RE pressure idles more German coal

EnBW, one of Germany’s top four utilities, plans to mothball two hard coal-fired power plant blocks in Heilbronn in Baden-Württemberg state whose operation it says isn’t economically viable anymore due to the expansion of renewable energy capacity in Germany.

The company will soon indicate the planned closure of the plants to transmission system operator Transnet BW and the Federal Network Agency. The TSO will then have to verify whether the power plants in question are relevant for the stability of Germany’s energy supply.

The network agency in December had forbidden EnBW to shutter four other power plants in nearby Marbach and Walheim with a combined capacity of 668MW, whose closure the utility had requested in July 2013, and ordered EnBW to continue operating them until at least July 2016.

“In particular through the significant expansion of renewable energies numerous fossil plants are subject to elevated economic pressure,” EnBW said.

“That leads to drastically sinking revenues. Affected power plants at today’s wholesale electricity prices by a long shot can’t cover their full costs and therefore can’t be operated economically.”

Utilities across Europe, and in particular in Germany, are shuttering many gigawatts of gas-fired and hard-coal generation capacity as those plants often run only partially as renewable and nuclear power enter the grid with priority, and on days of plenty of wind and sun push more expensive power sources such as gas or hard coal out of the market.

Keeping plants operational on a stand-by basis for days with little renewable output is not economically viable, utilities complain.

A study released by Greenpeace yesterday accuses Europe’s top utilities, including EnBW, to have over-invested in fossil power generation capacity in the last decade, ignoring declining demand and a rapidly rising renewables capacity.

EnBW has 4.29GW in fossil capacity in the state of Baden-Württemberg, is in the process of taking a modern 900MW hard coal power plant into operation in Karlsruhe, and is building a further hard coal plant in nearby Mannheim.