In a traditional power system, baseload is the minimum amount of power required at any time. In Germany, this can range from roughly 32 gigawatts (GW) to more than 50 GW, depending on the period examined. On average, the bulk of the country’s power demand is still met by conventional power plants with a relatively steady level of output, running 24/7. In the past, these were often called “baseload power plants”. In recent years, the share of renewable sources has increased considerably in Germany’s energy mix, aided by windy or sunny weather. Germany’s renewable energy expansion strategy foresees an increased reliance on a combination of different, mostly fluctuating renewable sources. Eventually, all demand must be met by renewable sources, and fossil “baseload” power plants will disappear altogether.
(Die großen Vier) For about two decades, the German energy system was dominated by four large utilities: E.ON, RWE, Vattenfall, and EnBW. Slow to get involved in renewable power, their traditional business model has been seriously undermined, and they have suffered from the nuclear phase-out (see → nuclear phase-out) and from the falling wholesale power prices (see → merit order effect). E.ON and RWE have both separated their fossil power operations from their new renewables businesses, and grid and energy services via spin-off companies Uniper and innogy. Vattenfall has sold its German lignite operations to Czech investor EPH. The term Big Four could thus be considered outdated.
(Bioenergie) Bioenergy accounted for 8.5 percent of German electricity consumption in 2015, making it the country’s second largest renewable source of power after onshore wind. Most is generated in biogas plants that turn organic matter into methane and CO2. Following the introduction of → feed-in tariffs in 2000 (see → Renewable Energy Act) there was a boom in bioenergy generation. Most biogas plants are operated by farmers, and fuelled with crops like maize and turnips, organic farm waste, and manure. There is an ongoing debate over whether growing crops for fuel is ecologically sound. Bioenergy remains the most expensive form of renewable power and the sector’s future in Germany is unclear.
(Braunkohle) See → lignite.