28 Nov 2023, 13:58
Carolina Kyllmann

German grid operators allowed to throttle electricity in bid for faster expansion of heat pumps, EV chargers

Clean Energy Wire

Grid operators in Germany will be allowed to temporarily throttle electricity supply to heat pumps and electric vehicle charging points to maintain grid stability from January 2024, according to new rules announced by the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA). These rules are aimed at speeding up the integration of these devices to local grids. In return, distribution grid operators will have to offer reduced fees and won't be allowed to refuse or delay the connection of new heat pumps or charging stations, arguing that possible bottlenecks could arise with the new installations. Germany's electricity grid is not yet equipped for the expected increase in electricity demand expected from a boom in these "controllable consumer devices," and have refused connections if they threaten overload the local grid. "We want everyone to be connected and to have a secure grid at the same time," BNetzA head Klaus Müller said. "We expect interventions by the grid operator to remain a necessary exception," he added, explaining that if bottlenecks occur, the grid must be expanded. The new regulations require grid operators to ensure a minimum output to devices is always available so they can continue to operate. Regular household electricity will not be affected.

BNetzA's plans, years in the making, were initially met with little enthusiasm, especially in the automotive industry, which feared that the appeal of electric vehicles would be reduced. However, the new guidelines were better received. Utility association BDEW welcomed the move, with head Kerstin Andreae saying the BNetzA had "found a good solution with which the connection of hundreds of thousands of heat pumps and wallboxes can now take place quickly and the usual high level of supply security in Germany can still be guaranteed." Association of Energy Market Innovators (bne) also welcomed it as "a balanced compromise between consumer and grid operator interests," and local utilities association VKU said that, overall, it was positive that the regulation had now been introduced.

Electrifying sectors which are currently mostly powered by fossil fuels — such as heating and transport — is key for the energy transition. The German government plans to install 500,000 new heat pumps in homes per year from 2024 and aims to have 15 million fully electric passenger cars on its roads by 2030. To keep up with the expected increase in electricity demand, BNetzA head Klaus Müller has called for a push in local electricity grid expansion.

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