The energy transition could fail not only because of too little green electricity, but also because of the stupid German grids. The biggest obstacle is that the lines are not intelligently controlled, complains the Association of the Electrical and Digital Industry ZVEI. In the future, electricity will no longer flow in just one direction from a power plant to the consumer, but "bidirectionally": Many small generators serve many customers, and storage will also take place decentrally, for example in electric cars. In order to achieve this, greater digitization is necessary, but many network operators have so far shied away from it.

Christian Geinitz

Business correspondent in Berlin

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The association sees the grievance above all in the distribution grids that supply private and small commercial consumers. "Everyone is talking about wind and sun, not about the nets. But their modernization is just as crucial, otherwise we will not achieve the climate targets," warns ZVEI boss Wolfgang Weber to the F.A.Z. "Politicians and network operators should not concentrate solely on the expansion of the route, but, at least as important, on digitization."

To this end, the Federal Government has initiated various changes. In 2025, all consumers are to receive an intelligent metering point (smart meter). The matching networks are called smart grids. By 2025, all electricity providers must offer "dynamic tariffs", i.e. changing prices depending on scarcity. Then it becomes possible to obtain cheap electricity at certain times, for example when there is a lot of wind.

In addition, decentralized temporary storage could be used with appropriate remuneration, for example in parked electric cars. But it is also possible to downregulate consumers: the forced throttling of charging stations or heat pumps when power failures or grid overload threaten. Recommendations of the Federal Network Agency provide for a minimum output of 3.7 kilowatts to be guaranteed. For some associations, this is not enough, such as the car lobby.

"Politicians need to follow up more"

The federal government's goal is digital networks by 2030. According to ZVEI Managing Director Weber, this could and should be done earlier. However, many distribution system operators lacked the possibilities and the willingness to precisely control capacity utilization. Instead of an adapted, dynamic regulation, they only managed a static, i.e. on or off. In order to put pressure on operators to refine the control, the network agency should collect and publish the throttle and shutdown data, the association demands. "If you make public how often the network operators regulate statically, the laggards would be forced to invest more in digitization and, if necessary, in expansion," Weber hopes.

The proposals of the federal government and the network agency go in the right direction, but the handling of the companies is too conciliatory. He recalled that many networks belong to municipalities, which are politically well-wired and often interfere. "Many distribution system operators have slept for a long time in digitization and got away with it," says Weber. "I don't want to talk about sanctions right away, but politicians need to follow up more closely so that operators step on the gas when modernising the grid."