The coal-fired power plants that have been reactivated since last summer to combat the gas crisis are all still on the market. A total of 14 coal-fired power plants and one mineral oil power plant have so far returned to the grid or have not been shut down, according to an overview by the Federal Network Agency. A spokesman for the authorities said at the request of the dpa that there were no reports of the premature termination of the market use.
A federal government ordinance allows the sale of electricity from reserve power plants that are fired with hard coal or oil until the end of March 2024. Whether the electricity production is worthwhile for power plant operators depends, among other things, on the current wholesale electricity prices. The measure is intended to force natural gas out of the electricity market.
A spokesman for the Essen-based energy company Steag Power confirmed that the company is still active in the electricity market with the coal-fired power plants it has recovered or is still in operation. These power plants usually ran around the clock. Depending on the demand for electricity, they would also be operated at times with reduced output, for example when there is a lot of wind or solar power in the grid and additional coal-fired power is not needed to ensure security of supply.
Which coal-fired power plants are active again?
The coal-fired power plants temporarily brought back by Uniper are also being used commercially, as a spokesman said. "As long as this is necessary and legally possible, these power plants will be available." The capacity utilization is very much dependent on the market conditions and can change accordingly at short notice, he stressed. Uniper wants to use the regulation for another coal-fired power plant at the end of May, which should then not go into reserve.
In the summer of 2022, the Mehrum hard coal-fired power plant in Hohenhameln, Lower Saxony, was the first power plant in Germany to return to the market under the new regulation. It has been active in the electricity market ever since. According to Managing Director Armin Fieber, electricity is generated depending on the market situation. This is decided anew from day to day, taking into account profitability. The plan is to have the power plant participate in the market by the end of March 2024.
Five lignite blocks from the so-called supply reserve were also allowed to return to the market for a limited period. The permit is initially valid until the end of June 2023.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, one third of the electricity generated in Germany and fed into the grid last year came from coal-fired power plants (2021: 30.2 percent). Around 60 percent of the coal power was generated from lignite and around 40 percent from hard coal. The share of natural gas in electricity generation in Germany fell to 11.4 percent last year (2021: 12.6 percent).