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  • December 2nd, 2011

European power markets face increased winter risk

Europe’s power markets will face a risk to security of supply if there are severe weather conditions this winter — defined as those which may be expected one in every 10 years to significantly increase demand or reduce supply — following the shutdown of eight nuclear reactors in Germany, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (Entso-E) said.

Cross-border transfer capacities will be sufficient to balance electricity supply and demand across Europe under normal weather conditions, Entso-E said in its Winter Outlook Report. “It is when winter conditions become extreme and widespread that there is a significant risk to security of supply in some major European areas,” Entso-E president Daniel Dobbeni said.

Europe’s transmission system operators (TSOs) will be “on alert” this winter, largely because winter reserve capacities are lower than in previous years as a result of Germany’s decision to close 8.4GW of nuclear generation capacity in response to the accident at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi plant in March.

Germany, Europe’s biggest power market, could require imports even under normal temperature conditions on days with high demand and low feed-ins from wind and solar power. Serbia, Finland, Denmark and Latvia could also need imports to meet demand and reserve requirements during average temperatures.

But “there are no issues under normal conditions because cross-border transfer capacities are sufficient to provide imports to those countries and regions that require it”, the report concluded.

Sustained low temperatures will put power systems under pressure, most notably in France and Germany.

While the review indicates that power demand will be met and reserves maintained under severe conditions, it adds that cross-border supply will be more crucial than in the past to ensure system security.

The first two weeks in December, weeks 49 and 50, are the most critical as cross-border flows will need to reach their maximum to maintain power grid stability under severe conditions. France, heavily dependent on electrical heating, might need to import up to 7GW during these weeks if there is a sustained cold spell, with Germany unlikely to be able to assist its neighbour with exports.

“The key week for Europe is probably week 50, when France and Germany simultaneously require peak imports for the winter period under severe conditions,” Entso-E said. Some weeks in January and February could also see risks to security of supply, according to the review.

All TSOs on the French and German borders will need to closely co-ordinate their efforts to maintain grid stability and ensure maximum cross-border transfer capabilities during these weeks by taking measures such as redispatching of power plants.

Germany’s four TSOs could take further measures such as reducing wind infeed in the north, and implementing manual load shedding and demand-site management to ease the pressure on the country’s north-south connection. Germany can also call on 1GW of reserve capacity and has secured 900MW of reserve capacity in Austria.

Finland and Latvia will be dependent on imports to meet peak demand if there are severe conditions, while Belgium, Denmark and the UK could require imports to maintain reserve margins.

There is an urgent need for European countries to reinforce their electricity grids beyond this winter to accommodate “major changes in generations observed all over Europe”, with the EU proposing the speeding up of approval processes for infrastructure projects, Entso-E said.

Argus Media

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