Applying for European “Project of Common Interest” status
European Projects of Common Interest (PCI) are key cross-border infrastructure projects that link the energy systems of EU countries. They are intended to help the EU achieve its energy policy and climate objectives. PCIs must have a significant impact on energy markets and market integration in at least two EU countries, boost competition on energy markets and help the EU’s energy security by diversifying sources as well as contribute to the EU’s climate and energy goals by integrating renewables.
Being assessed in the TYNDP is a pre-condition for a project to be granted PCI Status. Every two years, the European Commission utilises the information in the latest TYNDP as part of its selection and adoption of a new biannual list of PCIs. The draft list is then submitted to the European Parliament and Council of the EU for approval.
From the moment a TYNDP project becomes a PCI, it may benefit from favourable treatment such as a single national authority for obtaining permits, improved regulatory conditions or increased visibility to investors. Projects with PCI status are also eligible to apply to funding from the Connecting Europe Facility.
ULTRANET – Hybrid overhead line with innovative converter technology
ULTRANET is one of the leading projects in Germany’s energy transition process. It stands for a nearly 340km long high voltage direct current (HVDC) connection between two federal states: North Rhine-Westphalia (Osterath) and Baden-Württemberg (Philippsburg). The innovative pilot scheme is a result of a collaboration between the two German transmission system operators (TSOs) Amprion GmbH and TransnetBW GmbH.
ULTRANET project is an important part of the German energy policy and resulting national grid development plans. It forms the southern section of the so-called “Corridor A” concept foreseeing connection of the northern and southern regions of Germany via direct current (HVDC) power lines. As such, ULTRANET does reinforce the grid after nuclear phase-out. It also complies to the European North-South Interconnection idea aiming at connecting the significant offshore renewable generation capacities in the North Sea with the load centres in the southern parts of Europe.
ULTRANET concept bases on an innovative approach that considers using existing transmission infrastructure (towers and pylons) in order to adapt it for deployment of additional HVDC lines. Such solution – usage of the existing transmission routes – improves significantly the overall grid performance by increasing transmission capacity in an efficient and resource-saving manner. Respectively, the ULTRANET HVDC overhead lines will be operated using same rated voltage level as the transmission lines they would be added on to (here: 380 kV).
ULTRANET will be operated using a complete new, most modern and unique multi-terminal system located at either end of the planned HVDC link enabling transfer capacity of 2,000 MW. The innovative converter technology is capable of supporting the grid re-configuration process in the unlikely event of a power outage. Furthermore, the converter stations will also be able to regulate and stabilise the grid voltage, a function mainly performed by conventional power stations today. Another advantage of this innovative system is its capability of immediate adjusting of the direct current values (i. e. in case of a lightning strike), which would significantly reduce the eventual interruption duration of the HVDC links to an absolute minimum.
All innovative technologies, especially in their early development stages, have been always causing a certain level of social anxiety among the people directly affected. It has been no different also in case of ULTRANET project. Although it is considered as an important milestone for Germany’s energy transition it is still lacking broad support and acceptance even though the project developers (Amprion and TransnetBW) have been continuously cooperating with the local communities and authorities in order to work out most convenient solutions. Locally good solutions leading to acceptance can be found such as the adjusted location for the converter in Philippsburg at the former nuclear power site. Despite those considerable efforts and intensive engagement towards public acceptance, ULTRANET still confronts many permitting difficulties resulting in significant project implementation delays.
Even the official PCI label of the undisputable value of the ULTRANET project for the European society as a whole does not seem to have any effect on the project perception.
Both project promoters and developers – Amprion and TransnetBW – are convinced that a strong and transparent European political support complemented by an appropriate legal framework could successfully facilitate the current impediments and accelerate ULTRANET implementation so it could start serving the society as planned.