What is paragraph 14a EnWG?
The electrification of the transport and heating sectors is crucial for a successful energy transition. However, this process also poses a major challenge for our grids. The switch to heat pumps, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, photovoltaic (PV) systems and residential batteries significantly increases demand on low-voltage grids. The good news is that many of these systems can be controlled to ensure appropriate utilization. However, modernizing distribution grids alone is not sufficient to ensure that these controllable energy-consuming assets are quickly and effectively integrated into the grid and the market.
It is therefore essential to holistically and pre-emptively optimize the use of grid infrastructure. If local lines are overloaded, this would result in power outages. This would jeapardize security of supply, a key pillar of the energy industry. In order to avoid delays in the connection of heat pumps and charging stations, experts consider emergency control by the distribution grid operator to be a sensible and necessary step. And this is where the new Section 14a of the Energy Industry Act (EnWG) comes in.
Paragraph 14a is effective since 01.01.2024, making it possible for grid operators to temporarily reduce the output of controllable energy-consuming assets in the event of potential overloads. In return, consumers can benefit from a reduction in grid fees. Since the start of 2024, is it mandatory for all newly commissioned controllable energy-consuming assets. At the same time, grid operators will be obliged to increase their participation through intervention and active control and to drive forward grid expansion in line with demand. They will also no longer be allowed to refuse or postpone the connection of these new assets due to insufficient grid capacity. A connection obligation now applies.
What are controllable energy-consuming devices according to §14a EnWG?
According to §14a EnWG, controllable energy-consuming assets can be described as low-voltage tapping points that are used to supply stationery electrical heating devices for hot water or space heating and for charging electric vehicles. This includes, for example, heat pumps, night storage heaters, batteries or EVs.
Development of §14a EnWG
§14a is not a new energy directive per se. It was already included in the EnWG in 2011 as part of the ‘Act on the Reorganization of Energy Industry Procedures’. The amendment was intended to give grid operators the authority to control so-called ‘fully interruptible consumption devices’ in the low-voltage grids in order to relieve the grid. According to the explanatory memorandum, this was also intended to lay the foundations for smart grids. In 2016, the law was revised due to the advancing digitalization in the course of the energy transition. For example, ‘fully interruptible consumption equipment’ was replaced by ‘controllable consumption equipment’. Despite the fact that the Federal Council had called for a more precise formulation of Section 14a in the legislative process for the ‘Act on the Digitalization of the Energy Transition’, the recommendation was not followed up until 2022.
Amendments in 2022
In November 2022, the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) presented frameworks that aimed at enabling the simplified integration of controllable energy-consuming assets into the electricity grid. The drafting of the law was intended to create regulatory clarity and reliable framework conditions for "grid-supportive control" in order to ensure security of supply despite the expected increase in power consumption due to ongoing electrification. The amendments included more precise definitions of control authorization, particularly with regard to setting a minimum supply power of 3.7 kW for control interventions. In addition, operators of controllable consumption devices were guaranteed immediate grid connection in order to prevent delays or refusals on the part of the grid operator. This was particularly important, as participation in grid-oriented control is a prerequisite if use is not to jeopardize security of supply. The amendments also included regulations on new documentation requirements for control measures and the obligation to expand, reinforce and optimize the grid if control measures have already been taken or further measures are expected.
Final and amended draft of §14a EnWG as of 2024
In June 2023, a revised draft of the renewable energy directive was then drafted on the basis of submitted adjustment proposals and a second consultation process was opened.
The "implementation of grid-oriented control of controllable energy-consuming assets and controllable grid connections" and the associated reduction in grid fees remained core aspects of Section 14a EnWG. The newly consulted constitution contains adapted wording and clarifications in many places. It has also been supplemented by a number of other aspects.
The new regulations now contain two proposals: the procedure of Ruling Chamber 6 covers the integration of controllable consumption facilities and controllable grid connections, whereas the procedure of Ruling Chamber 8 regulates the associated reduction in grid fees.
What has changed?
The guaranteed minimum power consumption of controllable energy-consuming assets has been increased from 3.7 kW to 4.2 kW for grid-oriented control interventions. This only covers the minimum amount of grid-active power to be drawn from the distribution grid by the grid operator. If there are several of these assets in a grid connection, the minimum power consumption at the grid connection point is increased accordingly.
‘Dynamic control’ is now referred to as ‘grid-oriented control’. The basis for this is the determination of the grid status, taking into account and calculating the grid models.
In addition, the term ‘non-discriminatory’ was introduced for control interventions, which means that individual systems are no longer dimmed, but the power consumption for all systems to be controlled behind a grid connection point is reduced overall. This control concerns all households in the affected grid line in the same way and must be proven by the grid operators by means of a logical justification.
Not much has changed in terms of grid expansion. Grid operators must continue to integrate grid-oriented or preventive control into their planning and actively implement it. In addition, however, the feasibility of grid-oriented control must be taken into account in grid expansion planning in accordance with §14a.
Time-variable grid charges
If grid-oriented or preventative control is necessary in a grid area and will also be necessary in the future, grid operators must take this into account while planning their grid expansion.
The grid operator is now obliged to offer several time windows with two (soon three) price levels. Alternatively, if the consumption of one or more controllable consumption devices is measured via a separate metering point, they can offer a percentage reduction in the energy price.
The reduction consists of either a flat-rate amount, which can vary depending on the grid area (module 1), or a percentage reduction in the energy price (module 2). The operator of the controllable consumption device can choose between the two modules.
- Module 1: a nationwide regulation for determining the discount per grid operator. Depending on the grid area, it can amount to between €110 and €190 (gross) per year. This corresponds to a reduction of 50 to 95% of the grid fee payable for the annual consumption of an electric car (approx. 2,500 kWh).
- Module 2: a 60% reduction in the energy price, provided that a separate metering point is used for the controllable consumption device. This model can be combined with the levy exemption for heat electricity (CHP and offshore levy, EnFG levy exemption) and is therefore particularly suitable for heat pumps in many cases.
- Module 3: grid operators are obliged to also offer Module 3 as an incentive module to operators who have opted for Module 1. This includes time-variable grid charges and is voluntary for customers. The option is expected to come into effect in 2026.
Smart energy management
The BNetzA now recognizes that energy management solutions can support households to compensate for temporary restrictions in the power supply locally. In the event of potential grid congestion, grid operators will soon be allowed to temporarily dim the power consumption of assets with an output of more than 4.2 kilowatts to this power limit. Household appliances with a lower individual output are not affected by this regulation. Smart energy management comes into play here by harnessing the production of self-generated solar power to balance out the power supply despite throttling. An energy management system makes it possible for heat pumps or wall boxes to continue to run on self-generated electricity without restriction and without compromising the comfort and needs of users.
Adapting the operation of new energy-consuming assets now requires the efficient integration of weather-dependent renewable energy generation into the overall system. This adjustment is reflected, for example, in the market prices of the electricity available at any given time. An operator with flexible operations is rarely restricted by congestions in the grids. This makes demand-side flexibility even more crucial.
What impact does §14a have?
On grid operators
Grid operators are now obliged, or are given the option, to curtail consumption systems in order to prevent overloading of the grid infrastructure. They must also agree with households what form of grid fee reduction they will receive in the event of solar curtailment. In addition to the modules already released, a third module with time-variable grid fees is to be added from 2026.
Companies within the energy sector now have even more of an incentive to focus on home energy management systems and thus actively support the adaptation of Section 14a. In this way, they can make a contribution to the energy transition and potentially attract more new customers as soon as the paragraph comes into force.
On private households
By setting a possible reduction in grid charges for private households, they can play a more active role. Since the beginning of 2024, households have to agree with their grid operators that grid consumption will be reduced in emergency situations. However, they have the advantage of receiving a reduction in grid charges as a result of the previously defined modules. With a home energy management system, consumers – or prosumers – can view their usage transparently, minimize curtailment and throttling of their devices, and actively control the consumption and generation of their electricity.