26 Aug 2016
Ellen Thalman

Mines become power plants / The problem with network expansion

North Rhine-Westphalia government

The government in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) promotes the development of a coal mine into a pumped storage power plant after the mine's closure in 2018, it said in a press release. NRW environment minister Johannes Remmel said during a visit to the RAG mine Prosper Haniel in Bottrop that NRW and the federal government will spend 850,000 euros to jumpstart the project. “North Rhine-Westphalia is an energy state and we want it to stay that way in the future,” he said. “Large storage areas must be a considerable part of the future renewable energy system.” He noted that: “The vision of an underground pumped storage facility can be an important building block for the transformation of our energy system.” The decision comes on the heels of a study by the Universitätsallianz Ruhr (UA) showing that the mine is suited to the technology. Further studies are needed ahead of a final decision on the conversion.

Find NRW's press release in German here and read more about the study here.

Read an article in German the Sueddeutsche Zeitung about the plans here.

Read a CLEW dossier about new technologies for the Energiewende here


Power lines to carry wind power from Germany’s north to its industrial south have been delayed over and over, creating problems for the Energiewende, writes Klaus Stratmann in the Handelsblatt. The current power network is reaching its limits in dealing with the volume of electricity produced by wind parks in the north, he says. Grid operators must continuously interfere with operations, shutting down power facilities in order to keep the network stable, Stratmann writes. “It’s like juggling five balls at the same time,” he quotes one operator as saying, noting that the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) President Jochen Homann recently predicted annual costs of around 4 million euros related to this issue, paid for by consumers.

Read the article (behind paywall) in German here.

Read a CLEW dossier on the Energiewende and the German power grid here.

Read a CLEW factsheet on re-dispatch costs for grid stabilisation here.

Read a CLEW factsheet on the grid here.


In an interview with the Handelsblatt, the head of power network operator Tennet, Lex Hartmann, says that the company will invest 22 billion euros in the next 10 years, with the lion’s share in network expansion in Germany. Regulatory hurdles for approving new power lines are holding up many projects, Hartman told the Handelsblatt’s Klaus Stratmann. In addition, putting lines under ground, as agreed in some regions, will create additional costs – amounting to around 10 million euros more per kilometre. He said that due to the delays in expanding the network, it is good that the expansion of renewables is slowed somewhat until a sufficient network can handle the power. 

Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUB)

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) with the support of the German environment ministry (BMUB) is holding a workshop on integrating higher shares of renewable energy in the island nation of Cuba in the country’s capital Havana. According to a BMUB press release, “keeping global warming to well below 2°C, even to below 1.5°C, means decarbonising the world economy. Helping developing countries expand renewable energies is therefore of high priority”. Cuba aims at generating 24 percent of its power from renewable energy by 2030. "Cuba has excellent technical potential for renewable energy to meet its ambitious government targets, particularly for solar, wind and biofuel," said Dolf Gielen, Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre.

Read the press release in English here.

Frankfurter Rundschau

Germany is struggling with ‘cognitive dissonance’ in agreeing on the details of its climate protection plan, writes Hermann Falk of the German Association for Renewable Energy (BEE) in a guest commentary in the Frankfurter Rundschau. Various competing elements of government and business in Germany are weakening climate protection efforts, meant to help the country decarbonise and meet goals set out in the Paris climate talks last year. Falk argues that Germany is currently in a great economic position to take measures. “When, if not now, should the transformation to a climate friendly economy begin?”

Read a CLEW factsheet on the government’s Climate Action Plan 2050 and the CLEW article CO2 targets and coal deadline omitted from Climate Action Plan draft.

Handelsblatt Online

Lithium-ion batteries, currently used in electric cars, are reaching the limits of their technical capabilities and companies around the world are looking for alternatives, write Lukas Bay, Martin Kölling and Franz Hubik in a report in Handelsblatt Online. What electromobility needs is a “super-battery”. To cut costs, developers need to make batteries that can hold much more energy with marginally higher material costs, they write. But developing these new batteries is difficult, and the efforts to do so are global – including among German industry. The authors quote Roland Berger expert Wolfgang Bernhart as saying German investments over the next 15 years would have to amount to a figure in the“double-digit billions”.

Read the article (behind paywall) in German here.

Read a CLEW dossier on the energy transition and transport here.

Read a CLEW factsheet on the subject here.

die tageszeitung (taz)

For the first time, union leaders from Germany's mining unions met with representatives from the annual “climate camp” and local environmentalists in the Rhenish lignite coal mining region, reports Leonie Sontheimer in taz. While all agreed that protests against climate-damaging brown coal should be peaceful, they remain in different camps on the coal exit. Unionists want more time for workers to adjust to the structural change, in order to cushion the social and economic effects on the region, they write.

Read a CLEW factsheet on coal in Germany here

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