According to preliminary estimates by the Federal Association of the Energy and Water Industry (BDEW), electricity consumption in Germany declined slightly by 1.4% in 2012, while gas consumption increased by 1%. Gross electricity generation also increased by 1.3% year-on-year to 617 TWh, with the importance of gas in the electricity mix falling significantly (11.3% after 13.6% in 2011) and the shares of hard coal, lignite and renewable energy sources rising.
Renewable power could report further growth contributing 21.9% to the electricity mix (2011: 20.3%). In light of the additional solar power plant capacity added in 2012, it is not surprising that according to BDEW’s preliminary estimates solar power accounted for 4.6% in 2012 (2011: 3.2%, according to BDEW). The share of nuclear power (that is being phased-out in Germany until 2022) fell to 16% (2011: 17.7%). Conventional hard coal-fired power plants on the other hand increased production to 19.1% (2011: 18.5%), and lignite-fired power plants remain the most important power producer in Germany, increasing their share in the electricity mix to 25.6% (2011: 24.6). Roughly 6% of the electricity (2011: 5,3%) were generated by heating oil, pumped storage and other power plants.
The increasing input of electricity by renewable power plants (whose output has to be purchased by the grid operators pursuant to the Renewable Energy Sources Act – EEG) and the difference in coal and gas prices lead to changes in the merit order at the expense of gas-fired power plants, BDEW pointed out. In the first ten months of 2012 alone, some 14% less gas was used in conventional power plants, CHP power plants and heating plants, BDEW says. The above-mentioned effects on the merit order also lead to an increase of electricity exports, especially to the Netherlands, were mainly gas-fired power plants are operated. BDEW estimates that the export surplus for January to October 2012 amounts to approximately 17 billion kWh and could be as high as 23 billion kWh for the whole year.
It would be wrong to take the export surplus as a sign for stable security of supply, Hildegard Müller, head of BDEW said, pointing out that the overall figures were misleading as the security of supply had to be ensured at every place of consumption at any given point of time (regarding the security of supply situation after Germany’s energy policy shift away from nuclear power, please see the blog post on the latest monitoring report by the Federal Network Agency and the Cartel Office with further references). Mrs Müller called 2013 an important year for the energy sector in which the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) had to be further amended to bring the expansion of renewable power plants in line with efficiency criteria and the security of supply.
At the same time, the regulatory framework for the conventional power plant market had to be redesigned, Mrs Müller said. She demanded that a new market design should be in place by 2015, announcing a BDEW proposal. So far the latest amendment of the ManyElectronics Act which entered into force on 1 January 2013 only provides for the possibility to postpone planned shutdowns of power plants to improve the security of supply, but incentives for new conventional state-of-the-art power plants that can balance the fluctuating input of renewable still have to be set.
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