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Few options for south German supply in winter, BNetzA warns

30 Aug 2013 15:49:59 | edem esgm

Germany's federal energy regulator the BNetzA has dismissed an offer to use a 96MW natural gas-fired plant as an electricity reserve plant in southern Germany, as the plant would not compensate for losing E.ON's 250MW Staudinger 1 hard coal plant. But the regulator warned on Thursday that supply in southern Germany for the coming winter was at considerable risk.

Permission to operate the Staudinger 1 plant ran out on 30 April 2013, and the local authorities in Hesse rejected the BNetzA's calls to keep the plant online, despite the regulator warning that the plant is crucial for security of supply in southern Germany (see EDEM 24 July 2013). The BNetzA stated that it is now too late for Staudinger 1 plant to become operational again for the next winter.

Regional utility HEAG Sudhessische Energie (HSE) offered its new GTKW Darmstadt 96MW plant to the regulator as a reserve plant, a spokesman told ICIS on Wednesday. The plant was commissioned in July but has hardly been running since then, he added.

Nevertheless, the BNetzA said that the addition of the plant would not make Staudinger 1 "as a whole or in part dispensable", the regulator said in an emailed response to ICIS on Thursday. "Rather there is a significant structural deficit of plant capacity in the region with corresponding risks for the security of supply."

This would only change if new plants with considerable capacity become operational and the grid expansion has advanced, the BNetzA said.

Supply deficit in southern Germany

Two large hard coal-fired plants are under construction in southern Germany, EnBW's 842MW RDK 8 in Karlsruhe, due to become operational in spring 2014 (see EDEM 9 August 2013) and the 843MW Block 9 of the Grosskraftwerk in Mannheim, due to come online in 2015, owned by RWE, EnBW and MVV. These plants is crucial, because E.ON's 1.275GW Grafenrheinfeld nuclear plant will be shut down by the end of 2015.

In addition, a total of 3.5GW of plant capacity is at risk of being shut down between now and 2018, even though no date has been specified, according to the regulator. If these plants were shut down, southern Germany faces a net reduction in conventional capacity of 5.6GW between this year and 2018.

Supply security next winter

The BNetzA has asked E.ON to halt dismantling activities for Staudinger 1, but the plant will not now be ready for the coming winter, the regulator's president, Jochen Homann, said in a letter to the state environment ministry of Hesse dated 19 July and forwarded to ICIS on Thursday.

Only with all plant capacity in southern Germany and about 1GW of reserve plant capacity in Austria "can the operation of the German transmission grid today and in the coming years, at all times... be described as secure," Homann said in the letter. The loss of 250MW leads to a significant fall below this threshold, he warned.

A stakeholder meeting will be held at the energy regulator's headquarters in Bonn on 4 September to discuss the grid situation in the next winter and after the shutdown of Grafenrheinfeld.

Gas-fired plants explore options

Meanwhile, HSE is assessing alternative solutions for its GTKW Darmstadt plant, which cost about €55m to build. Alternative solutions could include a "local solution" or shutting it down completely, the spokesman said, but declined to specify what local solutions would include.

Providing uneconomic plants for reserve capacity is helping some strained utilities to cushion the tough economic times they are facing. On Thursday, Austria's utility EVN said that two of its natural gas plants are only profitable because they provide reserve capacity for Germany (see EDEM 29 August 2013). Martin Degen

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