Discussion Papers

Thomas Plückebaum, Matthias Wissner

Implementation of intelligent energy systems – bandwidth requirements and implications for regulation and competition

No. 372/March 2013

(Full version only available in German)


In the course of the German energy transition („Energiewende") new requirements regarding the whole energy system occur. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) offer new applications and solutions aimed at the (power) grid and at end users. For example, they make possible the control of single (decentralized) generation units or the offering of time-of-use tariffs. To enable these services it needs telecommunication grids with sufficient bandwidth to deliver the necessary information. This discussion paper analyses different use cases and assesses the correlative need of bandwidth. The analysed use cases are: data transfer for customer information, data transfer for billing, new products for end users, data transfer for control and governing, software update service and electromobility. For all cases we calculate, if necessary, additional data volumes for the purpose of data protection. It turns out that all assessed values are significantly lower than the value of 1 Mbit/s that was defined for a full broadband coverage.

The access to end users in Smart Grids /Smart Markets in terms of telecommunication is therefore not a bottleneck already today. Existing public telecommunication networks are capable to transfer necessary data streams of smart energy systems along with the residual telecommunication traffic. Besides organizational challenges that have to be be solved one can assume that already today a smart energy system may be implemented area-wide through the use of the existing infrastructure of public telecommunication networks without necessarily using an area-wide fiber network.

The provision of telecommunication infrastructure for Smart Grid / Smart Markets may happen in two different ways in principle. On the one hand one can think of every actor in the energy system (grid operator, supplier, meter operator etc.) building up its own infrastructure (dedicated approach), on the other hand there may be networks used by multiple actors (shared approach). Both approaches bring along advantages and disadvantages.

Simultaneous extension of power an telecommunication (fibre) infrastructure with cost sharing leads to cost savings for both infrastructure operators, because bigger elements of the ground (for example pipe puller for cable) may be installed with lower costs per unit than smaller ones. The build-up of fibre cable for telecommunication is getting more attractive because power grid operators burden some parts of the costs. (The same is true for power grids the other way round.) Cross-subsidisation may arise if fibre cables are build –up for the power grid (although not necessarily needed) just to build up an inexpensive telecommunication network. However, regulations in §7 of the German telecommunication law ("TKG") (structural separation) are far reaching and seem appropriate to prevent cross-subsidisation effectively. Therefore there is no need for action concerning this potential problem.

Discussion Paper is available for download.

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