Germany: Power exporter even with fewer nuclear plants

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Germany imported 43.8 TWh of power via the European electricity grid in 2012, costing the country €2.3 billion. At the same time, countries like Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland bought 66.6 TWh of power from Germany to the tune of about €3.7 billion. The surplus was thereby €1.4 billion in the German coffers.

Slightly higher electricity sales were recorded in 2006 and 2008, where approximately 22.9 TWh were sold. The BDEW (German Association of Energy and Water Industries) states that 2012’s figures can nevertheless be considered a new record. The earlier estimate at the beginning of the year was 23.1 TWh of surplus power.

One reason for Germany to be able to export such amounts of power is said to be the so-called "Energiewende". With the uptake of solar and wind power, Germany is still able to export power despite shutting down 8 of its nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

The German newspaper "Berliner Zeitung" reported that the anti-nuclear power organization "ausgestrahlt" sees this surplus as the evidence for a possible complete nuclear phase-out by 2022. The percentage held by renewables in the energy mix climbed to 23% in 2012, as local media reports state.

Storage needed

However, there are often too high surpluses as well as a result of the intermittency of solar and wind power. There were even times of negative electricity prices in 2012 where German utilities had to pay foreign partners to accommodate the excess electricity produced.

This is where storage solutions are called for to store such excess power. German politicians and energy experts have been holding discussions over a possible energy storage subsidy for months now. The framework for the program has already been agreed upon by Germany’s Federal Environment Ministry and the KfW state bank, but the execution is still on hold.

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