“In Germany, we have a very high level of security of supply in the electricity system,” promises Economics Minister Habeck. Does that also apply in extreme cases? Experts do not expect an uncontrolled collapse in the power supply. However, it might not be enough for everyone for a short period of time.

Are there any power outages this winter due to the energy crisis? A representative survey by the Civey Institute recently showed that a majority (53 percent) of citizens are very concerned about this. Among 18 to 29-year-olds it was even 60 percent, as reported by the news portal “Watson”. But how likely are power outages in Germany this winter? An overview.

The Federal Network Agency was aware of exactly 162,224 power outages in 868 power grids nationwide in 2020, around 2,400 more than in 2019. Based on the individual customer, this meant no power for an average of 10.73 minutes, mind you, for the whole year. This was the lowest downtime since the authorities first surveyed it in 2006. The average for the years 2010 to 2020 is 14.05 minutes. When the figures were published, the Federal Network Agency spoke of a “constantly high level” of “supply reliability”.

The electricity market expert Christian Rehtanz does not assume that there is a greater risk of power failure. “The electricity system is secured at its peak by gas-fired power plants in order to cover the required output,” says the professor for energy systems and energy management at the Technical University of Dortmund. That’s why the gas and electricity sectors are linked. “Due to the immense importance of the electricity sector, you become everything do to keep this running.” He assumes that even in the event of a gas shortage, gas will primarily be used to generate electricity and industrial customers will no longer be supplied with gas.

Electricity market expert Fabian Huneke from the consulting firm Energy Brainpool does not fear a blackout in Germany this winter, i.e. an uncontrolled collapse of the electricity supply. “At best, a so-called brownout is possible, in which the transmission system operators would have to take individual large consumers or regions off the grid by the hour,” says Huneke. This could happen in the early evening when it is very cold, for example, when household electricity consumption increases sharply.

Households in France play an important role: “Especially in France, a lot of heating is done with electricity.” If there is not enough nuclear power there, the load undersupply could spill over to the neighboring European markets and also cause problems in this country, because then comparatively much electricity This is made possible by the coupling of the European electricity grids, which not only enables cross-border electricity trading, but can also ensure greater grid stability in emergency situations.

To the Check24 electricity

According to Huneke, almost half of France’s 56 nuclear power plants are currently off the grid. The reason for this is repair work and the occurrence of cracks in emergency cooling circuits. France’s energy transition minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said at the beginning of September that the electricity company EDF had committed to putting all nuclear power plants back into operation this winter. Huneke: “A large proportion of the French systems are quite old. That’s why they are more susceptible to interference than the Germans, who are much younger.”

On the one hand there are the electricity producers who want to sell their electricity – from private households with solar roofs to large electricity producers such as RWE or Leag. On the other hand, the network operators take care of the electricity transport to the consumers, above all four large companies that maintain the so-called transmission network. The companies 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT and TransnetBW are responsible for the overhead lines through which the electricity flows at maximum voltage – 150,000 volts or more. Companies are legally obliged to operate a “safe, reliable and efficient energy supply network”.

The Ministry of Economics wanted to know that in the summer. And for several reasons: because of the low water in many important waterways, because of the failure of many French nuclear power plants and the overall tense situation on the energy markets since the Russian attack on Ukraine.

For the so-called stress test, the TSOs ran through three scenarios with different difficult conditions. For example, it was about making assumptions about the level of the rivers that supply coal-fired power plants with fuel. Various assumptions were also made about the availability of French nuclear power plants, the use of fan heaters and the availability of gas in southern Germany. There were two core questions: Is there enough electricity available under difficult conditions, both in Germany and in neighboring European countries? And will the power grid remain stable under these conditions?

The network operators assess the supply situation in the coming winter half-year under the difficult conditions of all three scenarios as “extremely tense”. In the two more critical scenarios, “load shortages” lasting several hours also occur in Germany in a few hours. This means that the demand for electricity would then be higher than the supply – not everyone could be supplied with electricity. According to the study, in the most difficult scenario in Germany this could mean undercoverage for 3 to 12 hours throughout the winter.

The grid operators have also examined the security of transport in the power grid, the so-called grid security. Result: In none of the three scenarios is there enough power plant capacity available in Germany to avoid network bottlenecks. At least 5.8 gigawatts of secured balancing potential would be required abroad. This roughly corresponds to the output of four large nuclear power plants.

“Using all possibilities to increase electricity generation and transport capacities” is “strongly recommended”. Among other things, they advocate securing the use of additional power plant capacities, for example by returning coal-fired power plants from the reserve to the market or by securing the gas supply of In this context, they describe the availability of the three nuclear power plants that are still in operation as a further “building block for controlling critical situations”. It also outlines what would happen if all the recommended measures were not sufficient: “Exports would then have to be restricted or large consumers controlled and temporarily switched off in order to maintain network security”.

At the presentation of the stress test on September 5, the Ministry of Economics announced: “A crisis situation in the electricity system in winter 22/23 is very unlikely, but cannot be completely ruled out at the moment.” However, to ensure that there are no power outages, additional Measures needed to strengthen network security A number of measures that the stress test considers necessary are being implemented, such as the return of coal-fired power plants to the market, said Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens).

The Ministry of Economic Affairs wants two of the three remaining nuclear power plants to form a so-called “operational reserve” for emergencies. If necessary, the Isar 2 power plants in Bavaria and Neckarwestheim in Baden-Württemberg should make an additional contribution to the power grid in winter: Either they should largely run through if bottlenecks become apparent early on, or are then started up again after the stop planned for the end of the year. New fuel rods are not to be used for this. The two power plants are to be available by mid-April. After that, they should also be finally over “Nuclear power is and will remain a high-risk technology,” says Habeck, justifying his adherence to the nuclear phase-out.

The Emsland nuclear power plant in Lower Saxony will not be part of the reserve, but will be finally shut down as planned at the end of the year. Habeck argues that there are fewer alternative nuclear power plants in southern Germany than in the north. In an emergency, floating oil power plant ships are to be used to cover possible gaps in northern Germany.

No, the federal government has not yet made a final decision on Habeck’s proposal. While Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) supported the proposal, the FDP is in favor of the nuclear power plants continuing to operate. “It is essential to increase capacities on the electricity market and thus lower the galloping prices. The three safe nuclear power plants must continue to run,” said Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) of the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung”. The opposition parties CDU and CSU also want all three nuclear power plants to continue operating.

More on the subject:

“Behave like you are on a camping holiday” – the city in Bavaria distributes panic flyers with instructions for a blackout

The city of Rosenheim distributes flyers giving advice on what to do in the event of a blackout. “Plan as you would for a 14-day camping holiday in your own four walls,” says the note.

Stadtwerke Düsseldorf is currently sending letters about upcoming gas price increases. But the letters should not help many. Because the letter simply contains a complicated formula with which the increase is calculated.

In order for Germany to become less dependent on Russian gas, private households will also have to take on more responsibility. From the. The second stage of the new Energy Saving Ordinance takes effect on October 1st. What does that mean for consumers?

Suddenly the gas bill is 35 times as high: a family from Hilden recently received this shocking news. According to their provider, they should now pay 3192 euros per month, for others it is 1113 euros. More and more Germans are receiving mail with horrendous gas prices from November 1st.