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Translation of the technical section of ‘Eltra behøver nye metoder til at genskabe et solide elsystem’, published in Eltra magasinet (Nr 1, January 2002). It records an interview with Georg Styrbo, Eltra’s Administrative Director, at New Year (i.e. before the change of Government).

Eltra needs new methods to re-establish a solid electricity system
By Per Andersen, Head of Information, Eltra.

Georg Styrbo: The western Danish electricity system has no longer the robustness that characterised it a few years ago. Ever greater amounts of unregulated and often un-announced production or lack of the same are a daily challenge for the Watch in Eltra’s control room.  

”We are exposed to the consequences of the environmental and energy policy of the last few years having succeeded above all expectations. It is now necessary for the energy authorities to draw the consequences of achieving this goal and introduce the resources necessary to maintain and stabilise the situation.”

”I am convinced that if we get the necessary resources we will be able to get the system to operate just as well as did the old one. It will be a long and difficult journey, but we would be the first in the world to get control of the project”, says Eltra’s Administrative Director Georg Styrbo in a New Year’s interview with Eltra magasinet.

Positively surprised
Eltra magasinet: ”Last New Year you called for action against the over-run [i.e. over-production] of electricity. You recommended the establishment of flexible electricity usage, and in that connection you looked for a change in attitude to electricity as an energy source. Has much happened since then?

GS: ”I am satisfied with the reactions received. They have been a positive surprise. A few months later the Energy Agency set up a working group which in October produced a report that clearly indicated the need to tackle electricity over-run, and at the same time pointed out a number of areas for action, without, however, presenting concrete decisions. But the problem is becoming more and more pressing. We must accept that if we do not find a sensible, long-term solution, we will loose our grip on the electricity system”.

E.M.: And what then?
G.S.: Then it would be an end to the ”electricity on time” that we have known for decades.

E.M.: And you expect that?
G.S.: Of course not. We are purposefully working on plans to counteract the risk of a break-down of the grid. We have thus agreed a temporary emergency plan which gives us the option of regulating the large and some of the small heat and power plants, as well as individual wind turbines. But these are primitive tools that will only be used in acute situations. The arrangement is not perfect - particularly from a socio- economic view-point.

Socio-economic optimal
E.M.: What is needed then?
G.S.: We must have the option to act in an optimal socio-economic manner. In practice this means that the cost, price and subsidy system must be arranged in such a way that it supports the sensible operation of our electricity system. We must be able to stop heating-related electricity production when it is not necessary, and we must be able to use the over-production from wind turbines to replace coal, oil, and gas-fired heating whenever this is sensible. A great deal of money could be earned for society by such a solution. That we (Eltra) at the same time get the opportunity to maintain good relationships with our colleagues in neighbouring countries (because they avoid having to handle the excess of electricity from Denmark) is an extra prize, the value of which we must not under-estimate.”

”That one can even think in this way relates to the fact that internationally Denmark has committed itself in the environmental area (CO2 reduction, - ed.) with a level of ambition that is probably close to a world record. For this reason it must be legitimate to try to attain this goal with as few costs as possible.”

”I would like to emphasise at the start that we must naturally take regard to concrete promises of economic subsidies and fixed prices that underpin the development of many private prioritised production plants. It is therefore necessary to ensure that affected plant owners receive reasonable compensation when the system operator acts in a socio-economically correct way”.

Symptom of a problem
”With regard to the operational security of the system, it is a simplification to present over-run as the problem. Because it is only a symptom. The real problem for the system operators is that we cannot supervise, control and steer the major part of the production system.”

”In the old days - just a few years ago - we had full control of the system by steering six to seven large power station blocks distributed around Jutland and Funen. These power stations are still there, but it is the many hundreds of small decentralised heat and power plants and almost 5,000 wind turbines that together with the central heat production - and without further discussion - often produce far more electricity than there is need for.”

”The big challenge to us is therefore to secure effective control of the system. The problem is not only a technical one but also one of organisation. We must reach right out to the individual plant.”

”Such control can only be achieved through collaboration with the grid companies, the heat and power producers and wind turbine owners. We must have a communication system that enables us to communicate with those responsible for the operation of the individual plants. We must be able to stop the decentralised heat and power plants when it is socio-economically relevant, and we must be able to uncouple wind turbines, for example, when production is re-established after any break-down in the system.”