The lifelines of our new energy world
What will our future look like? It better be green! According to a survey by Kantar Emnid on behalf of the Agency for Renewable Energies (as of 2017), 95% of people in Germany would like a greener future. In particular, climate protection and a genuine energy transition are important to them. At E.ON, we agree. To ensure that climate protection and the energy turnaround continue, we're working to expand and rebuild our distribution grids. They are responsible for ensuring that energy arrives to every individual. After all, we are talking about 334,000 kilometers of electricity grids, of which more than 80% are underground. With this grid length, we could circle the world more than eight times.
But what are distribution grids? Power grids are subdivided into two generic terms: the distribution grids and the transmission grids. The two networks are broken down into four voltage levels:
- The maximum voltage level belongs to the transmission grid. It passes on the electricity throughout Germany, but also across borders. Large power plants feed into this voltage level.
The redistribution to the end customers takes place via the voltage levels of the distribution networks:
- The high-voltage level grids transfer the high-voltage power generated by power stations across the country to power transformers, which convert down the voltage. They are usually located near major consumption points such as train stations.
- The medium-voltage level distributes energy to regional substations and larger facilities such as hospitals or factories.
- The low-voltage level distributes the electricity to households, office buildings, small-scale industrial facilities and stores.
In the traditional energy world, electricity grids functioned much like a one-way street. The electricity flowed from the power plant into the transmission grid, then directly in one direction to the consumer. In the new energy world, unlike in the past, electricity is generated by hundreds of thousands of small decentralized systems and flows in all directions. Renewable energies such as photovoltaic or wind turbines feed their electricity irregularly into the grid at different voltage levels. This can lead to a highly fluctuating utilization of distribution grids.
This complex integration task brings many challenges with it. Due to the many small energy sources, greater attention must be paid to a steady balance between feed-in and consumption. This process must be fast and flexible and ideally on site, to ensure the overall stability of the system.
That's where our distribution grids come in. Let's try to explain what makes our distribution girds so special:
Fit for the future
Technological progress is also evident in our work on the grids, where drones are being used more and more frequently. In areas that are difficult to access, they facilitate the maintenance of the lines and thus make them more cost-effective.
With the new, intelligent grid, all voltage levels are constantly monitored and automatically optimally controlled via the data network. Sensors and smart meters provide the information and control options of consumers and producers. Thus, households, municipal consumers, electrical charging stations and storage is integrated into an intelligent grid.
The heart of the region
Those who wants to understand people and their needs, must be represented locally. Proximity is essential for us, and our distribution grid operators have been an integral part of their region for decades. Whether day or night, through wind and rough weather, our colleagues provide for a reliable supply of energy. With distribution grids, we're not only driving forward the energy transition, we're supporting the region and its economy. Therefore, we always have a local team on site for support.
Teamwork is top
Good cooperation between municipalities and distribution system operators is particularly important; whether as a shareholder of municipal utilities or as a partner in the implementation of municipal or urban energy concepts. This reliable partnership drives the next phase of the energy transition: clean electricity, including heat and mobility.
The roots of our cooperation with partners in the regions goes back to the past century. Therefore, we are partners with more than 3,200 municipalities and cities throughout Germany. Together, we realize sustainable energy concepts.
Safety and efficiency with top marks
At the center of our efforts is the customer. In the end, electricity should come reliably out of the socket. At the same time, the end user/consumer should not necessarily be aware of the work on the distribution grids, neither at home nor on the (consumers) payroll. The work should therefore be as efficient and inexpensive as possible.
We have achieved that. Our grids are among the safest in the world: on average, they only go offline for slightly more than fifteen minutes each year. In Canada, on the other hand, the time per year without electricity is five hours, in France an hour, just to name two examples.
E.ON was again rated positively by the Federal Network Agency at the end of 2018. All four major grid operators from E.ON received the top rating: 100% efficiency.