Flagship ARD public television here broadcast a report on the state of the German power grid, which until about some 15 years ago was by far among the world’s most stable. But those days are now gone, thanks to volatile green energies.
The ARD report basically tells German citizens and industry that they need to prepare quickly for blackouts because the country’s power grid is as unstable as never before.
Just last week the power went out due to a winter North Sea storm which swept across a large part of Germany: 300,000 people lost power.
Outages leading to millions in losses
And power outages have grown common even on calm weather days. Last year on November 16, the ARD reports, the entire city of Wiesbaden saw its power go out for 25 minutes, an event that city utility operator Frank Rolle cannot recall ever happening in 45 years of operation. “Suddenly 219,000 Wiesbaden residents had no more power.”
Many among us might be tempted to think: what’s so tough about getting on without power for 25 minutes. Perishables in the freezer or fridge after all won’t be harmed. What’s the big deal?
But as the ARD reports, such a power outage is in fact an extremely expensive affair for industry and business. For example company manager Hajo Hagens of a plastic film producer said that power outage cost his company close to a half million euros and that it took an entire day to get the production up and and running again and tuned the way it’s supposed to be.
Glass producer Schott also saw damages run into “millions of euros” reports the ARD.
Back-up systems too expensive
As Germany’s power supply becomes increasingly volatile, many companies are finding out that back-up systems are just too expensive. According to Industrial Park manager Peter Bartholomäus:
It would be so cost-intensive and especially with energy intensive industries like the chemical industry, the ability to compete is also impacted by the cost of energy – especially by the cost of energy, I’d like to say. That’s why we simply cannot build double or the triple back-up supply. No one can pay it.”
Grid “extremely under stress”
The ARD concedes that the German power grid is becoming “ever more vulnerable”. According to power grid operator Tennet, the grid “is extremely under stress”. The culprit: “The Energiewende” (transition to green energies).
Amprion, Germany’s second largest grid operator, wrote to ARD:
In order to keep the grid stable, we have to intervene more and more often.”
473 outages daily
Hans-Peter Erbring Gridlab GmbH tells the ARD that the German and European power grid “is at its limits, and daily”. ARD adds that every day in Germany, the power goes out somewhere 473 times a day.
The ARD then describes the great northern Germany blackout of November 2005 (one that I recall) where in some places the power was out for days due to a freak winter snow squall.
Officials: learn to live with it!
Germany’s precarious power supply has since come to the attention of the top levels of the German government. Christopher Unger of the Frederal Catastrophe Protection Office tells ARD that Germany is “poorly prepared for a blackout” and that the people in general need to wake up to the reality of potential blackouts which Germany is not accustomed to seeing.
One might think that with Germany’y precarious power situation, leading officials would be moving to solve the problem of unstable power and to find solutions to make it stable. Unfortunately this is not the case, as they seem perfectly content with all the grid unpredictability. It’s the accepted price of green energy.
Ralf Ackermann of the Fire Department Association in the state of Hesse says people need to be aware that the local store may not be open, and that it’s good idea to have a flashlight on hand. The ARD summarizes:
It’s high time to prepare yourself for the case of a power outage”
In other words, Germany’s days of a stable power grid are over, and don’t expect then to return.
Of course ARD studios and and government facilities will have all the back-up they need to weather blackouts. As for the rest of of the citizens they will have to fend for themselves.
Meanwile in Austria experts are warning also that the country’s power grid is more prone to blackouts than ever. Die Presse writes:
The risk of a power grid overload is rising, warns grid operator APG. The costs for securing the power supply rose to 300 million euros. For the future all ‘gas power plants” are needed as well as new power lines.”