Germany’s Green Energy Transition Is Losing Its Risk Buffer

  • Date: 24/04/18

Renewable energy can no longer rely on the protection of conventional power plant, Germany’s electricity sector has warned. To avert a shortfall, the government must act immediately. Otherwise, Germany’s network stability is endangered.

In the next four years, renewable energy will lose some of the capacity that has hitherto been used to secure weather-dependent green electricity supply. With this “wake-up call to government”, the Federal Association of the Energy and Water Industry (BDEW) warned of the consequences of an accelerated dying of power plants in Germany.

Until now, Germany has created a double power system, said BDEW Chief Executive Stefan Kapferer in Hannover. While conventional power plants continued to operate, renewable energy was expanded in parallel . This “double system” is now coming to an end, said Kapferer.

It is already foreseeable today that by the end of 2022 there will not be enough conventional power plants to fully compensate for the intermittent failure of renewable energy production, for example during a “cold dark doldrums” in winter. “Overcapacity that still exists today will not only be completely eliminated in a few years,” warned Kapferer. “Rather, no later than 2023 we are expecting a shortfall in the secured capacity.”

Industry warns of power failure

According to the BDEW’s latest statistics, new conventional power plants with a capacity of 4400 megawatts will be built by then. However, this compares to the loss of 18,600 megawatts due to power plant shutdowns. “A big minus,” warned Kapferer. Whether and to what extent electricity storage and demand management can close part of the gap remains uncertain.

Overall, the secured power generation capacity in Germany is dropping from today’s 90,000 megawatts to 75,300 megawatts. This means that the annual peak load of an estimated 81,800 megawatts can no longer be met. It would be frivolous to hope electricity imports could fill the gap.

“Even in other EU countries, secured output in the form of conventional power plants will be reduced,” the BDEW chief warned: “Moreover, the periods when electricity is in high demand are almost the same in Central Europe.”

Industry In Call For Action

In addition to the planned phase-out of nuclear energy, hard coal-fired power plants in particular have recently been notified for decommissioning as they were no longer economically viable. The fall in natural gas prices and correspondingly greater competition from gas-fired power plants also contributed to this. In addition, the first two lignite-fired power plants have already been shut down.

In order to avoid a looming shortfall, policy makers must act immediately and improve the opportunities for efficient cogeneration power plants, Kapferer said. New power plant projects would take at least five years lead time – it was therefore urgent to respond immediately to the impending shortfall in 2023.

The dying of power plants may also influence the work of the commission that is looking into phasing out the coal. “We run the risk of the Commission setting an exit plan for coal-fired power generation, which the Federal Network Agency has to ban regularly because any further decommissioning would jeopardise grid stability.”

Politicians should no longer delay decisions about how to secure reserve power capacity which is necessary for the energy transition. The Federal Government is obliged by European regulations to achieve its climate protection goals by 2030.

Full story (in German)

 

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