking precautions today to ensure that heat pumps and charging facilities for electric cars can be connected quickly and operated safely,” said Klaus Müller, president of the federal grid agency on Monday 27 November.
Throttling the devices
Müller is walking a tightrope: keeping the lights on while integrating 500,000 new heat pumps every year and 15 m EVs by 2030. But he also has new powers to do this, thanks to a recent ruling by the EU court of justice which boosted its independance.
Going forward, the country’s 880 local grid operators won’t be able to block new heat pumps or wall-chargers for EVs in their service areas.
In exchange, they get to throttle the devices when power demand threatens “acute damage or overloading of the network”.
For that duration, devices will receive a trickle of 4.2 kilowatts per hour – on which heat pumps can continue running, and EVs can be charged for a 50-kilometre ride within two hours, the regulator says. Other household devices won’t be affected.
Even that figure is too high for the companies addressed. “We criticise the fact that the [regulator] BNetzA has raised the minimum guaranteed output even further from 3.7 KW to 4.2 KW,” stressed the municipal utility association VKU, who said the “practicality of the very generous guarantee” has yet to be proven.
Müller says he expects “interventions by the grid operator to remain the exception.”
When DSOs curtail devices, they must expand the affected grid service area. “However, the distribution system operators are not threatened with penalties if the grids are not expanded in line with demand,” said industry association bne.
The rules come into effect on 1 January 2024, with a two-year grace period. From 2025, Germany wants to take time-variable consumption tariffs seriously and reward consumers at times of the day when cheap solar or wind electricity are abundant.
Until then, owners of heat pumps and EV charging stations at home have the option of slashing their bills by €110 to €190 by allowing loca grid operators to reduce power supplies when needed. If devices are connected to a dedicated meter, power prices could even be slashed by 60%.