Gas Can Meet Germany's Coal Challenge: Study
According to a study by UK-based Aurora Energy Research, Germany has enough gas-fired capacity to support the government-convened coal commission’s recommended exit from coal by 2038 which was announced in late January.
In a February 6 statement by Zukunft Erdgas (ZE), which commissioned the report, gas will become the biggest fuel for power generation, after renewables. ZE's members include Uniper and Wintershall.
After subtracting the already expected decommissioning of coal-fired power plants, according to the commission's report, around 7 GW of coal-fired power plant output will be phased out by 2022. Aurora's analysis shows that higher gas use and coal-fired power plants could mean that even up to 9 GW of lignite could be shut down by 2023. "The existing gas power plant park thus enables the coal exit," said ZE CEO Timm Kehler.
If coal- and gas-fired power plants were to take over the power generation of the coal-fired power plants that the commission says should close, that would mean another 30 to 50 TWh of gas would be required. Full replacement with gas would increase the additional demand to around 81 TWh. As a result, gas demand in Germany would increase by up to 8% by 2022.
The existing gas infrastructure is already being designed today. New LNG terminals, the completion of the integration of the European gas market and new pipelines will further secure supplies in the future, it said.
“One thing is clear: the importance of gas-fired power plants will increase considerably. The commission's proposals make gas the second pillar of the energy system alongside renewable energies…. However, the gas power plants must be saved from further decommissioning. This is the only way to guarantee the high level of security of supply in Germany," said Kehler.
There is around 30 GW of gas fired capacity available now but last year they were only used at an average 38%, as the Aurora Energy study shows. By contrast, more than 80% of the capacity of ignite-fired plants and 40% of coal-fired plants were used.
ZE urged Berlin to rapidly translate the commission's recommendations into laws. Priority must be given to measures that secure the gas-fired power plant portfolio and encourage the construction of low-emission power plants. An extension of cogeneration and a qualified capacity market are good solutions to make the power plant park fit for the future, it said. In addition, the federal government should ensure reliable monitoring of the effects.