German regulator approves closure of 5 GW of power capacity
* Mostly in North-Rhine Westphalia, 12 blocks not seen relevant for supply
* Talks underway about 5 south-western units operated by EnBW
* 11 other units in early stages of assessment
* Still contracting remainder of reserve capacity for winter
FRANKFURT, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Germany's energy regulator said on Monday it has approved the closure of 12 power generation units that operators applied for in a market suffering from low prices and competition for grid access from renewable energy sources.
The regulator, the Bundesnetzagentur, has to ensure that closures do not result in unstable network loads that could threaten supply security, a task made more difficult because Germany in 2011 switched off 40 percent of its nuclear capacity.
The agency's rulings decide whether utilities can receive compensation payments for unprofitable plants and will influence future energy policy as a new government is being formed.
"The closure of 12 units was approved because it was thought to be unproblematic," a spokeswoman for the Bundesnetzagentur said in reply to a query after a media report.
The 12 blocks have a capacity of 5 gigawatts (GW) and, with the exception of two, are based in the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia, she added.
Most of the reactors shut in 2011 are in the industrial south, where many companies rely on 24-hour supply.
The report in the Focus Magazin had said that 5 plants in the south were more problematic and needed further assessment and another 11 were still in an early assessment stage.
The spokeswoman said the 5 units were located at two power stations sites located in the south-western state of Baden Wuerttemberg and operated by utility EnBW. She also confirmed the 11 others.
Last month, the regulator had put the number of applications, which have to be filed a year in advance, at 28 and their total generating capacity at 7 GW.
Apart from EnBW, other leading utilities E.ON and RWE have said they will close many plants in response to the dismal market environment.
E.ON, in an April deal which since has been called a one-off, agreed to keep open its a gas-fired power station at Irsching in Bavaria to provide reserve power in return for a double-digit million euro amount per block per year.
In another measure, to avoid fall-out from tight network situations, the Bundesnetzagentur has to identify and sign up winter reserve capacity for the next few years.
It has not finalised signing up a remaining 0.5 GW of winter reserve capacity to complete an overall target of 2.5 GW for the 2013/2014 season, the spokeswoman said. (Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Louise Heavens)
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