* Network agency says grid firms must prepare
* Some 1,000 MW of reserve power should be on standby
* Worries about possible supply gap later this decade
By Tom Käckenhoff
BONN, Germany, May 4 Germany's power grid faces
a difficult job to prevent blackouts next winter, when demand is
high and closure of nuclear plants still constrains supply, the
country's new energy network regulator said on Friday.
"The situation remains tight ... I do not envisage that the
coming winter will be much different from the previous one in
this regard," Jochen Homann, head of the regulatory authority
called Bundesnetzagentur, told reporters in Bonn at the release
of the agency's annual report.
The country switched off 40 percent of its nuclear capacity
a year ago in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster, risking
strains to the system's performance in providing round-the-clock
The grid, as a result, had to cope with three tricky
situations last winter, when spot power supply fell short of
levels needed to match consumption.
The Bundesnetzagentur oversees flows on energy grids, but
transmission grid firms are responsible for ensuring them.
Homann, a former economy deputy minister who took the helm
of the watchdog in March, said some 1,000 megawatts (MW) of
reserve capacity needed to be accessible in the 2012/13 winter
to ensure that any supply glitches could be covered.
Looking beyond next winter, when the effect of the nuclear
shutdowns should be most acute, policymakers and energy firms
are discussing ways of meeting German demand in the remainder of
the decade as more nuclear plants go offline.
Bundesnetzagentur estimates that the power capacity
situation will be balanced up to 2014, when 12 gigawatts (GW) of
closures should be matched by newly constructed plants.
Further ahead, between 15 and 16 GW of additional capacity
needs to be built, its data shows.
A high-level meeting at the Berlin Chancellery on Wednesday
highlighted concerns about a looming capacity gap.
Homann said his agency recommended no further phase-outs on
top of those planned.
The stalling of a new hard-coal-fired power station at
E.ON's Datteln site should provide a reason to keep
old capacity alive there, rather than stick to old plans to shut
it down, Homann said.
He was also concerned about sluggish construction of
transmission lines, which means that power from new renewable
power facilities might not be transported quickly enough to
Out of 1,834 kilometres of transmission lines deemed
necessary, only 214 km have materialised and a mere 100 km are
operating, he said.
Additional expansion plans that take into account the
nuclear withdrawal schedules are due to be presented in early
(Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff, writing by Vera Eckert, editing
by Jane Baird)