London — Two gas-fired power stations with a combined 2.7 GW returned to the German and Dutch power markets Oct. 1 after years of being mothballed, operators Uniper and RWE said.
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Back on the system are Uniper's 1.4-GW CCGT at Irsching in Bavaria and RWE's 1.3-GW Claus C CCGT in the Netherlands.
"Despite the nuclear and coal exits, we still need enough secured generation capacity in the future," Bavarian economy and energy minister Hubert Aiwanger said in a Uniper statement.
The Bavarian minister called on the federal government to create a "systematic investment framework for such power plants."
The Irsching plant consists of two units -- Irsching 4 (550 MW commissioned in 2011, solely owned by Uniper) and Irsching 5 (850 MW commissioned in 2010, jointly owned with regional utilities).
Since 2013 both have been missing from the wholesale market, operating under redispatch contracts with grid operator Tennet after grid regulator BNetzA rejected Uniper's closure application.
Earlier this year Uniper decided not to extend the contract to the end of September 2021, opting instead to return the plant to the wholesale market.
Furthermore, Uniper is building a 300-MW gas-fired unit on the site (Irsching 6) to help stabilize the grid from October 2022 after German transmission system operators tendered for four such units in Southern Germany to help deal with the nuclear exit.
Uniper COO David Bryson described the return of Irsching as a "good day for climate protection in Europe", adding the plant would not have been mothballed "if Germany and Europe" had taken climate protection as seriously years ago as it did today.
"Fortunately, all the signals from the politicians point to a further strengthening of emissions trading, which makes us confident for the foreseeable future," Bryson said.
The owners would assess the economic viability of the Irsching units on an annual basis, Uniper said.
Gas gains share of Dutch, German power mix
Meanwhile RWE had decided in early 2019 to return its Claus C gas plant to the market after placing it in mothballs shortly after its 2012 commissioning.
The utility had plans to connect the plant directly to the Belgian grid via a 13-km (8-mile) high-voltage cable but this has been blocked by the Dutch government.
RWE could still, however, bid the unit into a future Belgian capacity mechanism, with Belgian TSO Elia indicating cross-border capacity was sufficient to allow for material exports.
Dutch coal-fired output plunged 63% year on year in the first half of 2020 to only 4 TWh with gas plant output just marginally higher on year at 34.5 TWh, data from government statistics agency CBS showed.
In Germany, gas' share in the power mix rose as coal plunged, with gas plants generating 67.3 TWh in the first nine months 2020, up 2% on year, industry group BDEW data showed, with gas moving above lignite in the power mix.
Irsching and Claus C have some of Europe's highest efficiency ratings ranging between 58% and 60% lower heating value (around 53% higher heating value) putting them above modern coal units (45% efficiency) in the merit order with S&P Global Platts data showing clean dark spreads (45% efficiency) on a par with clean spark spreads (50% efficiency HHV) for the fourth quarter.
However, generation margins for gas plants have fallen since gas prices rebounded from a record low this summer, while coal margins rose slightly after CO2 prices fell back from record highs.
GERMAN POWER MIX 2020
Source: BDEW (preliminary estimates)