German wind and solar push gas off the grid

GERMANY: Germany's expanding wind and solar generation are pushing gas power stations off the grid, meaning they operate ever fewer hours per year and are struggling to maintain profitability.

The latest problem case is the 860MW gas unit 5 at Irsching in Bavaria, commissioned only two years ago, which the operators now want to mothball for two years in the hope that the market will then be more favourable. The Bavarian state government is uneasy about the proposal.

After the closure of nuclear capacity in the state following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, the state government has called for efforts to ensure power station capacity remains available to safeguard power supply at times when the wind is not blowing and the sun not shining.

Its fears look exaggerated as transmission system operator Tennet, which owns the high-voltage transmssion network in the state, said it has already signed up nearly 2GW of extra so-called winter reserve to ensure grid stability.

Two of the power station units chosen — Irsching 3 with 415MW and Staudinger 4 with 622MW — had also previously been threatened with closure by owner E.on in mid-November for not being "in the money".