Germany’s top civil protection officer warns of power failures in winter. Shortly thereafter, his own authority rowed back. The federal government apparently does not want to admit that its real energy transition is primarily leading to an energy shortage.
The energy transition in its course stops neither ox nor donkey. Germany is getting through the winter with perseverance slogans and austerity appeals. And then our energy politicians can finally go back to their favorite pastime: switch off.
With the shutdown of coal-fired power plants, things are not going as well as planned. Vladimir Putin thwarted the coal phase-out, which was actually supposed to be a switch to Gazprom gas. But the nuclear power plants should be over by mid-April at the latest. Forever and ever. Great traffic light word.
Even Christian Linder, whose FDP is anything but convinced of this, recently declared the debate that flared up again and again about the sense and nonsense of the German nuclear phase-out to be over. “Because that’s just decided now,” said the party leader. “You have to say, now is the end.”
Now is the end. That sounds like a really convincing argument. In truth, Lindner’s main concern is not having to end the coalition. Because for the Greens and parts of the SPD, switching off the nuclear power plant is a matter close to the heart. They don’t want to let this triumph, which they have been working towards for decades, be ruined: neither by Putin nor by Greta Thunberg, who advises Germany to keep the nuclear power plants running for the sake of the global climate, and certainly not by Ralph Tiesler.
Who is Ralph Tiesler, many a reader will ask at this point. Because the man has been more in the background so far. He is a lawyer and an expert on crises and disasters, first worked for the Federal Agency for Technical Relief, then for the Federal Ministry of the Interior and in 2002 became Head of the Department for Crisis Management at the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK), of which he has been President for a few months.
This authority reports to Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD), publishes emergency guides such as “Cooking without electricity” and led a shadowy existence for a long time. Until Tiesler’s predecessor made the headlines with the organization of a nationwide siren day without sirens. He had to go.
The CDU domestic politician Armin Schuster briefly took over the job until he was called to the cabinet of the Saxon state government. Finally, in June, Faeser appointed Ralph Tiesler as the new BBK President. Let’s see how long he stays that way.
Something remarkable happened over the weekend. Die Welt am Sonntag published an interview with Tiesler in which he clearly warned of impending power cuts this winter.
“We have to assume that there will be blackouts in winter,” said the Sunday newspaper of the conversation with Germany’s top civil protection officer. “By that I mean a regional and temporary interruption to the power supply. The cause will not only be energy shortages, but also the targeted, temporary shutdown of the grids by the operators with the aim of protecting the grids and not endangering the overall supply.”
You have to know that it is customary in the German press to submit such interviews in writing to the interlocutor before publication for authorization, who can subsequently weaken or clarify his statements. So Tiesler must have chosen his words exactly like that. And as the conversation progresses, it becomes clear why. He wants to wake up.
Because when asked how municipalities and authorities were prepared for possible blackouts, he replied: “Some really exemplary, with precise plans and ensuring the power supply through emergency generators on site. Others are in a much worse position, they are not sufficiently prepared.” That is alarming. Because it means that it depends on how alert a mayor or district administrator is whether you as a citizen get through the winter well.
Ralph Tiesler added: “We are more likely to expect short-term, so-called brownouts, than long-lasting, large-scale blackouts.” But good preparation is also important for this.
Now one might assume that a government whose agency chief issues such a warning would do everything possible to close the gaps in preparation and avert the looming crisis. But what was the reaction?
The BBK responded on Sunday with a public “clarification”. The Federal Office contradicted the statements of its own President: A large-scale power failure in Germany was “extremely unlikely”.
The electrical energy supply system is designed with multiple redundancies and has numerous safety mechanisms to stabilize the power grid in the event of disruptions. “Likewise, the probability is considered low that there will be regional and temporary forced shutdowns in order to continue to ensure the overall supply.”
The fact that BBK boss Tiesler used the term “blackout” in the interview, although he actually meant something else, was actually met with astonishment among experts. Because a “blackout” means the uncontrolled collapse of the power supply. It can take days before the network is stable again afterwards. It’s a catastrophic scenario that the relevant authorities are preparing for, but the network operators are doing everything they can to ensure that it doesn’t happen.
In an emergency, if the supply of electricity becomes too scarce, they switch off the electricity in individual areas by the hour. This is the so-called brownout. It has far less serious consequences than a blackout and serves precisely to prevent it.
In the public debate, however, the two are often mixed up. Blackout is used synonymously with power outage. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a controlled shutdown that is limited in time and location or the far worse uncontrolled total failure. Tiesler probably spoke of the blackout because he wanted to be noticed and understood. In the further conversation he makes the difference between the two scenarios clear several times.
The subsequent clarification on this point is still understandable. However, the following contradiction remains confusing.
According to Tiesler, we have to assume that there will be such power cuts this winter. He specified: “The risk of this increases from January and February, so we assume that from then on there will be power supply interruptions for a certain period of time.”
A statement that corresponds to what the four major electricity network operators in Germany calculated as part of their “stress test”. That was the reason why Economics Minister Robert Habeck and his Greens finally gave in and agreed to a mini-extension of the last three nuclear power plants until mid-April.
But the BBK is now suddenly downplaying this danger and claiming that the likelihood of brownouts occurring is low.
It can be assumed that this was the result of political intervention by the federal government. Because the head of the authorities will certainly not have instructed his press office voluntarily after reading his own interview on Sunday to publish a clarification that contradicted him. When asked about this by Cicero, the Ministry of the Interior only replied: No information could be given about “internal coordination processes”.
Meanwhile, the power grid operators have long been preparing for the supposedly unlikely emergency scenario. “The procedure for a controlled load shedding is a defined technical process that has existed for years and is regularly simulated and trained between the system managers of the transmission system operators and supply system operators in order to prepare as best as possible for such a scenario,” said a spokeswoman for the transmission system operator Amprion.
In an emergency, the command for this comes from the control centers of the four transmission system operators who have divided Germany among themselves. The respective operators of the local supply networks, such as municipal utilities, then have to implement it.
The supply network operators (VNB) “determine independently which parts of their network they switch off in order to achieve the requested savings”, explains the Amprion spokeswoman the procedure. “Should the shutdowns be necessary for several hours, the DSOs roll. This means they bring the consumers that have been switched off back online and switch off other consumers that were not previously affected, so that nobody is without power for more than a few hours.”
The last time there were such controlled power failures in (West) Germany was during the Berlin blockade of 1948/49. The federal government apparently does not want to talk about the fact that and why they are now necessary again.
The plain text interview of the BBK President was probably quite inconvenient for her. That’s probably why his agency immediately had to spread the opposite message: No one intends to turn off the electricity.
But the electricity-consuming citizens have long felt that the real energy transition does not lead to the promised eco-paradise, but above all to energy shortages.
The original of this article “Government does not want to admit that energy transition leads to energy shortage” comes from Cicero Online.