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Analysis: German front-month gas-fired margins negative for 1st time since April


Dec clean sparks negative on lower power, higher gas prices

Q1 2020 gas margins competitive, only new coal ahead

Datteln 4, coal closure compensation auctions key for 2020

London — German gas-fired generation margins have turned negative for the front-month for the first time since April, but remain competitive with mid-range coal plants for the year ahead, S&P Global Platts data showed Thursday.

The clean spark spread (CSS) for a 50% efficient gas plant for December fell to minus Eur1.14/MWh after peaking at multi-year highs this summer.

The clean dark spread (CDS) for a 45% efficient coal plant for December, meanwhile, fell to Eur5.44/MWh.

December gas prices have risen to their highest level since March, while December power has lost 10% of its value over the past month.

Further out, gas plant margins for Q1 2020 remain competitive with mid-range coal plants, with the CSSs (50% efficiency) pegged at Eur4.21/MWh for the quarter, while CDSs range from Eur10/MWh (45% efficient plant, of which there is around 8 GW) down to minus Eur1.39/MWh (35% efficient, of which this is barely any plant left online).

Gas-fired generation rose 11% on the year to 66 TWh for the first nine months of 2019, according to industry-wide BDEW data, almost twice as high as the daily generation data excluding units below 100 MW.

Hard coal generation plunged 45% on the year in October as relatively high carbon and low gas prices weighed on coal plant economics, transmission system operator data show. German hard coal output has averaged 5.4 GW so far this year, down 23% on the year and compared with installed capacity of over 20 GW.


The government is preparing a draft law for the coal phase-out, set to cut hard coal capacity to 15 GW by 2022.

How much capacity needs to close depends whether the new 1.1 GW Datteln 4 coal plant comes online as planned next summer, as well as ongoing closure applications.

Uniper plans to grid connect the unit in January, despite a recommendation by the coal commission to abandon new coal projects. The company is requesting compensation for the Eur1.5 billion project that started construction in 2007, should the government follow the recommendation.

A leaked draft of the hard coal closure law does not specify such compensation, but instead envisages closure auctions for the requiredvolume to meet the 15 GW cap.

Closure compensation would be awarded in a reverse auction with compensation paid to the lowest bidder per CO2 emissions saved on a recent average basis.

The draft law, which keeps volumes and other details blank, states "commissioning new hard-coal plants is forbidden unless the unit hasbeen fully constructed by the time this law becomes binding."

A spokesman for Uniper told S&P Global Platts last week that testing of the new plant at Datteln continues with "first fire" scheduled for December, following successful pressure tests for the new boiler and coal bunkered on site since October.

Uniper in September extended the closure application for its modern gas-fired CCGT units at Irsching until 2021. It currently sees no viable market prospects for the gas units with 1.4 GW capacity that were commissioned around 2012.

Location is set to play a major role in the first coal closure auctions, with many plants in Southern Germany prevented from permanent closure for grid security reasons.

-- Andreas Franke,

-- Edited by James Burgess,