August 31, 2011 / 9:46 AM / 8 years ago

German regulator discards nuclear as reserve power

BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany’s energy regulator on Wednesday dismissed the option of keeping spare nuclear capacity on standby should power systems be overstretched in the coming winter months.

Nuclear power plant of Gundremmingen is pictured at a sunny day next to a flowering meadow on May 14, 2011. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle (

“We’ve been spared the necessity to reactivate a nuclear power station,” the president of the federal network agency, Matthias Kurth, told reporters in Berlin.

The announcement ended speculation about whether parts of Germany’s nuclear capacity, about 8,800 MW of which was shut in the wake of the recent Japanese nuclear disaster, would be reopened if power were to run short in periods of high demand when renewable power output is low.

Kurth said that he had won assurances that hard-coal-fired plants could prepare to provide additional capacity in such instances.

These plants were specified in a written statement as follows — GKM 3, a 220 megawatt coal-fired unit at a Mannheim power station; the 350 MW gas-fired block 2 of the Mainz-Wiesbaden power station; and hard-coal fired block C of the Ensdorf power station.

GKM is jointly operated by utilities E.ON, RWE and MVV. Mainz-Wiesbaden is owned by the public sector, and Ensdorf belongs to RWE Power.

“In total, we have secure reserve capacity amounting to 1,009 MW in Germany and in Austria of 1,075 MW,” Kurth said. He said tight situations could thus be mastered but that remaining risks could not be ruled out entirely.

He also said there was a need to complete a new high-voltage power line between Hamburg and Schwerin in the north as well as to get permission from North-Rhine Westphalia state to run blocks 1 and 3 of E.ON’s Datteln plant until its new coal-to-power block 4 has been opened.

He also said that Hesse state should consider whether E.ON’s Staudinger 3 coal-fired block should be run between December 31, 2012 and March 31, 2013 in order for a new block to be completed.

The regulator’s actions were necessary because power transmission grid operators needed to know how to balance the networks in the cold months.

Kurth was under a September 1 deadline to come up with a solution, as the prevention of power blackouts falls under his authority’s brief.

So far, the sudden closure of 41 percent of Germany’s nuclear capacity has been absorbed, but this could change under unfavorable weather conditions in the converging central European power markets.

Baden Wuerttemberg state said last Friday it had offered to re-permission GKM 3.

Any reserve plants will operate only up to March 2013, by which time it is expected that enough renewable power capacity will have been added to make additional reserves unnecessary.

Kurth had been threatening to enforce the resumption of nuclear capacity in Baden Wuerttemberg, Bavaria or Hesse state, if no other alternatives were made ready.

He nevertheless depends on the cooperation of individual states to push through the requirements he has formulated for transmission lines to come on stream and for old capacity to be stretched before Germany can start relying increasingly on green power.

Reporting by Markus Wacket and Vera Eckert, editing by Jane Baird

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