In just a few months time has come again: On Whitsunday renewable energy from wind and solar power is likely to almost meet the entire German electricity demand during hours. When that happens, energy policy experts and Green politicians invariably tout the success of the green power revolution prices - and demand the fastest possible shutdown of all coal-fired plants.
However, In the long, dark winter months the same lobbyists are silent and for good reason. A look at the production data in January shows that the German green power plants almost completely failed as energy suppliers for weeks.
In the first week of January, and again from the middle of the month, some 26,000 wind turbines and more than 1.2 million solar power plants failed to operate for a long time. A so-called darkness was responsible for this: a high-pressure area typical for this time of the year characterized by no wind and fog - while the electricity demand in Germany rose sharply due to low temperatures.
90 percent of coal, gas and nuclear power
For example, on Tuesday, 24 January, electric trains, subways and elevators brought people to work and the factories started to work, Germany's electricity consumption rose rapidly to 83 gigawatts. The wind power on land, however, delivered less than one gigawatt during the whole day. At midday, some solar plants helped to hoist the entire green electricity production to three gigawatts. But even that was just a drop in the bucket.
On January 24, the coal, gas and nuclear power plants covered more than 90 percent of the German electricity demand. On almost all other days between January 16 and 26, it was very similar. Power stores that could bridge such a long period of time are not even in sight. The burden of the supply was therefore mainly based on nuclear and coal-fired power stations, which would actually want to completely get rid of environmental and climate protection workers in just a few years.
"January has clearly shown that we still need flexible conventional power plants to be able to compensate at any time for the strongly fluctuating electricity supply from wind and photovoltaics," warns Stefan Kapferer, CEO of the Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW). "Electricity demand must be covered in every weather situation and the electricity grid must be kept stable," says Kapferer, whose association also includes a number of large green electricity producers.
Capacity melts like butter in the sun
The BDEW boss is worried that the obviously indispensable conventional power plants are currently disappearing rapdily rom the market. Over the past five years, a total of 82 conventional electricity generators with an output of more than twelve gigawatts have declared an intent to decommission because their operation is no longer viable within the energy market.
The Federal Government has recently tightened the emission limit values for conventional power plants. In the uncertainty as to whether they can ever make money again with their plants, many operators are no longer equipping their systems - they prefer to keep them quiet.
In addition, the federal government had only just agreed with the brown coal industry to gradually convert 13 percent of the German brown coal power plants into a so-called "safety" safeguard in the next five years - in order to completely eliminate them in a few years.
The nuclear phase-out is also going on: the nuclear power plant Gundremmingen B will be shut down at the end of this year. With a net output of 1.2 gigawatts, Gundremmingen B was previously one of the pillars of South German power supply.
The conventional power plant capacity in Germany melts away like butter in the sun. "Currently, the poor economic conditions mean that a number of conventional power plants are being declared for decommissioning or are going off the grid," BDEW boss Kapferer summarized the situation this way: "Investments in the construction of new power plants have already come to a standstill."
"In the end all reserves were ready"
The lack of controllable power plants put power grid operators under severe stress during the darkness in January. "In almost all the surrounding European countries, the load was extremely high and the production situation tense," according to the South German transmission company TransnetBW. "In the end all reserves were ready for several days."
The use of "redispatch", that is, costly interventions by the grid operator in the power plant operation, had been "very high" during this time, TransnetBW further shares. "All available reserves in Germany and Austria were approached on our occasion. For the fast-start-capable systems, the readiness was instructed. In addition, reserves were requested from Italy. "
However, it is not guaranteed that foreign reserves will continue to help Germany in the dark. The aging French nuclear power plants, for example, are no longer a safe bank. Right now, many of the facilities are offline because of security checks, which has further intensified the effects of the dark sounds in January. France, formerly an exporter of electricity, suddenly had to import itself.
At the BDEW branch of the industry, one is looking at this development, which is where the future of electricity is to come from when the German power plant shutdown is going on at this pace.
Electricity demand will rise further
After all, the federal government has just called a "new phase" of energies: as part of the so-called sectoral linkage, road traffic and heating are now to be converted to electricity. The German electricity demand will therefore increase significantly again.
The architects of the Energiewende in the Federal Ministry of Economics do not see any need for action: the responsible State Secretary Rainer Baake expects that the breaking away of conventional power plants will lead to rising electricity prices. And so there will soon be enough incentives to invest in new power plants. The market will solve the problem by itself.
At the BDEW, this is a long way from hope: "The few and only sporadically occurring price peaks on the stock market are not enough to cover the costs of the operation of the power plant park, let alone new investments," Kapscher, formerly, believes Himself was Secretary of State in the Federal Ministry of Economics.
"The federal government sees that the current market system is not sufficient to guarantee security of supply," Kapferer notes: "Otherwise it would not keep different power stations in the market and introduce new ones."
The provision of "reactive power"
This safety net in Germany is expensive to maintain because the reserve power plants would have to be paid indefinitely at their full cost, "This can affect network charges and electricity prices," warns the BDEW-chief: "Instead of insisting on this rigid system, a Market-based system should be encouraged that is flexible enough to secure fluctuating electricity production from renewables at all times. "
In concrete terms, the BDEW proposes, for example, to pay the conventional power plants for their "system services" which they have so far provided free of charge for the stabilization of the electricity grid. This includes, for example, the provision of "reactive power" for the electricity network or a fee for the flexibility with which the plants are driven up and down depending on the green power supply.
"The power plants currently make contributions to network stabilization, which are not remunerated," says Kapferer, the association's chief executive, "These must have a value in the electricity market of the future."
"Coal-fired power plants are disturbing factors in the system"
If this does not happen, the power plants which can be used for a long periods of no renewable energies, could be missing in the medium term. "At the latest after the Bundestag election," Kapferer believes, "this discussion will go into the next round."
Other advocates also see the need for action, even if they propose other solutions. "We certainly need flexible gas-fired power plants for a while to bridge the wind over weeks at a time," says Philipp Vohrer, Managing Director of the "World Renewable Energy Agency" (AEE).
However, climate protection issues should also be a priority in the financing of reserves: "A solution that benefits coal-fired power plants must be avoided", says Vohrer: "Coal power plants are disruptive factors in the system." The head of the agency, energy policy has prescribed, holding an extension of emissions trading: "the introduction of a minimum price for CO2 emissions could improve the market opportunities for gas power plants and flexible consumers against harmful coal power plants."
Translation from German to English using Goolge Translate.