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The looming German capacity crunch

January 27, 2020

By Paul Homewood


A pertinent update from Timera:



The looming German capacity crunch

The German Energiewende has supported impressive growth in renewables since its inception. Wind and solar now accounts for 47% of German capacity. A renewed policy emphasis on renewables means this percentage is set to increase significantly over the new few years, with new targets of 98GW of solar, 20GW of offshore wind and 73GW of onshore wind by 2030.

Set against this growth in intermittent generation is a rapid reduction in installed firm capacity. 16GW of nuclear, coal and lignite closures are scheduled by the end of 2022, 29GW by 2030.

The German policy narrative is for renewables growth to offset the closure of nuclear, coal & lignite capacity… but the numbers tell a different story. In this article we examine the net effect of these two contrasting capacity changes and set out why we see a looming capacity crunch.

The supply deficit in numbers

In 2019 the German coal commission provided recommendations to phase out Germany’s coal and lignite capacity by 2038, starting in 2022. These recommendations have now been drafted into a proposed law released last week. This will formalise the pathway to zero-coal.

Under the legislation, coal and lignite capacity will be capped at 15GW each by 2022, at 8 and 9GW respectively in 2030 and at 0GW by the end of 2038.

In addition to coal closures, Germany will also close its remaining nuclear fleet by 2022 as part of the Energiewende. 12GW of nuclear capacity has been closed under this policy already, with coal generation making up the shortfall. The remaining 8GW of nuclear is due to close in 2022, but with coal capacity also closing, the current policy intention is for renewables to plug the gap.

Both coal and nuclear closures are dictated by legislation. This significantly reduces uncertainty around closure volumes & timelines.

Projecting renewables growth is inherently more risky and subject to investor sentiment. However, for simplicity we assume Germany meets its aggressive new wind and solar targets in the following analysis (i.e. we show an optimistic view of renewable build).

On the renewables front, the latest 2030 targets are for an additional 48GW of solar and 33GW of wind capacity by 2030, totalling 81GW combined capacity.  As Chart 1 shows, on a net capacity basis, that renewable installations clearly outpace closures, so what is the problem?

Chart 1: Known German capacity changes

Source: Timera Energy

In a nutshell, the large increase in nameplate capacity turns into a deficit once de-rating is considered. Nuclear and coal capacity is firm and dispatchable on demand, whereas wind and solar capacity is not. Once de-rating is considered, we see a net de-rated capacity shortfall of -13GW by 2022 and -20GW by 2030.

De-rating is important to consider as it allows us to see what the capacity situation will be across peak demand periods, to ensure security of supply.

Nuclear and coal assets are dispatchable and so have high de-rating factors (80% +). Solar generation is low or non-existent across peak demand whilst wind generation is unpredictable and so de-rating factors are lower than annual average load-factors.


 The full post is here.


But let’s backtrack.

During this January demand in Germany has peaked at around 74GW. Allowing for spikes and a sensible safety margin, Germany should have at least 80GW of bankable capacity at hand. Allowing for derating, that is the fact that individual plants cannot supply for 100% of the time, that figure should rise to about 100GW.




Germany currently has capacity of 211GW, including 109GW of wind/solar. In other words, 102GW of dispatchable power.


According to Timera, coal/lignite capacity will be capped at 17GW by 2030, and nuclear will be gone completely. Assuming nothing else changes, that will leave us with dispatchable capacity by 2030 of:


Bio: 8..2

Hydro: 4.8

Oil:   4.4

Gas:  29.9

Coal:  17.0

TOTAL: 64.3


Clearly Germany is facing a very serious problem, probably an understatement!

Maybe they are hoping to rely on imports, but as Timera point out, with France and the Netherlands also closing coal and nuclear capacity, that could be dangerous. Moreover they also show that when wind power is low in Germany it also tends to be so in Belgium, France, Netherlands and Italy.

This is where Timera totally lose the plot, so immersed are they in the “need” to decarbonise. Their proposed solution to the pending catastrophe is demand side management (DSR) and battery storage!

The gap between daily peak and low demand is around 20GW, so even if demand could be perfectly smoothed within the day it would only cut peak demand by 10GW. In reality, most consumption cannot be deferred at peak times, so any saving would likely be in the region of 1 or 2GW.

As for batteries, you would need an awful lot to bridge the gap.

Even with daily demand smoothed, Germany will still need 90GW of dispatchable capacity, particularly if transport and heating are electrified, leaving them 25GW short at the moment. By 2038, when all the coal capacity is shut, that figure will increase to 42GW.

They had better get building a lot of gas power stations fast!

As an aside, I read today in another context about how Merkel has become complacent in recent months, knowing her time will soon be up.

It actually seems to be symptomatic of the country as a whole.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    January 27, 2020 6:29 pm

    The 2019 chart below is interesting.

    Germany’s max & min demands are similar to those of France. However, it’s emissions are approx 8x greater per TWh generated.

    (Apols for low-resolution image, it’s the only one I could find)

    2018’s figures are clearer:

    • bobn permalink
      January 28, 2020 12:42 am

      Whats an emission? Sounds like greenie bullpat speak. Emissions are greaT WE NEED MORE

    • Scott Scarborough permalink
      January 28, 2020 1:54 pm

      Is DE Germany? Where is Germany?

  2. January 27, 2020 6:39 pm

    the current policy intention is for renewables to plug the gap

    Which is like expecting a bucket with a hole in it to hold water.

  3. Michael Adams permalink
    January 27, 2020 6:40 pm

    “They had better get building a lot of gas power stations fast!” Too right and this may be their master plan. The gas pipeline from Russia takes on even more importance but that leaves Europe, especially Germany, very vulnerable to Russian influence politically. In any case gas will be in the sights of the Greens soon enough and they are politically much stronger there than in the UK where politically they are still seen as a bit of a joke.

  4. Shoki Kaneda permalink
    January 27, 2020 7:20 pm

    The Stasi mole is close to succeeding, destroying her old enemy.

  5. Mack permalink
    January 27, 2020 8:07 pm

    “The looming German capacity crunch”. I wouldn’t feel too smug. For ‘German’ read ‘British’. With current policies we too are heading off the energy cliff quicker than one of Sir David Attenborough’s pet walruses.

  6. January 27, 2020 8:47 pm

    Energiewende was legislated in 2010 and has proceeded at unfathomable cost, economic and human, for no noticeable effect on Germany’s CO2 emissions:

    George Santayana: “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim”.

  7. Harry Passfield permalink
    January 27, 2020 9:06 pm

    Ever so slightly off topic – but about CC hysteria – the media are trying hard to push the message of climate change. To the extent that even on tonight’s Coronation Street they get one of the main characters, who having fallen for the anti-vaxers’ ideals, had seen his baby son go down with measles when he failed to have him immunised, and who then compares his idiocy of belief with that of climate change deniers!

  8. cbsjr42 permalink
    January 27, 2020 9:47 pm

    Am I missing something or is this analysis totally dismissing the renewables? Meaning it is assuming all power must be provided by dispatchable power with no contribution by wind/solar. Has a plot been done of demand against renewable output over time to identify true gaps?

    • Dave Ward permalink
      January 27, 2020 9:55 pm

      Because solar doesn’t work at night, and wind can drop to effectively zero output, you HAVE to plan for “dispatchable power” being able to supply 100% of demand – otherwise the lights go out. This simple fact seems to escape the Green brigade, and (apparently) most of the German public. The latter might change when there have been some major blackouts…

    • January 28, 2020 10:28 am

      It assumes that wind and solar cannot be relied on all of the time.

    • Joe Public permalink
      January 28, 2020 11:21 am

      “Has a plot been done of demand against renewable output over time to identify true gaps?”

      Renewables have priority access to market, so generally every kWh generated by gas and coal is because renewables, particularly intermittent wind & solar, have been unable to generate sufficiently.

      (We’ve 35GW of wind & solar capacity, plus hydro & biomass capacity)

      See ‘Last Year (Day Averages)’ chart for 2019 here:

  9. Dave Ward permalink
    January 27, 2020 10:00 pm

    “Demand side management”

    By 2030 that will most likely have been taken care of, as by then very few people will be able to afford using electricity:

  10. January 27, 2020 11:05 pm

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  11. Ian Wilson permalink
    January 28, 2020 7:42 am

    Off topic but John Redwood’s diary invites comments on his post today on CO2. Readers of this blog might like to send informed comments.

    • Steve permalink
      January 28, 2020 9:01 am

      Apparently, Mrs Merkel is having second thoughts and is saying that other opinions should be allowed to be heard. Wonders never cease.

  12. TomO permalink
    January 28, 2020 8:12 am

    It really is a modern Morgenthau Plan

    A number of Germans of my acquaintance have gritted their teeth for the sake of the planet but they are rational people who can do sums and they wince at their electricity bills and look at the evidence and they are getting very angry….

    When this blows up and people start pushing back I think we know that it’s going to go all Godwin’s law as far as the Greens are concerned – that’s unless they channel the mid 20th Century Teutonic “back to nature” crew huh?

    • February 4, 2020 6:41 pm

      It’s worse than Morgenthau. He planned to let us Germans agricluture. But our glorious goverment is working even against the farmers. You may have heard about the Farmer’s protests.

  13. Phoenix44 permalink
    January 28, 2020 8:54 am

    So currently Germany has twice the capacity it needs because half of that capacity needs to have a back-up….

    And Germans wonder why their electricity is so expensive?

  14. TomO permalink
    January 28, 2020 8:54 am

    German “green” subsidies were funded in large part by massive “windfall taxes” on nuclear plants (the “windfall” being they were granted licence extensions).

    Taxing zerocarbon central stations to subsidise rooftop solar is classic “reverse Robin Hood” policy.

    h/t @EnergyJvd

    not going to end well this …..

  15. Nial permalink
    January 28, 2020 8:55 am

    I know the UK has ~50,000 excess winter deaths every year.

    In Germany it gets properly cold, and their electricity’s getting very expensive. I wonder what their numbers are like?

  16. January 28, 2020 9:08 am

    Perhaps Timera read my blog from last year
    Germany is committed to shutting down their nuclear power stations by 2022. The second column show consumption on May 1 2018 at 14.25 hrs the third column predicts what will happen when nuclear and coal are shut down and the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
    It predicts a Deficit 15,000 MWh deficit so where will this electricity come from? Not the UK

  17. January 28, 2020 9:43 am

    Perhaps Timera read Paul’s blog from July last year.
    My projections reckoned a massive deficit for the future when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

  18. Gerry, England permalink
    January 28, 2020 1:51 pm

    The appearance of Rossby (ironically a German) Waves on the jetstream causes more blocking highs where the movement of the weather systems stop and Europe can become becalmed and befrozen for up to 2 weeks. The UK has been lucky to avoid these deep cold spells the last few years but they have certainly affected Germany.

    Sometime soon a European country is going to explode because of the lunacy and go beyond the gilets jaune to a more Chile type thing with deaths.

  19. January 29, 2020 11:06 pm

    Some months ago I tried to explain the concept of load shedding to a German I happened to strike up a conversation with. It was a tough job as it was hard to convey the concept of having to plan one’s use of electric power. I have friends in South Africa that must plan for their phone charging as if they mishandle this they end up with black screens and no way to charge them. But help is on the horizon. After 2022 and afterload shedding has become a reality in Germany, I won’t need to explain very much anymore. Once you are exposed to it you know it in the flesh. And most people need those visceral experiences in order to understand what they are dealing with when it comes to renewables.

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