German Irsching CCGTs Return to Commercial Use
Germany's two Irsching gas-fired power plants totalling 1.4 GW of capacity will operate on a merchant basis, as originally intended, from October 1, the owners – Uniper, Entega, Mainova and N-ergie – said September 30. While not yet profitable, this would be less expensive than having the two plants held in reserve, as they had for seven years.
The economics of Germany's power market meant that the state-of-the-art plants had been at the disposal of the grid operator, to supply power when renewable energy was offline. But now coal is disadvantaged by the rising carbon price of the European Union emissions trading scheme. Gas is affected a lot less, and the wholesale gas price is also low. The owners had already announced that they would reassess the situation from year to year.
Bavaria's industry minister Hubert Aiwanger said he "very much" welcomed the fact that the highly efficient and modern gas power plant units Irsching 4 and 5 would be used more again in the future, especially in times of low feed-in from renewable energy.
The return to the regular electricity market also relieves the burden on consumers, who previously had to bear the costs of the so-called network reserve – in which the power plant units have been for years – via the network charges.
Aiwanger said that given the phase-out of nuclear energy and coal, there must be sufficient secured generation capacity available in the future. "That is why I call on the federal government to create a systematic investment framework for such power plants," he said.
Uniper COO David Bryson said that it was a "good day for climate protection in Europe" and that if Germany and Europe had taken climate protection as seriously then as now, the power plant would probably not have been shut down. "But only in the last one or two years has the CO2 price evolved into a factor that causes the switch from coal to gas. Fortunately, all signals from politics indicate that this strengthening of emissions trading will continue to be wanted and supported. That makes us more confident for the foreseeable future," he said.
N-Ergie CEO Josef Hasler said: “With today's official starting shot back into the electricity market, a long-term political mistake will finally be corrected. Ultimately, as a transition technology, we continue to need highly efficient and flexibly deployable power plants, such as Irsching 5, for phases with little wind or sun . At the moment it is unfortunately still not profitable to operate the power plant, but we are reducing our losses compared to the grid regime under the conditions of the federal network agency."
Senior executives from Mainova and Entega expressed similar sentiments about the importance of climate-friendlier gas power plants with high primary energy utilisation as coal is phased out.
Irsching 5 has output of 846 MW and went into operation in 2010. With an efficiency of 59.7%, it is one of the most modern gas-fired power plants in Europe. Uniper is operator with 50.2%, N-Ergie 25.2%, Mainova 15.6% and Entega 9%. Irsching 4 has output of 561 MW and went into operation in 2011 and, with an efficiency of 60.4%, is also one of the most efficient gas power plants in the world, Uniper said.