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Deep underground, but it’s like an airport. How does power distribution work and where does the electricity come from?

Deep underground, but it's like an airport.  How does power distribution work and where does the electricity come from?

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Can we bear sticking to charcoal? “The billions of euros flowing out of the union depend on this.”

Almost not the entire Bełchatów Power Plant, owned by PGE, was in operation, but the failure occurred elsewhere, at the PSE-operated distribution station. There was no shortage of electricity, although units that provide a large portion of the electricity have been closed. How does it all work?

Electricity Road

The first term is the National Power System (NPS). It consists of three components, each of which has different actions:

1. Electricity generation – its production. Within this subsystem, NPS includes power plants, combined power and heat plants, and distributed sources. At this level, we have PGE and other energy producers. In our country, these are mainly thermal power plants, where energy is generated by burning coal – hard and brown coal. The largest of them are: Bełchatów Power Plant, Kozienice Power Plant, and Opole Power Plant. In addition, there are thermal and co-generation plants in large cities (coal or gas) and renewable resources, the importance of which is increasing. At the end of last year, the total maximum capacity of all Polish power plants exceeded 50 gigawatts. Of these, 36 gigawatts were associated with conventional installations carbon.

2. Transmission of electricity – this is where the Polskie Sieci Elektroenergetyczne (PSE), a sole proprietorship of the state treasury, which is the operator of the transmission system appears. In this way the power reaches the distribution networks or large industrial recipients. More precisely, the power ‘transmission’ in this subsystem is provided by a high voltage transmission (LV) network. The voltage value depends on the distance over which the energy will be transferred. The highest voltages in Poland are 750, 400 and 220 kV.

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Transport network Source: PSE Press Materials

3. Electricity distribution – to be done at the regional and local level. Also here, we have high, medium and low voltage power lines and stations – 110, 6-10, 230 and 440 kV, respectively. PSE is no longer here, this stage is managed by DSO operators. They are often subsidiaries of large energy groups. The big five are: Tauron Dystrybucja, PGE Dystrybucja, Enea Operator, Energa – Operator and (in Warsaw) Stoen Operator. The Bureau of Energy Regulation certifies electricity tariffs for them.

PGE intends to be climate neutral until 2050Five energy projects will happen in 2021

Medium voltage networks are used by industry and other customers, and low voltage networks are used by end-users, including households.

The power system includes not only lines but also high voltage distribution terminals and transformers, where the voltage level (medium) is converted to the level we are using (230 or 440 volts).

We show the electricity path from the power plant to the socket in the diagram below, prepared on the basis of PSE materials:


Authority Managers

We can’t store electricity (at least for now, and on a large scale that won’t be possible for long). Therefore, the system needs to be balanced all the time – the amount of energy we produce must be the same as the consumers. You can not only change the amount of energy but also its direction. It is possible thanks to communications in the system (between recipients, stations and groups of recipients), as well as cooperation with foreign countries. If necessary, we import or export energy to our neighbors (Sweden, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Germany).

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Who is responsible for all of this? The “cover” over the entire system is the national position Energy (KDM), which is PSE’s responsibility. She is supervised with her help Profession High-voltage transmission network and international orbit energy exchange. Physically, KDM is located at the PSE headquarters, at Konstancie-Jeziorna near Warsaw. This is an element of the so-called critical infrastructure and a highly guarded place located deep in the earth.

National Power DispatchNational Power Dispatch Source: PSE Press Materials

This is a responsible place, because a bug in this level of the system may disrupt large regions of Poland and Europe. Decisions are being made in real time, although not at the speed required of air traffic controllers – explains Marek Kornicky, Director of the National Energy Distribution Administration at PSE podcast. There are more references to the aviation industry. The transmitters practice different critical situations on the simulator. It exercises potential crises, calculates the different probabilities of events and measures to prevent them on mathematical models. Plus, of course, the dispatchers control the system in real time. The stability of the system depends on many variables, including, for example, weather phenomena.

Such an emergency was what happened on Monday. Due to failure at Rogovík substation, 10 units of Bełchatów power station were disconnected in case of emergency. Suddenly, I lost 3.6 gigawatts of power. Therefore, the transmitters launched additional units, pumped storage power stations. The import also worked.

Electricity.  Illustrative imageAfter failure and shutdown of units at Bełchatów Power Station. “human error”

You can follow the International Energy Exchange on the PSE home page. The map is constantly updated there, which shows the flow of force between Poland and its foreign partners. For example, on Saturday, May 22, around 9.30 am, the power demand was more than 19 GW, of which 17.5 GW was supplied through the local system and 1.6 GW was imported.

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Energy flows.  Data as of May 22, 2022 is approximately 9:30 AMEnergy flows. Data as of May 22, 2022 is approximately 9:30 AM Source: PSE

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