An electric pylon stands in a field (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)


Germans ‘may be left in the cold three days a week’, energy titan warns

If German coal plants are closed down, as is required by 2030, the country faces around 100 power cuts of up to 21 hours annually, according to Westenergie, Germany's largest electricity-distribution system operator


Germany’s planned coal phase-out will lead to enormous supply gaps in the power grid, according to the head of the country’s primary domestic energy company.

If German coal plants are closed down, as is required by 2030, the country faces around 100 power cuts of up to 21 hours a time annually, according to Westenergie, Germany’s largest electricity-distribution system operator.

That would mean many areas would be without electricity for around 90 days a year.

Katherina Reiche, head of Westenergie, warned electricity supply was under severe threat and widespread power outages will result from the Government pushing through the planned coal phase-out.

“It may be that we have to postpone the coal phase-out somewhat,” Reiche told the Economic Journalists’ Association in Düsseldorf, according to an article published by Die Welt on March 12.

Reiche, a former politician for the Christian Democrats (CDU), also warned against stirring up exaggerated climate fears among the population.

“Politicians must not give the impression that the world will end after a certain date.”

Instead, the German Government must move away from its “panic rhetoric”, she said.

Drawing on weather data spanning the past three decades and projections of expected production capacities six years in the future, under specific circumstances there exists a substantial risk of significant supply shortfalls in 2030, according to Reiche.

This could potentially result in power shutdowns lasting anywhere from one to 10 hours.

When dark, windless phases are added in to the equation, things could get more disturbing. Periods of undersupply and power shortages, which could last up to 21 hours, may well happen once every three days, she said.

Such long-lasting power outages would cripple an already struggling German economy.

Initial plans by Berlin to phase out coal are aimed at 2038 but the progressive traffic-light Government has brought the date forward to 2030, ostensibly to faster curb global warming.

In late February, three East German regional leaders called on the Government to scrap the 2030 target date.

Die Welt noted that studies, both independent scientific ones and those commercially commissioned, have explored whether Germany could smoothly phase out nuclear power, coal and gas within a few years.

Results vary: Some say it is possible but at an eye-wateringly high cost, while others warn of serious risks to Germany’s electricity supply reliability.

The war in Ukraine has thrown a spanner in the works; Russian natural gas is no longer able to play a role and climate-neutral alternatives are insufficiently available.

The costs regarding Germany’s Energiewende – energy transition – are becoming clearer. At least €5 trillion in investments will be needed for Germany to reach its goal of climate neutrality, forecasting institute and state-owned KfW Bank said, much on electrification.

Reiche suggested that by 2035 an average of €12 billion to €16 billion a year will need to have been invested to upgrade the electricity distribution grid alone.

Ultimately, all these costs will fall on the shoulders of customers either via their electricity bills or indirectly through taxes.