Even in crisis, Germany extends power exports to neighbours

An electrical substation with high-voltage power lines is seen near Weselitz, Germany November 18, 2022. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

FRANKFURT, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Germany exported more electricity to its neighbours than it imported in 2022, even with an energy crisis at home, thanks to more more weather-driven renewable power and greater demand from France.

While Switzerland and Austria were the main export destinations, in a notable shift Germany exported more to France than it imported as the nuclear-reliant country grappled with technical problems at its reactors that curtailed production.

The trade figures show that Germany's neighbours remain dependent on surplus power from Europe's biggest economy if their own generation supplies fall short.

Germany's export surplus grew to 27.5 terawatt hours (TWh) compared with 20.8 TWh a year earlier, according to utility industry association BDEW - in tune with a handful of other recent comments.

In detail, German power imports in 2022 totalled 51 TWh, 2.6% down from 2021, while exports rose 7.3% year-on-year to 78.5 TWh, giving a net export surplus.

Due to the technical problems affecting French reactors, Germany for the first time sold more power to France than it received from its neighbour, doubling its year-earlier export volume there.

France produced 15.1% less power in 2022 and the volume fell short of national usage by 1%.

France faced its own energy crisis amid outages owing to delayed maintenance and stress corrosion.

The Paris government and authorities say the problems are easing, citing progress with maintenance and usage curbs.

German renewable production grew 8.5% in 2022 to 233.9 TWh, the energy regulator said. Onshore wind output was up 12.4% and offshore 2.9%, thanks to high wind speeds. Solar photovoltaics output was up 18.7% at 46.6 TWh in a long and sunny summer.

France, Switzerland and Austria increased energy imports from Germany year-on-year, as did the Czech Republic, Belgium and Norway.

The Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg, meanwhile, reduced shipments from Germany.

Import and export charts do not fully reflect commercial activities in the converging traded wholesale market, however.

This is because transmission grid operators organise cross-border flows mindful of limits posed by historic bottlenecks, so the numbers include pure transit and diverted volumes, called ring-flows.

Import patterns showed more Dutch volumes flowing into Germany and from the Nordic countries, where sea cables operate for Norwegian and Swedish power.

Denmark, in addition, offers onshore and transit connections via the Jutland peninsula.

Volumes originating in Switzerland, Austria, Poland, among others, fell last year.

To help speed up the advent of more harmonised power markets, a new interconnector between Germany and Belgium was opened at the end of 2020, cutting down on transits through the Netherlands.

In mid-2021, a new interconnector to Norway started operating to facilitate mainly the export of German wind and solar and the import of Norwegian hydropower, led by prices.

Reporting by Vera Eckert and Tom Sims, editing by Rachel More;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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Thomson Reuters

Senior power correspondent for Germany with more than 30 years experience and focused on deregulated energy markets for power and gas, companies, networks, exchanges, renewables, policy, storage, future transport and hydrogen. A German native who has studied and worked in the United States and Britain.

Thomson Reuters

Covers German finance with a focus on big banks, insurance companies, regulation and financial crime, previous experience at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times in Europe and Asia.