Elia Group - Annual Report 2015

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A key player at european level

The Elia Group, comprising Elia in Belgium, 50Hertz in northern and eastern Germany and Elia Grid International (EGI), is keen to be a driving force within the European electricity market. The electricity system faces many challenges: current generation units are ageing, while renewables are coming to account for an increasingly large proportion of the energy landscape. The variable nature of renewables, though, means that keeping the electricity system as a whole balanced is becoming an increasingly complex task. Local players are beginning to emerge. The energy transition is under way and the Group is busy developing tools and services which will make grid-management easier in the future.

To address the challenges of a changing energy landscape, Elia is working on shoring up and maintaining its gridthrough major infrastructure projects. The federal development plan for the next decade and new tariff conditions for 2016-2019 (approved in 2015) form a solid foundation for the grid of the future.

Elia fully appreciates the importance of innovation in developing its grid and optimising existing infrastructure and thus favours a sustainable, environmentally friendly approach which creates added value for stakeholders.

When developing its projects, Elia takes care to factor in the views and opinions of stakeholders and the relevant authorities while fulfilling the stated economic requirements and providing a top-quality service at the most competitive price.

At the same time, Elia intends to pursue its international ambitions via its subsidiary Elia Grid International.

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  • 30 000 000 Residents Covered
    143 000 Covered
  • 18 000 hight-voltage lines in belgium and in germany
    2 000 employes

Elia’s three core activities

Asset management

The Elia Group maintains and develops high-voltage equipment and infrastructure: lines, cables, transformers and so on. The Group is using advanced technologies to modernise and extend its grid to enable it to integrate more renewable technologies.

System operation

Managing the electricity system is becoming ever more complex, requiring increasingly sophisticated tools and processes and specialist skills to keep the grid balanced 24 hours a day, all year round. Since power cannot be stored in large quantities, balancing activities must be conducted in real time so as to guarantee a reliable supply and efficient operational management of the high-voltage grid.

Market facilitation

The Elia Group is a core player on the electricity market and as such acts as a market facilitator. To this end, it makes its infrastructure available to the market in a transparent, non-discriminatory way. It devises services and mechanisms to boost market development and forges new connections to open up new possibilities for the market. This encourages more effective competition between market players and enables renewable energy to be incorporated into the energy mix, for the wellbeing of the economy and of society as a whole.

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  • 30 000 000 Residents Covered
    143 000 Covered
  • 18 000 hight-voltage lines in belgium and in germany
    2 000 employes

Key Figures

  • DE/BE contribution to IFRS results

  • Investment (IN MIO€)

  • 210.6 Mio€ Net results

  • 1.55€ /share Dividend

  • 3.6 % Dividend yield (closing price 2015)

  • 2,583.4 Mio€ Net debt

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Miriam Maes,

Chairman of the Elia Group Board

The Elia Group achieved solid financial and operational results in 2015. Over the course of the year, it continued to grow as one of the leading players on the European electricity market. The Group’s development is characterised by the international activities conducted by both Elia and 50Hertz, particularly at regional European level (Central West Europe and Central East Europe).

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Chris Peeters,


In July 2015, I had the honour of taking over the helm of the Elia Group. Following over 15 years’ experience in consultancy around organisation of the energy market, I discovered a group rooted firmly in the European landscape, mindful of its social responsibility and eager to play a decisive role in the integration of the energy market.

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Elia in Belgium

  • Joint-venture agreement for Nemo Link


    Joint-venture agreement for Nemo Link

    On Friday, 27 February 2015 Elia and National Grid signed the joint-venture agreement to build the Nemo Link interconnection between Belgium and the United Kingdom.

  • Flow-based market-coupling goes live


    Flow-based market-coupling goes live

    On 20 May 2015 Elia and its 7 project partners announced the successful launch of the new flow-based method designed to optimise cross-border electricity market efficiency in Central West Europe.

  • Chris Peeters, new CEO of Elia


    Chris Peeters, new CEO of Elia

    Appointed by the Board of Directors of Elia System Operator following approval by CREG, Chris Peeters became the new CEO of Elia on 6 July 2015.

  • Zandvliet: increase in peak import capacity from the Netherlands


    Zandvliet: increase in peak import capacity from the Netherlands

    The installation of a fourth phase-shifting transformer at Zandvliet during the summer of 2015 will enable us to increase peak import capacity on Belgium’s northern border to 3,400 MW from winter 2015-2016 onwards.

  • A new era in setting up auction offices


    A new era in setting up auction offices

    2015 saw the merger of the two auction offices previously responsible for allocating long-term rights on many European borders: the Capacity Allocation Service Company (CASC.EU) and the Central Allocation Office (CAO).

  • Integrating European energy exchanges


    Integrating European energy exchanges

    In 2015 the activities of the APX group (including the Belgian electricity exchange Belpex) and EPEX Spot were merged, thereby establishing an electricity exchange operating throughout the Central West Europe region and the United Kingdom.

  • Federal development plan approved by the Energy Minister


    Federal development plan approved by the Energy Minister

    On 18 November 2015, the Belgian Energy Minister approved the federal development plan for the transmission grid for the period 2015-2025 drawn up by Elia.

  • 2016-2019 tariffs


    2016-2019 tariffs

    On 3 December 2015 CREG approved Elia’s transmission tariffs for the regulatory period 2016-2019.

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50Hertz in Germany

  • The south-west interconnector, a european priority project, starts operational tests


    The south-west interconnector, a european priority project, starts operational tests

    On 17 December 2015, electricity flowed for the first time along the entire length of the line, which is divided into three sections between Halle/Saale (Saxony-Anhalt) and Schweinfurt (Bavaria).

  • 50hertz seen as an attractive employer


    50hertz seen as an attractive employer

    In 2015, 50Hertz received a total of 3,756 job applications, 112 of which were successful, the candidates being offered a position.

  • Financing investments in the energy transition – new bonds at 50hertz


    Financing investments in the energy transition – new bonds at 50hertz

    In 2015, 50Hertz issued corporate bonds worth a record total of nearly €1.4 billion to finance the development and upgrading of its transmission system.

  • Solar eclipse causes no system problems


    Solar eclipse causes no system problems

    New system-management procedures and new products enabling market participants to buy and sell energy products for short time slots at just under real time meant that grid balance and system stability were never under threat.

  • On course offshore


    On course offshore

    Germany’s first commercial offshore wind farm Baltic 1 came on stream in the Baltic Sea in 2011 and was followed in 2015 by the connection to the grid of a second generating facility, Baltic 2.

  • Mounting excitement about moving to a new head office


    Mounting excitement about moving to a new head office

    In September 2016, the staff of 50Hertz will move into new headquarters – the 50Hertz Netzquartier – next to Berlin’s Central Station.

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The Energy Transition

  • Yesterday

    Centralised generation units powered by fossil fuels were a stable and predictable source of energy. This energy was transported via the transmission and distribution systems from centralised generation centres to decentralised consumption centres. Renewable energies were still uncommon and consumers were passive stakeholders.

  • Today

    Generation facilities are changing; renewable energies are gaining ground. A lack of profitability has forced gas-fired power plants to close, while consumers are also generating their own electricity, primarily via solar panels. Electric cars are appearing on our roads. The world of energy is changing, bringing with it new challenges for system operators and the balance on the electricity system.

  • Tomorrow

    Renewable energies will play an increasingly greater role in the future energy landscape. Consumers are becoming more actively involved by generating more energy and storing some of what they generate. As a result, the structure of the energy system has evolved in such a way that managing the electricity balance is now more complex. However, help has arrived in the form of new digitisation technologies and the construction of interconnections intended to make it easier to transport energy to and from neighbouring countries, for instance.

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At the heart of the energy transition

Elia is currently dealing with the challenges posed by the energy transition by focusing in particular on shoring up and maintaining its grid and developing new technologies to make infrastructures much more flexible. Elia is also fostering innovation with regard to the development of market mechanisms and products so that it can best integrate renewable and decentralised generation sources.

Asset management

Elia maintains and develops high-voltage equipment and infrastructure: lines, cables, transformers, and so on. Based on market demand and the requirements in terms of managing the electricity system safely, Elia is using advanced technologies to modernise and develop its grid in a bid to equip it to cope with the energy transition under way.

Operational & Safety Excellence

Day in and day out, Elia strives to maintain its infrastructure to a high standard and in a professional manner by making the safety of its own staff and any other operatives its top priority.

We take a condition-based approach to maintenance of our infrastructure: this means that we perform maintenance work and repairs in line with the age of the equipment, its environment and the significance of its use (past, present and future) so that we can concentrate our efforts on the infrastructure that most needs our attention.

Striving for quality

Elia has been managing its transmission system infrastructure for many years and in doing so has amassed a wealth of undisputed technical expertise in the field. Over the years, technical experts and management have put in place decision-making processes which reflect the professional manner in which the Group manages its assets.

Creating more value to encourage public acceptance

Elia is currently looking into how current and planned infrastructure could generate greater added value for local communities. The ultimate aim would be for our infrastructure to be designed in such a way that it is geared more closely towards the context of the local area in which it is located, thus resulting in a win-win situation for both Elia and our local stakeholders. Such an approach might event lead to a broader basis of public support for Elia’s infrastructure. The LIFE project is an excellent example of just such a mutually beneficial scenario.

Investment policy

Our power grid investment policy ensures continuity of supply for current customers and anticipates future needs in order to build safe, reliable sustainable grids for transmitting the electricity of tomorrow.

The federal development plan for the next ten years

On 18 November 2015, the Belgian Energy Minister, Marie-Christine Marghem, approved the federal development plan for the electricity transmission grid for the period 2015-2025 drawn up by Elia in partnership with the federal energy authorities and the Federal Planning Bureau (FPB). The plan contains full details of planned investment by the system operator in extending and upgrading facilities over the next ten years.

  • 8,432 km covered by the Elia grid
  • 75% conventional connections in 2015
  • more than 10,000 primary systems inspected
  • 23,000 effective interventions
  • 60 interventions per day
  • 353 Mio€ invested in 2015

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System operation

Against the backdrop of the interconnected grid in continental Europe, Elia is constantly working to maintain a balance within its control area. Since electrical energy cannot be stored on a large scale, balance must be maintained continually and in real time between the quantity of energy generated and the quantity consumed.

Real-time balancing on a day-to-day basis

At the National Control Centre, the operators who ensure that the grid runs smoothly 24 hours a day must be able to activate regulation tools. They have access to reserves to manage the electricity grid, commonly referred to as ‘ancillary services’. These reserves contribute to maintaining the frequency and voltage on the grid, managing congestion and balancing generation and consumption in real time. To keep the grid balanced, there are three different services:

  • Primary reserve (R1): activated automatically within 0 to 30 seconds. If there is a major imbalance on the grid, all of Europe’s transmission system operators work together, enabling them to provide enough power to cover two concurrent serious incidents (e.g. the loss of two 1,500-MW generation units) within 15 minutes.
  • Secondary reserve (R2): activated automatically and on a continuous basis, in a timeframe of 30 seconds to 15 minutes, and revised upwards or downwards as required to maintain balance on the grid.
  • Tertiary reserve (R3): can be activated manually at Elia’s request. It can be used to address a major imbalance in the zone managed by Elia and/or deal with congestion problems. There are two types of tertiary reserve: the tertiary generation reserve and the tertiary offtake reserve.

The control centre coordinates energy flows on the grid, in close cooperation with international coordination centres like Coreso and transmission system operators in neighbouring countries. The reliability of the electricity grid and the country’s security of supply depend on their collaboration.

Strategic reserve

The strategic reserve concept was introduced and implemented for the first time during the winter of 2014-2015 and is designed to address the structural shortage of installed generation capacity in Belgium brought about by the temporary or permanent shutdown of power stations (for either economic or technical reasons). It is intended to help maintain security of supply during the winter period, i.e. to ensure that demand for electricity can be covered by available generation capacity in Belgium and through imports, even during peak consumption periods.

The strategic reserve for winter 2016-2017

On 13 November 2015, Elia submitted its preliminary report on strategic-reserve demand in Belgium for the coming three years to the Minister for Energy. For winter 2016-2017 and in a reference scenario in which the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 power stations were assumed to be unavailable, a strategic-reserve volume of 1,000 MW would be required.

However, Doel 3 and Tihange 2 were recommissioned in December 2015 and the extension of the operating lifetime of Doel 1 and Doel 2 for a further ten years was also confirmed at the end of 2015. Given these circumstances, the Energy Minister stated in early 2016 that there would be no additional strategic-reserve demand for winter 2016-2017.

Revised outage plan

The adoption of the Ministerial Decree of 13 November 2015 gave Elia a fresh legal basis for application of its outage plan. The amended version of the plan contains significant improvements (compared with the 2005 version).

This new outage plan provides an appropriate response to the questions and issues raised at a time when Belgium was facing the risk of energy shortages.

Solar eclipse: fruitful collaboration between European TSOs

Security of supply to businesses and households in Europe was maintained during the total solar eclipse which occurred on the morning of 20 March 2015. Transmission system operators coped easily with the rapid variations in solar-energy generation and the impact on demand, which had been difficult to predict, by preparing meticulously for the event and working closely together at both European and regional level.

The cloudy conditions in Belgium meant that the eclipse’s impact on solar-energy generation was limited.

Ampacimon: innovating to guarantee security of supply

Elia has been working with the company Ampacimon to develop a Dynamic Line Rating concept and has installed Ampacimon meters on the main interconnection lines with neighbouring countries. These metering devices, designed primarily for real-time use, enable transmission capacity on lines on which they are fitted to be maximised under favourable conditions. If the ambient temperature is low and there is wind, the overhead lines are cooler and can transmit more electricity.

  • 77.2 Twh network load
  • +19.3% imports
  • Volume of strategic reserve (SR)

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Market facilitation

The Elia Group’s grids are part of Europe’s interconnected system, which stretches from Portugal to Bulgaria and from Norway to Italy. The Group thus works closely with European market players on developing projects to boost integration of the European energy market, and in so doing makes clear its desire to look beyond its own borders. There were several key developments in 2015 in terms of the integration of European energy markets.

Towards a single market

Making transmission capacity available to market players across international borders is a source of economic added value for the community as a whole. This makes energy markets more accessible and thus more competitive, as there is less focus on national markets. Consumers can access the cheapest energy wherever it is available.

Harmonising electricity-market rules across Europe

2015 saw the adoption of several European network codes drawn up on the basis of proposals by European transmission system operators. Initiated by the European Commission, these network codes are designed to provide the European energy market with a common legislative framework applicable to all Member States. The EU is keen to shore up the strategies in place to make the pan-European energy market a reliable, competitive and low-carbon sector. Furthermore, each network code forms an integral part of the drive to create a single energy market and to achieve the EU’s 20-20-20 goals.

In Belgium, Elia has launched the ENCODE project designed to implement these network codes at national level and, at the request of the federal energy authorities, has initiated consultations with market players via the Elia Users’ Group on the main aspects associated with implementing the codes.

New European transparency platform launched

On 5 January 2015, in partnership with Elia and the 40 other electricity transmission system operators, ENTSO-E launched its new Transparency Platform for the European electricity market. The new platform will be able to provide market players and the general public with three times more data than its predecessor.

Three markets, three different timescales

The European vision of a single electricity market requires the various stakeholders to work together to different schedules to formulate the methods and services needed to achieve a single market. Accordingly, Elia is a market facilitator and makes interconnection capacity available across three different timescales: long-term, day-ahead and intraday.

New rules governing allocation of long-term cross-border capacity

Following a pilot project to implement network codes, new rules on allocating long-term cross-border capacity rights, the EU Harmonised Allocation Rules (EUHAR), have been drawn up based on the version of the Network Code on Forward Capacity Allocation (NCFCA) of 2 April 2014. These new rules were approved by the relevant national regulators within the CWE region and entered into force on 1 January 2016.

The replacement of Physical Transmission Rights (PTRs) by Financial Transmission Rights (FTR) Options is a significant change to these new allocation rules for Belgium’s borders.

New era in setting up auction offices

2015 saw the merger of the two auction offices previously responsible for allocating daily, monthly and annual capacity rights on many European borders: the Capacity Allocation Service Company (CASC.EU) and the Central Allocation Office (CAO). Following the merger, the Joint Allocation Office (JAO) was established on 1 September 2015. From early 2016, the JAO has served as the single auction office allocating long-term rights among others primarily on all borders in the Central West Europe and Central East Europe regions. As such, the JAO serves 20 European transmission system operators in 17 countries, including Elia and 50Hertz.

Flow-based market coupling goes live

On 20 May 2015, Elia and its seven project partners announced the successful launch of the new flow-based methodology designed to optimise the efficiency of the cross-border electricity market for Central West Europe (CWE). The system marks a significant step towards creating an integrated electricity market and is governed by the guidelines contained in the Network Code on Capacity Allocation and Congestion Management, which entered into force in August 2015.

Record imports thanks to the flow-based method

On 22 June 2015, Belgium imported 4,500 MW between 6 and 7 p.m.: this was approximately 42% of the total load recorded during that time period and set a new record. This exceptionally high import volume was made possible by the new flow-based market coupling mechanism.

Cross-border intraday market

Energy exchanges and system operators are working together to put in place a joint system which will form part of the single intraday market. The aim is to give market players access to a transparent and efficient intraday-market environment enabling them to exchange their intraday positions easily; the market will thus benefit from the liquidity available not only nationally but also across borders. To achieve this, the system operators need to make their interconnection capacity available and harmonise mechanisms on the various borders.

Integrating European energy exchanges

In 2015 the activities of the APX group (including the Belgian electricity exchange Belpex) and EPEX Spot were merged thereby establishing an electricity exchange operating throughout the Central West Europe region and the United Kingdom. The move will provide market players with a harmonised set of rules and tools to facilitate transactions anywhere in the region. The holding company HGRT, in which Elia owns a 17% stake, is therefore a 49% shareholder in the EPEX Spot exchange.

  • 4,500 Mw imported by Belgium during the solar eclipse (between 6 and 7 p.m.) on 22 June
  • + 35% import capacity during annual peak consumption thanks to flow-based market coupling
  • As a market facilitator, Elia makes interconnection capacity available across three different timescales

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Devising solutions for the grid of tomorrow

  • Asset management:

    excelling in managing assets on the grid of tomorrow

    Promoting innovation in order to manage assets for the future to the highest possible standards. These projects focus on developing DC grids and forward-looking management of assets.

    • Best Paths: upgrading the grid using new technologies
    • Drones: maintaining the grid in a safer and more efficient manner
    • BestGrid: speeding up approval of infrastructure projects
  • System operation:

    developing and managing the 2.0 electricity grid

    Identifying innovative solutions to address anticipated issues associated with developing and managing the 2.0 electricity system. These projects focus on three areas: developing the national and European grid, managing operational planning and ensuring that the grid continues to run smoothly.

    • eHighway2050: identifying very-long-term grid requirements
    • GARPUR: a probabilistic approach to grid development
    • GRASP: managing operational-planning risks
  • Market facilitation:

    maintaining an optimum position to facilitate the market

    Identifying innovative ways of maintaining security of supply at an appropriate and affordable level, and achieving a European wholesale market which promotes flexibility through a range of sources and locations.

    • R2 Down Wind: integrating wind power into the secondary reserve
    • EcoGrid EU: involving the public in operating a system featuring a high proportion of renewable energies
    • Dymedas: investigating the possibilities of flexible electricity consumption in Belgium

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Developing and maintaining the grid in a sustainable manner

  • Establishing corridors beneath high-voltage lines


    Establishing corridors beneath high-voltage lines

    The LIFE Elia project, launched in September 2011, aims to create green corridors beneath high-voltage lines in forested areas. 2015 was an especially positive year for the project thanks to the extension secured for a further 16 months until 31 December 2017.

  • New specifications for utility vehicles


    New specifications for utility vehicles

    Elia is keen to move to a greener fleet of vehicles to reduce its utility vehicles’ CO2 emissions. In 2015, three CNG-powered Fiat Doblo (Ecoscore 75) vehicles joined the fleet.

  • Carbon assessment


    Carbon assessment

    In 2015, Elia reduced greenhouse-gas emissions from its non-core activities by 9% compared with 2009. This was achieved largely through more efficient energy consumption in administrative buildings.

  • Renewables Grid Initiative


    Renewables Grid Initiative

    Since 2011, Elia and 50Hertz have been members of the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI), a coalition of nature conservation groups (such as the WWF and Birdlife) and system operators. Their shared aim is to generate consensus around the grid expansion needed to integrate renewables while respecting biodiversity and the environment.

  • Risks for birds


    Risks for birds

    Some high-voltage lines are practically invisible to flying birds, especially in foggy conditions or at dusk or at night. Daily checks in 2015 following a project to eliminate collisions altogether conducted in Oudenaarde in 2014 revealed that there had been a 97% reduction in the number of birds injured or killed beneath conductors on the high-voltage line.

  • Beehives in the vicinity of Elia facilities


    Beehives in the vicinity of Elia facilities

    In late 2014, Elia installed two beehives at its Monnoyer site. Looking ahead, beehives could be used within the framework of the LIFE Elia project and installed beneath our overhead lines. This option is currently being studied and forms part of our strategy to boost public acceptance of our facilities.

  • Sponsorship: the Elia Fund


    Sponsorship: the Elia Fund

    In 2015, the Elia Fund adjusted its sponsorship policy by moving to supporting projects combatting fuel poverty. The first sponsored associations will receive funding in 2016.

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Inside Elia

Elia has a pivotal part to play in the changing energy landscape and is keen to be a proactive player in the discussions that will shape the sector’s transformation. This transition also presents many opportunities. Elia is committed to continuing its development and equipping itself to fulfil its role for the benefit of society.

“Elia transports energy across the entire country, from where it is generated to where it is needed. By doing so, we keep the lights on in Belgium.

Being part of the Elia Group, we also play an important role on the international stage. Each and every day, people and organisations rely on Elia, just like we rely on our motivated team of professionals. All our experts share a passion for technical excellence and innovation and are mindful of the pivotal role they play for the wider community.”

In a changing world, companies are having to reinvent themselves and adapt both to enhance their interaction with the relevant stakeholders and to integrate new tools as they emerge. It was in this vein that Elia decided to move into the SWOW era.

Safety at Elia

The safety of our employees, staff working for external companies and, more broadly, the general public, is a priority for Elia. As before, our goal continues to be zero accidents or incidents.

Elia works relentlessly to ensure that its facilities are as safe and reliable as they can possibly be. As well as maintaining a safe infrastructure, we are also committed to incorporating safety considerations into the day-to-day management of our activities. This takes the form of a dynamic risk-analysis technique, having procedures drafted by multidisciplinary teams, training programmes, practical exercises and up-to-date feedback.

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  • +87 new Elia employees in 2015
    1,229 employees
  • 16,000 man-hours of safety training
    14 nationalities

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