Germany's energy policy has restructured the power plant landscape irreversibly and very profoundly. The nuclear phase-out is a good example to demonstrate the radical nature and scope of political decisions regarding the power plant mix. The energy transition aims at nothing less than restructuring and overhauling the entire energy apparatus by the year 2050. GETEC has been involved in this process from the very beginning and is making a significant contribution to the success of the energy transition with its innovative concepts.
What impact is the energy transition having on power plant construction in Germany and Europe?
The basic idea of the energy transition is to expand the use of renewable energies as an alternative to nuclear power and conventional fossil-fuel power plants. Eight nuclear power plants have been decommissioned since 2011. The nine remaining plants are scheduled to be decommissioned by 2022.
According to Germany’s Federal Network Agency, the phase-out of nuclear power could lead to energy shortages in the winter months, which will have to be compensated for by gas-fired and coal-fired power plants. Conventional power plants are also necessary for grid stability, because they can compensate for fluctuations caused by the feed-in of renewable energy.
According to studies conducted by BDEW, security of supply will deteriorate. The BDEW list of power plants (renewable and fossil) over 20 MWel to be built by 2025 counts 74 projects with a total planned capacity of 33.5 GW (as of April 2015). Renewable-based projects (predominantly offshore wind), which make only a limited contribution to secure power plant capacity, and projects that are unlikely to receive approval have to be deducted from this total. The remaining secure addition capacity is therefore only 7.8 GW. On the other hand, there is an announced decommissioning of safe power plant capacity totaling 24.5 GW (BNetzA, as of April 2015).
Not included in this BDEW list are the smaller units for decentralized self-generation, which are often CHP configurations with an electrical output below 20 MW. These have the potential to close the supply gap that power plant closures are causing in Europe's energy landscape.
Power Plant Construction: CHP systems for decentralized self-generation
The number of CHP plants installed has been increasing steadily since 2010. Average growth of the CHP power plant pool has been about 20% per year. CHP plants with electric capacity smaller than 10 MW are responsible for 41% of the 542 MWel put into operation in 2014. The effective use of energy captured in fuel using combined heat and power already enables savings of about 56 million tons of CO2 per year compared to separate generation of electricity and heat. This is equivalent to an additional 160 square kilometers less of sea ice that would melt each year during the Atlantic summer. CHP plants are efficient, safe, and more flexible. Not only that, but they can compensate for grid fluctuations from renewable sources. The German government sees CHP as an instrument worthy of support for the energy transition, with a potential share of 25% of the German electricity mix in 2020.