Utility chief warns that Germany faces potential blackouts as it exits coal
Germany faces potential power shortages in the next few years as it removes nuclear and coal-fired power plants from the grid, warned Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO of the Düsseldorf-based power company Uniper, in an interview with Daniel Wetzel of the newspaper Die Welt. Uniper plans to pivot away from coal and focus on its natural gas business, Schierenbeck said. This involves selling or shutting down all of its lignite and hard coal plants by 2025 – with the exception of the new Datteln 4 hard coal plant, which the company plans to bring online this summer. But Schierenbeck argued that Germany risks blackouts if it does not plan for enough back-up generation from fossil fuel-fired plants, even as it shifts to renewable power. In the next three years, Germany could see a shortfall of more than seven gigawatts (GW) of “secure generation capacity” to cover peak loads, Schierenbeck told die Welt. “This means that there will be a shortfall in capacity equivalent to at least seven large power plants,” Schierenbeck said. “I consider this to be worrying.” He argued that the German government should set up a system to fund and maintain fossil-fuel reserve capacity, similar to a system in the UK.
Germany has committed to phasing out all coal power by 2038. The country has one of the most reliable electricity grids in the world and, according to the country's grid agency BNetzA, power blackouts are increasingly caused by extreme weather events, rather than by the transition to renewable energies. A government report last year found that the German electricity supply would remain extremely secure by international standards, even as the country simultaneously phases out coal and nuclear power.