20 Mar 2024, 13:43
Sören Amelang Edgar Meza

Germany launches planning for gas grid retirements

Clean Energy Wire

The German government has kickstarted the planning for a gradual decommissioning of the country’s gas distribution network in order to organise a smooth transition to climate-neutral heating for consumers and operators. Grids for the existing natural gas supply will no longer be needed in their current form and scope once the country approaches its target of becoming climate neutral by 2045, the economy ministry said in a green paper. “It is crucial that a continuous, affordable energy supply for end consumers is guaranteed during the transformation phase,” and that households and companies don’t face sharply rising network charges as the number of gas users dwindles. “If natural gas networks are shut down, the connected customers must have sufficient lead time to switch their energy supply,” the paper argues without specifying a time frame.  

The paper says it will be a challenge to reconcile climate targets, supply security and economic efficiency during the natural gas phase-out. “Gas distribution networks must continue to be operated safely as part of this transformation,” the paper says, adding that “they will in all likelihood be needed to a much lesser extent than at present”. Grid operators will also have to be protected from financial losses if they are forced to continue operating gas grids, the paper said.

Energy and climate think tank Agora Energiewende said last year that the gas pipeline network is set to become largely obsolete with the move to climate neutral energy sources, and that the country needed to ensure an orderly retirement of its gas distribution grid to avoid enormous costs for consumers and billions of euros of stranded assets for operators. “With the goal of climate neutrality by 2045, there is foreseeably no longer any use for over 90 percent of the existing gas distribution networks,” Agora said.

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