Critical undersupply three times In June, the German power grid was at risk of a blackout

DÜSSELDORF · In June, the electricity grid in Germany suffered severe shortages three times. European partners had to help out to remedy the situation. Officials are now investigating why electricity became so scarce.

 Die untergehende Sonne hat den Himmel über Hochspannungsleitungen verfärbt.

Die untergehende Sonne hat den Himmel über Hochspannungsleitungen verfärbt.

Foto: dpa

In June, the German electricity grid was repeatedly in a critical situation. "On June 6, 12 and 25, the German network operators noticed a strong undersupply in the German system, which led in each case to a drop in the network frequency in the entire European network," said spokespersons for the grid operators Amprion and TransnetBW. "The situation was very tense and could only be resolved with the support of the European partners”.

What happened? On those days, the supply of electricity was at times significantly lower than demand. Electricity distributors were unable to supply the electricity they had sold. So the four grid operators had to intervene and provide their reserves. The grid operators require power plants to keep 3000 megawatts in reserve for this purpose. But even that was hardly enough, the price for reserve energy skyrocketed - up to 37,900 euros per megawatt hour. Normally it is less than 100 euros. The grid operators had to buy additional power abroad and disconnect major customers such as the aluminium producer Trimet.

No extra-high voltage lines

Is renewable energy to blame? The electricity grid has not yet been designed to transport the masses of wind power from the north to the industrial centers in the south. Of the 7,700 kilometers of power lines that are needed, only around 1,000 kilometers have been completed to date. However, the ministry emphasized: "According to the latest information, it is very unlikely that renewable energies are related to these events".

Who's to blame?

This is now being investigated by the Bundesnetzagentur ( Federal Network Agency which is the German regulatory office for electricity, gas, telecommunications, post and railway markets) and the network operators. There are two possible causes: Either there were problems in forecasting demand, or it has to do with the pricing system for reserve energy being changed not long ago, which the Green party criticizes. Or speculators drove the prices up. Electricity distributors could not have compensated for supply gaps at their own expense in order to force the grid operators to intervene and thus increase their own profits.

What follows for consumers?

Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy offers reassurance: "There was no problem with security of supply." The network operators have taken precautions and doubled their reserves. The ministry does not expect the price explosions to have an impact on consumers.

When will coal be phased out?

As a first step, Altmaier wants to propose a law to the cabinet which promotes structural change in the coal regions. This would happen after the summer break.

(Orig. text: Antje Höning, Birgit Marschall, Translation: ck)

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