Germany`s Federal Network Agency plans to reduce electricity consumption for electric cars and heat pumps

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The “peak smoothing” is back. Reduction of electricity consumption to 3.7 KW in case of grid overload for electric cars and heat pumps planned.
Image: Mirko Tobias SchäferCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The electricity consumption of heat pumps and electric cars could soon overload the power grid. The network operators should therefore be given the opportunity to control consumption from outside, even without the consent of the owners. The plans for a reduction of the electricity purchase are already well advanced (Welt: 22.12.22).

Altmaier’s “top smoothing” is back

Almost two years ago, the then Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) had to withdraw plans of his officials, which provided for throttling the electricity for private electric car charging stations and heat pumps if the power grid threatens to overload. At the time, Altmaier called the planned remote access to private households “top smoothing”. He wanted to smooth out peaks in electricity consumption in order to counteract the lack of expansion of the transmission grids. However, the law planned at that time did not come into force.

Now the peak smoothing is back. The issue is sensitive and therefore Altmaier’s successor, Robert Habeck (Greens), has cleverly delegated the problem to the Federal Network Agency. Section 14a of the Energy Industry Act now states that the minister can hand over the regulation to the Federal Network Agency by ordinance.

Federal Network Agency has already announced the first key points

The Federal Network Agency has already published the first key points and started a consultation process. These planned rules could lead to disputes between different interest groups and also cause resentment among users of electric cars and heat pumps. When presenting the plans, the employees of the Federal Network Agency also made no secret of the fact that these planned rules will have disadvantages for consumers.

Accordingly, the Federal Network Agency plans to give operators of power grids the opportunity to reduce the energy supply for heat pumps and private e-car charging stations when the power grid is at the limit. This measure was referred to as “acceptance of necessary comfort restrictions by switching measures”.

Controllable consumption devices to limit electricity consumption to 3.7 kilowatts

The plans of the Federal Network Agency are relatively concrete and provide that network operators can reduce the energy supply for heat pumps and private e-car charging stations (so-called “controllable consumption facilities”) to 3.7 kilowatts. Although no one is completely disconnected from the power supply, charging your own electric car could take much longer. According to the Federal Network Agency, it would then take three hours to recharge 50 kilometers of range. However, there is no limit to how long or how often such throttling can be performed.

The Federal Network Agency has stated that the planned measures are necessary to ensure that there are no power outages due to overloads in the distribution grids, while at the same time work is being done to upgrade these grids. The Federal Network Agency emphasizes that a “timely and forward-looking upgrading of the distribution grids” is essential to improve and stabilize the power supply.

Throttling at peak times to be mandatory from 2024

Many users of heat pumps and e-car charging stations (wallboxes) have so far voluntarily made arrangements with their suppliers that provide for throttling at peak times. From 1 January 2024, however, there will be no choice and all users and network operators will be obliged to comply with the new rules. However, there are doubts as to whether these planned requirements can be implemented so quickly. Originally, the network agency only wanted to allow “dynamic control”. This means that throttling should only take place in those parts of the power grid that actually reach their load limit at a certain point in time. However, there is currently no measurement technology required to perform this type of throttling.

Due to the lack of necessary measurement technology, the Federal Network Agency is planning a transitional period of five years until the beginning of 2029, during which network operators may fall back on “static control”. In the case of static control, throttling is also carried out preventively due to previously calculated peak times. It is also unclear whether consumers can be controlled individually, which is why the Federal Network Agency is considering the introduction of a “prosumer control”. Each connection would be entitled to a total output of at least five kilowatts. Consumers would have to undertake to throttle or switch off their heat pump or charging station themselves in order not to get above this threshold together with other electrical appliances.

Owners of heat pumps and electric cars to pay lower electricity prices in return

In return for the risk of a possible throttling, owners of heat pumps and electric cars are to receive a lower electricity tariff. The exact amount of the discount is not yet known. All owners of heat pumps and charging stations should benefit from the discount, regardless of whether they have actually been throttled or not. The price reduction is to be financed via the electricity price of the other customers.