The security of German power supplies is largely guaranteed

A THEMA study has shown that the German power system is resilient even with significant capacity outages and low renewable generation.

With the rise of renewable energy sources, the nuclear phaseout and the planned end of coal-fired generation by 2030, Germany´s power plant park is changing profoundly. All the while, demand is set to increase, leading to rising concerns about whether Germany can secure sufficient supplies of power. It is in this context that THEMA carried out an analysis of the security of power supplies in December 2022. The resultant report, entitled “Security of supply, gas-fired power generation and CO2 emissions under different conditions”, shows that security of supply is guaranteed for 2023, even under the worst possible circumstances.

Together with the German business organisation for the energy and water industry (BDEW), we developed three different scenarios, covering significantly different potential availabilities of fossil and nuclear power plants in Germany and France. These three scenarios span from worst to best-case scenario. The worst case reflected a “bad but realistic” scenario.

Based on these three simulations, we then analysed the impact of different individual events, such as varying weather conditions, higher or lower demand, or the loss of coal or gas power plants.
The study placed considerable emphasis on understanding possible shortages of supply.

Under the status quo, and assuming that the German and neighbouring power systems do not change structurally, security of supply is basically guaranteed. Even the loss of 9 GW of gas-fired power plants would not hurt the German power market much.

However, if both German fossil- and French nuclear-fired plants fail simultaneously, security of supply would come under pressure. In these extreme circumstances, we observe a higher occurrence of capacity shortages, particularly when also assuming unfavorable weather conditions. Prices would exceed 500 EUR/MWh in more than 300 hours a year, as compared to around 100 hours with a power system reflecting the status quo. The results highlight the current strong influence of weather on the power system, an influence which is bound to increase further with the growing expansion of renewables.

We find that the easiest and most effective short-term solution to mitigate a supply shortage would be to decrease demand. This has the strongest mitigating effect on power prices, emissions and gas-fired power generation. However, the study also shows that the German power system is nowhere near a serious security of supply problem, or severe shortages lasting for extended periods – even under truly extreme circumstances such as the simultaneous failure of German fossil-fired and French nuclear plants.

To conclude, the security of Germany’s power supplies is currently guaranteed.
Weather is becoming increasingly important, especially because of weather events such as prolonged droughts or low wind in the winter months. As a result, flexibility, such as that provided by storage and sector coupling, are growing in importance for the security of the power system.

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