June 5, 2024
Last updated:
June 6, 2024

What gridX has learned from Paragraph 14a EnWG so far

In conversation with Carsten Schäfer

Paragraph 14a of the Energy Industry Act (§14a EnWG) has been in force since 1 January 2024 and is casting a cloud of confusion over the energy world. Even after nearly six months in this new reality, numerous details remain unclear. These primarily include the impact of the provisions of §14a on controllable low-voltage consumption devices in individual households and how future processes across the value chain will look for grid operators and other affected players. In short, the cross-stakeholder responsibilities have not been fully clarified across the board.

As a leading company in the smart energy sector, gridX is at the forefront of developments and is directly affected by the requirements of Paragraph 14a. However, while many companies continue to wrap their heads around the topic in theory, we have already tackled the issue and achieved our first major successes. gridX announced the launch of a new module on our XENON platform, the Grid Signal Processor, which ensures that partners can fulfil the requirements of Paragraph 14a by the end of the year. We have also launched a project with Wegatech and Rabot Charge to demonstrate that §14a-compliant dimming of flexible energy-consuming assets by grid operators is already possible with gridX technology – with significant benefits for households. 

To provide further insight into how §14a affects smart energy management in practice, Carsten Schäfer, Senior Product Manager Innovation and §14a expert at gridX, shares his experience of §14a technical implementation and gridX’s achievements in our latest interview. 

Carsten is gridX's §14a expert
Carsten Schäfer, gridX's §14a expert

Read our Q&A and find out how the expert assesses the reality of Paragraph 14a EnWG in the energy world and what role the EMS from gridX plays in this.

The energy world has been working in the ‘new §14a reality’ for a good six months now. Are all (important) energy players already in this new reality?

Carsten: Unfortunately, that's not so easy to answer. Behind closed doors, of course, every energy player in the value chain is working on the individual implementation. So far, little of these solutions has been publicized. In fact, it is very complex to map the §14a-compliant control of controllable consumption devices in reality. The task is multi-layered and involves a number of different players, both ‘behind the meter’ and ‘in front of the meter’. I still see a lot of need for coordination, especially across the higher-level processes for registration, installation and commissioning, as well as ‘14a operations’, where the various solutions of involved parties must mesh well. This is especially important when it comes to mass suitability. On the part of the grid operators, not all processes have been finalized and most households still lack the technical requirements. For example, the emergency control described in Paragraph 14a is not yet possible at all. The primary reason for this is, of course, the continuing lack of intelligent metering systems (iMSys), the keyword being the slow smart meter rollout.

And how is gridX positioned when it comes to the emergency dimming of controllable energy-consuming assets in accordance with Paragraph 14a EnWG?

Carsten: gridX is in fact ready to implement the behind-the-meter processes for emergency dimming of controllable energy assets. Our smart energy management system gives households the opportunity to install our IoT gateway gridBox behind the meter via our partners. This enables us to make on-site energy assets digitally accessible and controllable – after all, that is our core business as a smart energy management company. If external control signals arrive at the iMSys that trigger an emergency dimming in accordance with Paragraph 14a, we can process them effectively and ensure that the energy assets behave accordingly. We carried out extensive tests on this in the spring and summarized our capabilities in a self-declaration. Moreover, a pilot customer from a project with Wegatech and Rabot Charge is already benefiting from our Paragraph 14a capability ‘behind the meter’ – in the form of increased transparency and the associated reduced grid charges granted by the grid operator.

How does gridX implement the §14a-compliant control system?

Carsten: We are actually focussing primarily on the EEBUS standard. This has already positioned itself as a reliable solution for the implementation of Paragraph 14a EnWG and is also currently the only protocol supported by the BNetzA and the BSI in this context; we have already been using EEBUS for some time to digitally connect various control systems to our EMS. We can therefore now expand its use and also effectively fulfil the legal §14a requirements.

In other words, is it stipulated which interface is to be used to control energy-consuming assets?

Carsten: Well, not directly. But distribution grid operators and metering point operators can specify in their minimum technical requirements which interface control devices must use. However, it is becoming clear from energy management practice that a digital and standardized interface such as EEBUS offers many advantages in terms of connection. It makes integration into the energy system much easier, at least that is our experience. Above all, a digital interface offers flexibility, future-proofing and investment protection, as it avoids unexpected costs that would be incurred with other forms of connection, i.e. related to adaptations or extensions.

Is operation in accordance with Section 14a only mandatory for newly installed energy assets?

Carsten: Yes, since the entry into force of Paragraph 14a on January 1, 2024, it has been mandatory for newly installed energy-consuming assets to be controllable by the grid operator in emergency situations.

And what about existing systems? After all, many households already have at least one existing controllable energy asset.

Carsten: Switching to operation in accordance with Paragraph 14a EnWG also makes total sense for the vast majority of older systems. Existing systems should be converted to digital operation if technically possible. Sometimes it is sufficient to activate the digital interfaces on the systems and simply connect them. Alternatively, I/O converters can be used to make older devices controllable and leverage the available optimization potential.

Does this mean that control via analogue interfaces no longer makes sense?

Carsten: Control via analogue interfaces such as relays is much more complex in terms of processes, more expensive to install and does not enable infinitely variable control of the system output. For example, a §14a control signal can lead to a controllable energy asset being switched off completely because the power value cannot be maintained and the next lowest value (e.g. 0 kW) then takes effect. A digital interface is also more favourable for legally-compliant documentation of the control processes.

How exactly do users benefit when their existing assets are digitally connected and controllable?

Carsten: In our opinion, there are many reasons for this: on the one hand, digitally connecting assets that are already connected to the grid enhances system-wide energy flexibility. On the other hand, this encourages a grid- and market-orientated usage of these assets. End customers can thus optimize their own energy consumption locally and reduce costs without having to accept any loss of comfort in an ideal scenario.

What can (or rather should) customers who are considering investing in energy-consuming assets look out for when making a purchase?

Carsten: It's crucial that energy assets have a digital interface, ideally in accordance with the EEBUS standard when it comes to Paragraph 14a. This allows assets to be controlled efficiently and end customer convenience to be guaranteed, even with control interventions such as §14a-compliant power dimming. However, our EMS is also able to connect and control systems via other digital protocols/interfaces. 

Are distribution system operators (DSO) or metering point operators (MPO) responsible for making recommendations to installers and end customers if there is interest in a new control system?

Carsten: Recommendation is probably the wrong word in this context. Educating the public is probably a better word. In my opinion, it is not necessarily the responsibility of DSOs or MPOs to actively advise installers or customers on purchase decisions. Nevertheless, it is also in grid operators’ interest to ensure that the grid and all components involved are modern and, above all, future-proof. I therefore believe that all players should educate the public on which systems can be used and deployed to their advantage both today and in the future, and also which provide the greatest value for end users.

Let's move on to the general use of EMS for households: When is the integration of an EMS for controlling controllable consumption devices recommended?

Carsten: We recommend using an EMS that is manufacturer-independent and expandable from the very first control. This not only allows the statutory requirements to be met, but also ensures that the most advanced use cases can be implemented, for example the use of variable tariffs, solar heating or PV surplus charging of electric vehicles, all within the framework of maximizing self-consumption.

There is a verification obligation for system operators. How can the obligation to provide evidence be guaranteed in a simple and legally-compliant manner?

Carsten: Anyone using a gridX EMS can easily make use of the additional function that enables the transparent visualization and export of the data required for verification. Although devices that have an EEBUS interface offer implicit documentation of the control processes, gridX’s EMS is simple and transparent – with minimal personal involvement. That makes things a lot easier.

We already answered some burning questions about Paragraph 14a earlier this year and wrote a glossary article on Paragraph 14a. Read on to find out more about this important topic.

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