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Germany calls on reserve capacity to keep grid stable

08 Feb 2012 15:53 GMT
Germany calls on reserve capacity to keep grid stable

London, 8 February (Argus) — Germany's transmission system operators (TSOs) have today called on cold reserve capacity available to them in Germany and Austria to ensure security of supply as the country faces gas supply issues, forecasts of weak wind-power output and sub-zero temperatures.

The country's four TSOs decided yesterday evening to call on the reserve capacity as “a precautionary measure” to meet demand in south Germany today, Dutch-German TSO Tennet told Argus. “The cold reserve power plants in Germany and Austria are running today,” Tennet said.

The situation is expected to be most critical in south Germany and during the demand-intensive evening hours, when temperatures are expected to fall to as low as -10°C.

“Day-ahead exchange prices show a significant increase for this evening today compared to previous days,” German TSO ENBW Transportnetze (TNG) said. “Consequently, cold reserve is being used to avoid a critical situation.”

German evening prices, comprising hours 19-24, for delivery today fetched €124.75/MWh ($163.85/MWh) on the Epex Spot power exchange in yesterday's day-ahead auction, a €45.18/MWh day-on-day gain. Prices have eased in today's auction, with evening hours clearing at €94.21/MWh, as TSOs will decide later today whether to call on the reserve capacity again to ensure security of demand tomorrow.

Supply squeeze
South Germany's available nuclear power generation capacity fell by almost 5GW last year, with five of its eight nuclear reactors forced to retire.

Supply margins have been squeezed further by recent Russian gas supply issues, with deliveries at the Waidhaus entry point below long-term gas contract nominations. German utility Eon continues to operate several gas-fired power stations at reduced capacity as a result. This includes a 446MW output reduction at its 846MW Irsching 5 combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power station.

“If the situation gets worse, further vital gas-fired plants might be forced out of service,” TNG said.

And lower wind levels are adding to the risk of supply bottlenecks, with “forecasts showing a significant reduction of wind power feed-ins [to the power grid] for this afternoon”, according to TNG.

In August, German grid regulator BNA secured 1,009MW of reserve capacity in Germany and 1,075MW in Austria following the closure of eight nuclear plants a few months earlier.

This is the second time that the country has been forced to call on cold reserve capacity this winter, the first coming in December. But that was caused by a high influx of wind power in the north and the resulting strain on the country's north-south network connection, rather than supply bottlenecks.

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