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Decarbonization not possible with German wind, solar alone: Altmaier

Highlights

Nuclear, coal closures to reduce current oversupply

17 GW capacity to shut in two years to end-2022

Cost concerns key reason for sluggish coal exit post-2023

Decarbonizing Germany's economy was not possible via wind and solar alone, energy minister Peter Altmaier said Tuesday, noting that green hydrogen would be needed in the longer term.

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Government-defined power station closure dates around 2021-22 are set to reduce German nuclear and coal capacity from 47 GW this summer to 30 GW by end-2022.

"At the moment and over the course of the year, we have too much rather than too little electricity," Altmaier said at the Handelsblatt energy conference in Berlin.

Closures would erase oversupply, however, requiring Germany to pursue renewables while looking at green hydrogen production options in the North Sea and North Africa.

Meanwhile Germany was close to meeting its 2020 climate target thanks to a drastic 18% decline in power sector emissions last year, Altmaier said.

Coal exit timetable

Justifying the government's coal phase out timetable, the minister said costs needed to be controlled to win public acceptance.

"For the coming months I am particularly concerned with keeping electricity prices as stable as possible, maintaining the international competitiveness of energy-intensive companies and relieving the burden for consumers," he said.

Environmental groups criticized the sluggish coal exit pace after 2023, while industry groups warned of rising energy prices.

In terms of replacement plant, a government paper last week mentioned two new gas plants at former lignite sites, with subsidies for urban/industrial cogeneration to be extended by the coal exit law.

"17 GW of gas-fired CHP units are required by 2030 to guarantee the current high level of security of supply," utility lobby BDEW said, calling upon the government to create the necessary framework conditions.

Germany has 25 GW of gas capacity online. System operators expect this to rise above 30 GW by 2030 but with a recent 2035 grid plan scenario capping gas plant capacity at 34.2 GW.

Uniper recently extended a closure application for two CCGT units at Irsching until Q4 2021.

Two other operators withdrew closure applications with RWE's Gersteinwerk unit F and the Herdecke H6 gas plant operated by Statkraft/Mark-E back in the market, according to a closure list published Friday by grid operator BNetzA.

Some 4 GW of system-critical capacity in south Germany is not allowed to close with internal grid bottlenecks slowing down wind growth in the north.

GERMAN NUCLEAR, LIGNITE, COAL CLOSURE TIMETABLE

Operator
Fuel
Unit
Capacity (MW)
Closure date
Notes
RWE
Lignite
tba (supplied by Hambach mine)
300
end-2020
Lignite exit timetable 2020
tba (auction)
Hard-coal
tba
4000
mid-2021
Closure compensation auction
RWE
Lignite
tba (supplied by Hambach mine)
900
end-2021
Lignite exit timetable
PreussenElektra
Nuclear
Grohnde
1400
end-2021
Nuclear exit timetable 2011
PreussenElektra
Nuclear
Brokdorf
1400
end-2021
Nuclear exit timetable 2011
RWE
Nuclear
Gundremmingen C
1300
end-2021
Nuclear exit timetable 2011
RWE
Lignite
tba (supplied by Hambach mine)
300
2022 April
Lignite exit timetable 2020
tba (auction)
Hard-coal
tba
2000
mid-2022
Closure compensation auction
RWE
Lignite
tba (supplied by Hambach mine)
1320
end-2022
Lignite exit timetable 2020
RWE
Nuclear
Emsland
1300
end-2022
Nuclear exit timetable 2011
EnBW
Nuclear
Neckarwestheim 2
1400
end-2022
Nuclear exit timetable 2011
PreussenElektra
Nuclear
Isar 2
1400
end-2022
Nuclear exit timetable 2011
Total
17200

Source: S&P Global Platts