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    Low German wind boosts coal, gas in H1 2021


The country is navigating its way to a low carbon future but suffered a set-back compared with H1 2020 for a number of reasons.

by: William Powell

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Low German wind boosts coal, gas in H1 2021

Significantly lower wind in Germany and the prolonged cold spell in the first half of the year led to a shift in the power generation mix towards coal and gas-fired plant, according to analysis by Energiebilanzen AG published August 3. The economy was also over the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, emissions of CO2 were up 6% on H1 2020.

For the first time, it said, gas took the lead with a share of 30.6% of the primary energy supply, overtaking oil with 28.6%. Anthracite demand rose to 8.2% and lignite demand to 8.4%. Renewables lost but nevertheless occupy third place in the national energy mix with a share of 16.8%, leaving nuclear with about 7%. 

Year on year, gas demand rose 15.6% but coal rose 22.7% and lignite was up 33.5%. Nuclear was up 7% while oil and wind energy were down 12% and 20%, respectively. The net result was a 4.3% increase in demand for primary energy.

But adjusting for temperature, demand was more than 7% below 2019 despite the actual increase compared with 2020. Adjusting for temperature relative to last year, energy demand would have risen by just under 2%.

Less coal and no nuclear

The shift towards gas is going to grow in coming years with the closure of nuclear and coal plants and the growing use of renewable energy. Companies operating coal and lignite can offer them up for closure, in an auction process administered by networks regulator BNetzA. They will need replacing with firm generation capacity such as hydrogen or natural gas. 

The growth of renewables and closure of nuclear plants also requires more spinning reserve to stabilise the grid and operator Tennet tendered for a 300-MW plant to be operated in emergencies.

German operator Uniper won the tender with its Irsching 6 plant, due on line in October 2022. In the past, the grid operator had only used existing plant for grid stability. At the formal ground-breaking ceremony in late July, Bavaria's economics and energy minister Hubert Aiwanger said: "With the shutdown of the nuclear power plants, we have new challenges to master in order to ensure security of supply. To do this, we need Irsching 6."

Uniper said Germany was "breaking new ground. It is the first large-scale power plant to be built solely for the purpose of stabilising the grid, an 'airbag in the energy system'. Previously, only existing power plants were used for this task. Irsching 6 is the future." The modern, highly flexible power plant will however only be used when all else fails.

Uniper's existing plants at Irsching had been held in reserve for seven years but it brought back the combined 1.4 GW of combined-cycle capacity last year as rising carbon prices and low gas prices changed the economics. Uniper has so far agreed to close down 2 GW of coal fired capacity through the auction process. The government set of goal of phasing out nuclear power, meanwhile, by the end of 2022.