BDEW: Sluggish Response to Retrofitting of Solar Power Plants to Prevent 50.2 Hertz Problem

The operators of roughly 300,000 solar power plants only sluggishly fulfill their obligation to cooperate with grid operators in retrofitting those plants falling under the scope of the ordinance on technical security and system stability in the electricity networks (Systemstabilitätsverordnung- SysStabV), the Federal Association of the Energy and Water Industry (BDEW) warned.

SysStabV entered into force on 26 July 2012. It mandates retrofitting of existing solar power plants with a capacity of 10 kV and more that were commissioned before 1 January 2012, so as to avoid the so-called 50.2 Hz problem. Solar power plants commissioned before 1 January 2012 disconnect immediately from the grid if the frequency of 50,2 Hertz is exceeded. In a worst case scenario this effect can lead to the shutdown of several gigawatts with significant implications for the grids due to the sudden power variations, including the risk of blackouts. Hence the older solar power plants shall be retrofitted so as to disconnect in a staggered manner.

Retrofitting will be carried out by the grid operators, the solar power plant operators only have to cooperate by filling in and returning a questionnaire in preparation of the changes to the plant within a period of four weeks (Section 8 para. 2 SysStabV), BDEW pointed out. According to BDEW, the responses seem to be sluggish. In some areas up to 50% of the power plant operators seemingly do not have returned the questionnaire in time.

Grid operators were legally obliged to cease paying feed-in tariffs (pursuant to the Renewable Energy Sources Act – EEG) until the questionnaires have been returned, BDEW said in a press release, adding that the power plant operators were contacted again. SysStab, however, only stipulates the obligation of the power plant operator to return the questionnaire in time (cf. Section 9 para. 1 SysStab). It does not mention legal consequences in case of non-compliance. At any rate, only larger solar power plants with a capacity of 100 kW or more need to be retrofitted until 31 August 2012, for all other plants a staggered time-table applies that ends 31 December 2014.

The costs of an estimated EUR 170 million for retrofitting and EUR 20 million for administrative costs (cf. BR-Drs 257/12) will be have to be borne by the electricity consumers, with 50% charged with the grid fees and 50% with the EEG surcharge (with which consumers pay for the difference between the fixed feed-in tariffs for renewable power and the sale of the energy at the energy exchange by the transmission system operators).

Source: BDEW

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