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Grid Congestion in the Polish Power Grid

The situation

Poland, a country heavily reliant on coal and lignite for electricity production, stands at a critical juncture. While coal has historically dominated as an energy source, the urgency to transition toward low-carbon technologies is mounting.
Southern Poland hosts the majority of energy-consuming industrial factories and major power plants fueled by hard coal and lignite. Simultaneously, the European Union’s climate goals, community expectations, and the drive to reduce consumer energy costs are pushing for change.

The future energy profile in Poland will pivot toward renewable sources and other technologies. Wind and solar installations are spreading across the country, with offshore wind and other locally-produced energy concentrated along the northern Polish coast.

The rise of renewables in Poland

Renewable energy, encompassing wind and solar power, is rapidly gaining ground in Poland. However, this transition presents unique challenges. As the proportion of volatile renewables increases, so does the risk of power grid congestion.
To address this, renewable power production must be complemented by energy storage units. Geographical considerations and shifts in the power generation landscape necessitate significant grid transformations.

Understanding grid congestion

Grid congestion occurs when the supply and demand of electricity are imbalanced. Here’s how it happens:

  • Renewable energy fluctuations: Wind and solar energy production can be unpredictable due to weather conditions. When these sources suddenly generate excess power, the grid may struggle to accommodate it.
  • Limited transmission capacity: Existing transmission infrastructure may not handle the increased flow of renewable energy efficiently, leading to bottlenecks and congestion.
  • Connection refusals: Between 2015 and 2021, Poland experienced nearly 6,000 connection refusals issued by grid operators. These refusals blocked approximately 30 gigawatts of capacity, primarily from renewable energy projects.
  • Curtailments: Due to slow response and limitations in reducing power from traditional sources, renewable energy production faces curtailments. Consequently, the power provided by renewables is artificially limited based on grid capacity and actual demand.
  • Future projections: Expected curtailments in 2030 are estimated to be around 11% of available energy, according to PSE calculations. DNV predicts that by 2027, curtailments will be roughly 4-5%, potentially changing as time-limited sources like solar plants increase. Currently, Poland has 17 GW of solar power installed and 8 GW of onshore wind capacity. Solar power plants without energy storage pose challenges for other power sources’ development and production.

Mitigation strategies

Grid operators employ several short-term strategies to manage congestion:

  • Redispatching: Adjusting the output of existing power plants to balance supply and demand.
  • Curtailment: Temporarily reducing renewable energy production during peak periods.
  • Flexible loads: Encouraging consumers to shift their electricity usage to off-peak hours.
  • Energy storage: Promoting battery storage for individuals and industrial consumers and producers.
  • Consumption profile change: Activities that alter the consumption and generation profile to align with the generation side.
  • Large system-born energy storage: Initiating programs aimed at energy storage, primarily hydrogen-based, corresponding to grid capacity.

The way forward

To unlock the full potential of renewables, Poland must invest in its power grid. An estimated EUR 25 billion upgrade is needed to accommodate the transition. This investment will enhance grid capacity, improve interconnections, and facilitate the integration of clean energy sources.

Specifically, the Polish northern grid must be strengthened to handle offshore power and other locally-sourced energy, enabling the transfer of this energy to southern regions. Grid operators are constructing new 400 kV lines or replacing existing 220 kV lines with 400 kV dual lines. Additionally, plans are underway for a High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) link to transfer power to the southern part of the country. Several public tenders have already been initiated, and construction work is ongoing.

Conclusion

As Poland charts its course through the energy transformation, tackling grid congestion becomes paramount. Striking a balance between renewable energy demands and grid stability will pave the way toward a sustainable and resilient energy future. For Poland, this entails embracing offshore wind, solar power with energy storage, and other locally-sourced energy to meet base consumption needs.

4/2/2024 6:00:00 AM

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Artur Zbronski

Artur Zbronski

Maritime Electrical Engineer

Slawomir Mandrek

Slawomir Mandrek

Principal Project Engineer