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Long distribution and transmission grid expansion times in Austria

Last update: 2022-02-13

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Grid regulation and infrastructure

Lack of infrastructure and infrastructure development

By 2030, Austria aims to be 100% supplied with electricity from domestic renewable energy sources, and by 2040 Austria aims to be climate neutral. At present, grid capacity is insufficient in some parts of Austria and classic grid expansion takes too long to achieve Austria's expansion targets. However, especially in the case of renewable expansion, long-term, early, timely and coordinated planning of reinforcements and expansions of the transmission and distribution grids for the transport of generated electricity is essential. Approval times for distribution grid projects such as overhead lines and substations already take up to eight years before construction can even begin. Depending on the line route, distribution grid operators must obtain permits under the following laws: always the Nature Conservation Act and the Heavy Current Routes Act, if applicable forestry law and water law. Sometimes additional conditions are imposed, such as when an area worthy of protection is affected.

Also, the expansion of the transmission grid takes too long to reach the renewable targets. In Austria, projects for the construction of 380 kV lines are estimated to take between 10 and 20 years from submission to implementation (not including preparatory work). In the case of the Salzburg line, one of Austria's most important infrastructure projects, 20 years. In the view of the transmission system operator Austrian Power Grid (APG), the Austrian 2030/2040 targets for the expansion of renewable energy cannot be achieved with the current duration of grid expansion. The reason for the untimely implementation of the grid expansion plan is the long duration of procedures. The instruments of public participation must be standardised and qualitatively improved. At the political level, efforts are already being made to shorten the duration of procedures.

Due to the long planning and approval periods for grid reinforcement and expansion measures, there are grid bottlenecks, especially in the east of Austria. For this reason, redispatch is currently used, which means that renewable power plants, especially wind power plants, are shut down or switched off in the event of grid bottlenecks. According to wind power stakeholders, this could be avoided if the expansion of renewable energy sources were increasingly taken into account when planning the electricity grid. Stakeholders in the wind power sector believe that coordinated planning of the transmission and distribution grids with the involvement of relevant stakeholders is urgently needed to plan a more efficient, demand-oriented, and timely grid expansion. The integration of relevant stakeholders could take place, for example, within the framework of an Austrian grid infrastructure plan. In this context, it is important to have a strategic overview of the future energy infrastructure (structure of energy generation, sector coupling, demand management, storage, etc.). It is equally important to take into account interests such as security of supply, climate protection, but also nature conservation. In this context, the wind power stakeholders surveyed demand:

an Austria-wide cost allocation for grid expansion/conversion to achieve the renewable energy targets.a maximum 5-year expansion period from the grid connection request for measures in the distribution grida maximum 10-year expansion period from grid access application for measures in the transmission gridObligation to connect: within 5 years for connection to the distribution grid and within 10 years for connection to the transmission grid. Additionally, reimbursement of costs by the distribution or transmission system operator should be provided if full feed-in is not possible due to lack of expansion.

While APG finds the wind power industry's demand for faster expansion understandable, it is of the opinion that this does not address the real problem, which is the duration of approval procedures for grid expansion and possible appeals. APG is also in favour of making the procedures for the expansion of new lines more efficient and shortening them. However, a cost-reimbursement by APG would ultimately only mean a pass-through of funds, as the costs are borne by the tariff customers. APG does not consider this to be expedient.

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Competent authorities

For Long distribution and transmission grid expansion times

Authority (Original name) Authority (English) Link
Energie-Control AustriaE-Control Austria für die Regulierung der Elektrizitäts- und ErdgaswirtschaftVisit
Transmission System Operators
Bundesministerium für Klimaschutz, Umwelt, Energie, Mobilität, Innovation und TechnologieFederal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and TechnologyVisit
VerteilnetzbetreiberDistribution Grid Operator

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