Controversial new coal plant Datteln 4 test runs disrupt German power prices
Germany's controversial new Datteln 4 coal plant in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is running at full capacity in test operation despite the low demand for electricity on the market, resulting in negative electricity prices and causing losses for green power producers, Malte Kreutzfeldt writes in German daily Tageszeitung (taz). The demand for electricity from coal-fired power plants is currently lower than ever: German hard coal and lignite-fired power plants saw output drop in April to their lowest level in decades due to the significant decline in electricity consumption from the coronavirus lockdown and the above-average production of wind and solar power. Hard coal plants in particular used less than 10 percent of their capacity. Datteln 4 was the only coal plant still running at full capacity for many days in April, as the power plant began test operations despite the federal government’s decision to phase out coal amid massive protests. It was repeatedly tested at full power, usually on days when there was already plenty of electricity, Kreutzfeldt points out. As a result, the electricity exchange price plunged sharply into the negative zone. On 21 April at midday, it reached minus 80 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), resulting in no remuneration for green power producers.
The Datteln 4 power plant is scheduled to go online this summer, despite Germany’s plans to phase out all coal power by 2038. Slumping power demand has revealed that Germany's fossil and renewable electricity generation, as well as electricity demand, need to become much more flexible, experts say.