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German grid plans unprepared for rapid coal exit – study

Power

25 Jul 2018 13:58

Bonn

25 Jul 2018 13:58

(Montel) German plans to expand power line networks are ill-suited to the possibility of a rapid coal phaseout, the country’s Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko Institut) said in a study on Wednesday.

Expedited coal plant closures – something Berlin is considering – implied significantly different network requirements in the next decade compared to scenarios prepared by the BNA network regulator in conjunction with Transmission System Operators (TSOs), according to the study. 

The study looked at an official scenario for 2024 in which brown coal was slated to still provide 15 GW of generation capacity and hard coal 26 GW. 

The authors then investigated the implications of reducing this capacity by roughly half to 6 GW and 14 GW respectively. The reductions implied a swifter rollout of renewable energy together with another 18 GW of gas-fired units. 

Changes of this magnitude would make some of Germany’s present network projects redundant – such as connections between Saxony and Bavaria – while shifting congestion elsewhere, like the north of the country. 

“The doesn’t mean the scenario will lead to less network development, rather it suggest we may need a very different network expansion.“

Carbon savings
The German energy sector could save up to 80m tonnes of carbon annually by 2024 through such sharper coal plant closures, but present network plans would also ensure a sharp rise in congestion and waste of clean power, the study said.  

Nearly a quarter, or 18 TWh, of the additional 76 TWh of renewable energy generated would need to be curtailed. 

“This implies the network is not robust enough to support a ‘swift coal exit’ scenario well,” the authors said.  

Germany has struggled to roll out the grids it needs to keep pace with its expansion of renewable energy, which met 36% of German power demand last year. 

The German government has tasked a commission with recommending by the end of the year a fair way and deadline for exiting coal generation to help curb Germany’s stubbornly high emissions.

The Öko Institute urged lawmakers to accommodate the implications of coal plant closures in the country’s planning process. 

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