Wintershall Chairman Pitches NatGas Power Plants, as Pipelines are already in Place, whereas Transmission Lines would have to be Built to Import Wind-Generation

After Germany’s nuclear phase-out in 2022 Bavaria will face a base load shortfall of up to 4 gigawatts, but existing gas pipelines in the North could offer an alternative to new electricity lines.

“In 2022, if not before, Bavaria will face difficulties with its electricity supply,” Mario Mehren, Chairman of the board of Wintershall, said at the German Energy Congress in Munich. “At this time, when the last German nuclear power plants in Bavaria are taken off the grid, there will be an electricity generation shortfall of up to 4 gigawatts. Renewable energies cannot replace that, at least not at affordable and responsible prices.”

Mehren, whose company produces natural gas and oil, called for gas-fired power plants to stabilize the electricity grid.

Bavaria, which now gets almost half its electricity from nuclear power generators, will have to shut down the three nuclear power plants still in operation by the end of 2022, and will then have to import a large share of its electricity requirements.

Germany’s Federal Economics Ministry says electricity from renewables – primarily from the major wind farms in the North of Germany – will then secure the energy supply in the South. However, the construction of additional electricity lines across several German states is progressing much more slowly than the federal government planned. The new “electricity highways”, which are mostly overhead electricity lines, are a contentious issue with the German public. “Furthermore, covering the energy requirements with renewables alone would be too expensive and too unreliable,” Mehren said.

The Bavarian state government forecasts that the share of natural gas in the state’s electricity supply will rise from 8.9 percent (2014) to 23 percent by 2025. One third of the region’s energy consumption in the manufacturing sector is fueled by natural gas. Bavaria’s capital is Munich and the state is known for its automotive and high tech industries.

Bavaria Will be Short 4 Gigawatts of Electricity when Nuke Plants Shut

European Gas Pipelines – Source: Wintershall

Additional natural gas pipelines to South Germany have already been laid. In 2011 BASF subsidiary Wintershall and Russia’s Gazprom invested over a billion euros together in the construction of the 470-kilometer OPAL natural gas pipeline from Greifswald on the Baltic Sea coast to the Czech border. This allows natural gas to be transported directly from Russia to South Germany via the Czech pipeline “Gazelle” commissioned in 2013.

The EU Commission so far hasn’t approved the planned use of the full OPAL capacities (36 billion cubic meters), which means only half of the pipeline can be used at the moment. “Brussels shouldn’t block the planned full capacity utilization of the German pipeline any longer,” the Wintershall CEO urged the Commission. The link to the Nord Stream Baltic Sea pipeline via OPAL enhances supply security in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. So far South Germany has received Russian natural gas from the Czech Republic and Austria that has transited Ukraine. “The EU must, of course, respond to developments in Ukraine. But good economic sense must not be overshadowed by foreign policy considerations. A sense of proportion is vital, otherwise we will squander the very valuable asset of supply security in Germany,” Mehren said in a speech.

Wintershall is active in exploration and production activities in Europe, the North Sea, the North African desert, Russia’s permafrost and the South American steppe. The company has been interested in kicking off shale and tight gas exploration and development in Germany, but local politics have shut out the idea of hydraulic fracturing.

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