France is currently rehearsing the emergency, because bottlenecks in the power grid are threatening due to the maintenance of numerous nuclear power plants. For Germany, the supply situation does not look quite so bleak. However, the parties involved are still keeping a specific measure open.

While France is currently preparing for controlled power cuts, concerns about similar scenarios in winter are also circulating in Germany. Recently, a request from the network operator TransnetBW to save electricity caused concern. On Friday, a paper from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of the Environment caused a stir, according to which power cuts limited in time and region for one and a half hours could not be ruled out for this winter. So, given the problems in France, is the German power supply worse than previously thought?

Uncontrolled, large-scale power failures – so-called blackouts – are currently not considered realistic by politicians, the energy industry or the Federal Network Agency. Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) recently emphasized that the availability of energy for power generation is secured for this winter. And the forecast for French network operators for January is “in the range that we also expected,” said a spokeswoman for Habeck on Friday.

In France, supply bottlenecks are expected in January because numerous nuclear power plants are currently being maintained. In order to prepare for this, the authorities simulated the temporary and controlled shutdown of the power supply in a region on Friday – but without actually switching it off. Because the European power grids are linked, experts fear that there will also be consequences for the neighboring markets if there is a load shortage. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the amount of electricity imported into Germany from France fell by 88 percent in the third quarter compared to the same quarter of the previous year.

“If at all, there could be a controlled, regional and temporary interruption,” said the Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW). Such so-called brownouts, which are intended to stabilize the networks, have also existed in the past. “From a technical point of view, we are very well prepared.” The Federal Network Agency currently estimates the probability that this could actually happen to be very low.

A status report on energy supply security to the Baden-Württemberg Minister for the Environment also refers to such scenarios. According to the ministry, it states that the lower availability of nuclear power plants in France than originally assumed is currently the greatest challenge for the security of the power supply in winter. Short-term regionally limited shutdowns of usually 90 minutes cannot be ruled out. The “Bild” newspaper quoted similar passages and referred to a confidential ministerial paper.

A case from Baden-Württemberg shows how Germany could deal with short-term bottlenecks in winter. There, the network operator TransnetBW had forecast a possible power shortage for Wednesday and called on its customers to temporarily save electricity via an app for the first time. However, at no time was there a risk of the power being cut off, a spokeswoman said. 700 megawatts of power were ordered from Switzerland to stabilize the networks. “That was something special.” Because such a short-term import is very expensive, the savings request was issued to the customers at the same time.

Such predicted bottlenecks could occur more frequently in winter, said the spokeswoman. However, a “brownout” only threatens if it is not possible to buy enough electricity to eliminate the bottlenecks in the short term. In this case, an interruption in the power supply of one and a half hours can be assumed. “But nobody has to defrost their fridge.” The situation is much better today than it was after the second stress test at the beginning of September. At that time, the network operators had rated the situation in winter as “very tense”.

By David Hutzler, dpa