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The digitalization of the German energy industry encompasses a wide range of business and practical areas. One key initiative is to ensure that data can flow smoothly and securely between all parties in the electricity and gas sectors. This involves standardised processes to make sure that business transactions are time and cost efficient. A significant part of the various standardisation initiatives involves defining and regulating how information is electronically sent and received between the many players in the power industry; known as market communication (MaKo, from the German Marktkommunikation). This encompasses a long list of processes, is complex to put into practice and involves myriad players. At the same time, we also need to clearly identify and define market roles and market players to enable them to communicate with each other.
This guide aims to demystify this complex world for you. Read on for a clear overview of the who, how and why of market communication in the German energy industry.
Market communication comes from the German Marktkommunikation, and is generally shortened to MaKo. It refers to the electronic interchange of files between players in the German energy market.
The processes that require this sharing of information have their roots in the liberalisation of the German energy market.
Over time, market players have adopted common processes, formats and transmission rules to enable automated, efficient communication with their counterparts.
The journey started in 2006, with the introduction of business processes to supply customers with electricity. These are known in German as GPKE. They were followed by similar processes for the gas market (shortened in German to GeLi), rules to balance gas and electricity supply (shortened in German to GABi Gas and MaBiS respectively) processes for measuring consumption (WiM) and Redispatch, which covers balancing mechanisms to ensure grid stability.
There are regular amendments to these processes, formats and transmission rules to meet the developing needs of the energy market.
Market communication is critical to running a functioning, open energy market and securing power supply. We have since celebrated over 15 years of market communication, all supported by the cross-association working group edi@energy.
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In 1998, EU Directive 96/92/EC was written into national law. This set the stage for deregulating the German electricity market and was the beginning of market communication between the German energy providers. Just five years later, in 2003, the gas market was liberalised when EU directive 98/30/EG came into effect. This broke up the monopoly previously held by the local public utilities, and German households could finally choose their energy provider. Since then, the market has been subject to competition law. In 2005, energy providers with more than 100,000 consumers were unbundled – economically separated – from the grid. This step was written into law by another amendment to the Energy Industry Act (EnWG), namely directives 2003/54/EC and 2003/55/EC.
In the energy industry, electricity and gas networks are natural monopolies. Just like telecommunications a few years earlier, liberalising the energy markets in 1998 required supervision and regulation to ensure non-discriminatory access to the networks, both local and nationwide.
The liberalised energy market is governed by the Energy Industry Act (EnWG) Part 3, “Regulation of Network Operation”. Section 4 specifies the powers accorded to the regulatory authority and the sanctions it may apply. Further details on the regulators' powers can be found in its various directives and ordinances.
On the 13th July 2005, the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) was appointed the regulatory body for the newly liberalised energy industry. As the BNetzA had already been serving as regulators for the telecommunications industry, they had already gained the experience and expertiseto make them suitable to also regulate the German energy market. BNetzA defines the conditions under which electricity and gas suppliers can use the networks to supply their customers, and regulates what the suppliers charge for this. To this end, they are careful to ensure that the grid operators are able to fulfil the requirements of Germany's liberalised, greener energy industry without placing an excessive financial burden on their consumers.
BNetzA regulates by defining the terms and conditions under which electricity and gas suppliers can use the grids to supply customers. This includes:
BDEW (German Association of Energy and Water Industries) DVGW (German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water), and the specialist cross-association group edi@energy under the umbrella of BDEW.
The liberalisation of the German energy market was a multi-step undertaking in which processes were published as they were defined. The BNetzA site goes into more detail on what happened when.
Some important milestones:
The liberalised energy market is continuing to develop as legislation changes, the regulatory framework grows in scope and there are new procedures for defining rules and processes.
Setting policy and consultation periods
Two of the most important instruments for the BNetzA are formal procedures to set and consult on policy. These formal procedures allow them to define and implement the terms under which players may access the market. The Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) drafts the policies in consultation with representatives for the various market players. These are published during a fixed-length public consultation period, during which anyone can comment on them. BNetzA then evaluates this input and may amend policies as a result. This ensures that the market players are still being heard in the very necessary work of regulating the market and creating effective processes.
A who’s who of regulators and their specific roles (What is BMWK/ BNetzA/ BDEW/ DVGW/ edi@energy?)
The following are key players in defining the processes in the German liberalised energy market and the corresponding market communication.
Further information from BMWK
BMWK - Overview of legislation governing Germany's energy supply system
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BDEW has modelled specific roles to ensure that market communication in the German energy market meets all relevant legal, regulatory and technical specifications. These roles include definitions for areas and objects and makes it easier to assign responsibility and know which process to follow.
The following sections look at the most important roles, regions and objects. Take a look at the BDEW1 user guide for more in-depth information (German language only).
1 Source: Anwendungshilfe „Rollenmodell für die Marktkommunikation im deutschen Energiemarkt“[User guide: Role model for market communication in the German energy market ] Arbeitsgrundlagen Marktkommunikation Version 2.0 from 25th March 2021, BDEW e. V., P10 https://www.bdew.de/media/documents/2021-03-25-AWH-Rollenmodell_Marktkommunikation_Version_2.0_p5Bik6C.pdf
Here are the most important roles:
The following lists the most important zones that fall under the jurisdiction of the roles described above.
The following list the most important objects that fall under the jurisdiction of the roles described above.
The roles above receive distinct identifiers. The BDEW subsidiary Energie Codes und Services GmbH is responsible for allocating identifiers for the electricity industry. You can contact them through the website www.bdew-codes.de
DVGW Services und Consult GmbH is responsible for the gas market. You can contact them through the website DVGW Codevergabeportal: Startseite (dvgw-sc.de)
The two companies above also allocate identifiers for market locations, regardless of the actual sector.
A liberalised energy market requires coordinated, functioning processes for all parties to function properly. BNetzA, working closely with such groups as BDEW, DVGW, and the cross-association working group edi@energy, have defined the processes below. These groups continually amend these processes to meet new requirements and insights.
The processes are categorised by task and target group. The descriptions take into account the different requirements of the electricity and gas sectors. There are currently following processes:
In the main, communication is in an EDIFACT format. Some Redispatch 2.0 processes (adopted 2021) use XML. The XML structures follow ENTSO-E specifications.
edi@energy publishes the message types for the above processes, while data formats for the gas sector (GaBi Gas) are published by DVGW's wholly-owned subsidiary, DVGW Service & Consult GmbH.
GPKE stands for Geschäftsprozesse zur Kundenbelieferung mit Elektrizität (business processes for supplying electricity to customers) while GeLi Gas stands for Geschäftsprozesse Lieferantenwechsel Gas (business processes for switching gas supplier). Both describe the main processes and corresponding electronic data interchange for switching supplier.
The business processes for both the above involve:
They encompass the following tasks:
MaBiS is a set of regulations for managing the balancing group, balancing rules and balancing group settlement for the electricity sector. GaBi Gas is the equivalent for the gas sector.
These involve the following players:
MaBiS encompasses the following processes:
GaBi Gas involves the following processes:
WiM stands for Wechselprozesse im Messwesen and describes the central processes and associated electronic data interchange involved in metering, if these are not otherwise defined in GPKE. These essentially involve switching the metering point operator and changing metering equipment. The processes are slightly different for electricity and gas.
WiM involves the following players:
WiM encompasses the following processes:
MPES stands for Marktprozesse für erzeugende Marktlokationen Strom (processes for generating market locations, electricity) and define the processes relevant to direct marketing. The processes apply to any electricity generator, whether CHP or renewable energy, from which the power can be marketed in full or part straight to the consumer, i.e. the consumer can change suppliers. We differentiate between plants who must sell their power through direct marketing, and those who may.
If a situation arises for which there is no provision in MPES, the rules in GPKE and WiM apply. In this case, substitute:
Processes pertaining to the guarantee of origin register involve EDIFACT communication with the Federal Environment Agency.
With the exception of the Redispatch 2.0 processes introduced in 2021, EDIFACT is the syntax used in market communication. Specifications are defined and published by edi@energy and include the following EDIFACT formats:
The gas sector uses further formats, as defined by DVGW Service & Consult GmbH. These include:
The technical side of how the market communicates is set out in Regelungen zum Übertragungsweg (communication method/protocol regulations) and Allgemeine Festlegungen (general provisions), both on the documents page of the edi@energy website. The document specifies the security and protection mechanisms required for electronic data exchange in regulated processes between market partners in the German energy industry.
Communication methods and/or protocols include AS2, e-mail via SMTP, SFTP and REST. AS2 and e-mail over SMTP are used in a number of energy market processes, whereas SFTP and REST are only permitted in Redispatch processes. Communication should always be encrypted and signed.
An important aspect of communication in the German power industry is having a single point of contact. This means that there is only one set of contact details per member ID. A grid operator in the electricity sector, for example, is only able to specify one e-mail address.
The processes, formats and transmission protocols are not static. They are constantly being updated to reflect changing regulations and requirements. These changes and extensions come into effect at scheduled points throughout the year.
Changes apply equally to all market participants. To ensure that everyone has the same understanding of current regulations, processes and formats and that there are not several different versions in circulation, changes come into effect on fixed dates.
Unless otherwise specified, changes to format, processes or regulations only come into effect on either the 1st April or 1st October of a given year. All market participants must have switched to the new formats, processes etc. by the set deadline as the older versions immediately become invalid and may no longer be used.
The amendments are published by the BNetzA, or edi@energy, on behalf of BNetzA. There is always a consultation phase beforehand which lets participants have their say.
We differentiate between technical and content-based market communication
Content-based MaKo refers to business processes as defined in e.g. the GPKE. These are processes that take place in various departments and are – generally – set out in an ERP system. These processes generate data that is passed on in an agreed format. You can find documents on cross-sector processes and the processes used in the electricity sector here, and for the gas sector here.
Technical MaKo refers to transmission protocols and converting data into the relevant formats (EDIFACT, XML). Rules governing technical MaKo can be found on the edi@energy website. Technical MaKo also includes compliance tests. These include the CONTRL syntax and service report. There are also checks to ensure parties are adhering to the rules in the user handbooks. The user handbooks contain regulations on the expected content and qualifiers for specific processes.
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