Minister Marie Christine Marghem opens modernised national control centre
On 19 October, system operator Elia showed Minister Marie Christine Marghem and the Belgian press the modernised national control centre. From here, the system operator closely monitors the Belgian power system 24/7, as it must be balanced at all times. The energy system is becoming ever more complex, with more exchanges across national borders and an increasing share of renewable energy. This requires accurate forecasts and sufficient flexibility to cope with sudden fluctuations. This modernisation has equipped the control centre with the latest software systems so that it is ready for the energy transition.
Today, the Belgian high-voltage grid is part of a connected European grid that stretches across the entire continent, from Portugal to Bulgaria and from Norway to Italy, but things used to be very different. The European high-voltage grid was largely developed in the 50s, 60s and 70s to transmit energy in bulk from major power stations to centres of consumption. Individual countries were essentially 'electrical islands' and cooperation with neighbouring countries was very limited. In the last few decades, though, international energy exchange has increased exponentially. Belgium currently has a cross-border capacity of 4,500 MW, which is about 30 to 40% of average Belgian consumption. This figure will rise to 6,500 MW by 2020.
At the moment, there are around 3,000 MW of solar panels installed in Belgium and 2,000 MW of wind energy. On sunny, windy spring days, some 40% of consumed energy can come from wind and solar generation. As soon as the sun sets, this energy generation has to be taken over by other, traditional generation methods or by imported energy.
This trend towards more renewable energy will continue. In other words, the energy sector is in the middle of a transition during which the power grid is becoming increasingly complicated to operate. The system is becoming more flexible, with regard to both consumers and generators. While most parameters are volatile and less predictable, the grid must be able to operate safely at all times. This is the challenge now facing the Belgian system operator and which the modernised control centre seeks to meet.
The Belgian high-voltage grid remains one of the best in Europe, with a level of reliability of 99.999%.
The Elia Group is organised around two electricity transmission system operators (TSOs): Elia Transmission in Belgium and (together with Industry Funds Management (IFM)) 50Hertz Transmission, one of the four German TSOs, active in the north and east of Germany.
With more than 2,100 employees and a transmission grid comprising some 18,400 km of high-voltage connections serving 30 million end users, the Elia Group is one of Europe's top five TSOs.
It efficiently, reliably and securely transmits electricity from generators to distribution system operators and major industrial consumers, while also importing and exporting electricity from and to neighbouring countries. The Group is a driving force behind the development of the European electricity market and the integration of energy generated from renewable sources.
In addition to its TSO activities in Belgium and Germany, the Elia Group offers businesses a range of consultancy and engineering services through its subsidiary Elia Grid International (EGI).
The Group operates under the legal entity Elia System Operator, a listed company whose core shareholder is the municipal holding company Publi-T.