19 Oct 2022, 13:12
Benjamin Wehrmann

Nuclear extension likely to reduce German gas demand but could curtail renewables

pv magazine / Clean Energy Wire

The runtime extension for all three of Germany’s remaining nuclear power plants will help reduce the country’s gas consumption and save up to three million tonnes of CO2 emissions, according to energy market consultancy Enervis. The extension until mid-April 2023 announced by chancellor Olaf Scholz is “an overdue and necessary decision” from an energy market perspective, analyst Mirko Schlossarczyk told pv magazine. Enervis calculated that keeping the three plants on the grid beyond their scheduled end date on 31 December this year would cut gas consumption in power production by about six terawatt hours (TWh), and also reduce the need for gas and electricity imports to Germany. “The likelihood of bottleneck situations is much smaller,” Schlossarczyk said, adding that emissions would be saved because the nuclear plants substitute power production with hard coal plants. However, the effect on power prices is likely to remain small, reducing prices by about 2.5 percent on average next year, the analyst said.

Renewable power industry association BEE warned that the runtime extension could also have adverse effects on energy supply security, as the sustained feed-in from reactors into the grid means less grid capacity is available for renewable power installations. “The ad hoc decision to continue operations will neither solve the price nor the supply crisis,” BEE head Simone Peter said. Especially in wind-rich northern Germany, continued nuclear power production could push renewables and their price-dampening effects out of the market, she argued. In 2021, 5.8 TWh of renewable power had to be curtailed due to grid congestion, Peter added. However, Scholz’s decision would also make clear that nuclear power “definitively has no future” in Germany after April.

Scholz earlier this week said his government would pave the way for prolonging the runtime of all three instead of only two of Germany’s remaining reactors, with the last plant going offline no later than  15 April next year. The chancellor intervened to settle a dispute about the delayed end of nuclear power in the country, which has kept his coalition government in conflict for several months. However, the decision taken in light of the European energy crisis means the nuclear exit will not be changed in principle, and no new fuel rods will be purchased.

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