01 Apr 2019, 13:42
Benjamin Wehrmann

Expansion of low-carbon energy sources too slow in Germany – utility association

Clean Energy Wire

The construction of low-carbon power plants is not happening fast enough to reach Germany’s emissions reduction targets, the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) says. According to the latest registry of power plant projects by the BDEW there are not enough renewable installations planned to compensate for the capacity lost due to Germany’s parallel phase-out of nuclear and coal-fired power production. “If we want to take coal capacity off the grid as proposed by the coal exit commission, it is vital that we reach the goal of 65 percent renewables in power consumption by 2030,” BDEW head Stefan Kapferer said on the sidelines of the industry fair Hannover Messe, adding that a rapid grid expansion was necessary to achieve this goal. Apart from offshore wind power, the expansion of other low-carbon energy sources did not progress quickly enough, meaning that current overcapacities would not only be lost by 2023 - the year after Germany’s nuclear exit is projected to be finished - but that the country could “run into an undersupply with our eyes wide open”. By that year, Germany’s conventional power capacity would fall from currently over 88 gigawatts (GW) to 67 GW. “Essentially, this means that we have to build, build, build,” Kapferer said.
The BDEW’s power plant list only contains ten new power plant projects that are already being carried out and 54 others that are still in the pipeline. The lobby group says the current market made construction of new gas-fired power plants as well as of pumped hydro power plants unprofitable, even though these are important as backup capacity for a stable power grid. A “positive” aspect was that 15 projects in which coal is replaced with natural gas, so-called ‘fuel switch projects’, were currently being implemented, but “much more” of these were needed to really reduce the reliance on coal.

Germany plans to shut its last nuclear plant by the end of 2022 and to gradually phase out coal by 2038. While renewables already have outperformed coal as the country’s most important power source and wind alone accounted for almost half of the country’s power mix on some days in March 2019, the dependence on conventional power plants remains high as insufficient grid infrastructure and storage capacities mean that renewable power use still is highly contingent on weather conditions.

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