Expert judgment: Low risk to energy networks in winter

Status: 07/19/2022 14:09

According to experts, a “blackout”, ie a power failure in Germany in the coming winter, is rather unlikely. However, the risk to the energy supply may increase as a result of several possible changes.

According to experts, the risk of a major power failure in Germany is also low in the coming winter. However, a whole host of factors can lead to supply bottlenecks, a study by various experts by the dpa news agency has revealed.

Most of these experts are confident that the power grid in Germany will be able to withstand a potentially greater load even in winter. Despite the shutdown of the last German nuclear power plants at the end of the year, experts do not expect major bottlenecks in electricity, not least because coal-fired power plants would be withdrawn from reserves.

Possible shortage, unlikely failure

According to Tobias Federico, managing director of the consulting firm Energy Brainpool, “it is not preparing for a blackout”. Christoph Maurer of Consentec, an energy consultant, believes the situation is tense, but basically manageable during a normal winter. Thorsten Lenck of Agora Energiewende was more cautious: “According to our previous analyzes, it is quite possible that a shortage could occur within a few hours in the winter.”

The analysis of electricity supply published a few days ago by the Federal Ministry of Economy shows that “safe operation of the power grid is guaranteed in the winter of 2022/23”. However, the Minister of Economy and Climate Protection, Robert Habeck (Greens), ordered another “stress test”. This is to test the resistance of the German power supply under “more stringent conditions”.

French nuclear power plants as a risk factor

Several influencing factors can exacerbate these conditions. About nuclear power plants in France. There, a large proportion of the piles are closed after discovering small cracks in the emergency cooling system or as a result of maintenance work. If it is not possible to restore enough of these nuclear power plants to the grid in time, this could pose a challenge to German suppliers due to the European grid. This is especially important in harsh winters, as many French people are electrically heated. In recent years, as planned, Germany has already exported larger amounts of electricity to France in the winter semester from October to March. And as a result of problems with French nuclear reactors, since September 2021, Germany has been exporting more electricity to its neighboring country every month than it has imported from there.

Weather influences can also affect Germany’s energy security during the cold season. “Dark stagnation”, in which several days are produced with little wind and solar power, makes the power supply more critical. Along with the cold spell, which greatly increases energy requirements, this is a problem, says Thomas Federico of Energy Brainpool.

Gas power plants in the service of energy

Gas power plants, which still contribute to Germany’s electricity production, may also play a role in the shortages if they cannot be supplied with sufficient fuel. During peak periods, they are jointly responsible for ensuring the stability of the power grid. Due to the uncertain Russian supplies, gas from the storage facilities is currently to be used primarily for heating.

Heater as a network killer?

Finally, according to experts, consumer behavior also plays an important role when it comes to the load on the power grid in the cold season. If they were heating with electricity more and more, in order to save gas, for example, it would be a burden. Many Germans have already acquired fan heaters or convectors in the last few weeks. If it were really used for large-scale heating, it could bring power grids to its knees, according to Christoph Maurer of Consentec: “This is a scenario that must be prevented at almost all costs.”

“Load test”: Habeck re-analyzes the safety of the power supply

Markus Sambale, ARD Berlin, 7/19/2022 2:59 pm

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