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New Website Provides Overview Of Germany’s Capacity Factors

Originally published on Renewables International.
By Craig Morris

The visualization of data continues in Germany. Now, German blogger Thorsten Zoerner provides an overview of capacity factors for conventional generators – with assumptions about how much higher they would be without renewable electricity.

German flagThe new website (in German) shows capacity factors for the last 90 days (rolling). The top chart visualizes capacity factors in reality; the bottom one, what those capacity factors would likely look like if there were no renewable electricity.

Based on the merit order, the assumed order is nuclear, lignite, hard coal, and natural gas (from the lowest marginal price to the highest). Renewable electricity has yet to offset nuclear power to a major extent, so these reactors still ran at 96 percent capacity over the past three months, a level that rises only to 98 percent without renewables.

Lignite rises from 72 to 97 percent, however. Hard coal increase is the most from 40 to 74 percent. In contrast, electricity from natural gas hardly changes at all, merely rising from 11 to 12 percent.

One conclusion could be that Germany has enough nuclear, lignite, and hard coal capacity to cover practically all of demand even without renewables, so that natural gas turbines are not even needed – at least not in the 90 days from 22 December 2015 to 25 March 2016.

The website estimates the “surplus capacity” of conventional generators to be eight percent and puts their average maximum capacity utilization at 76 percent.

Overall, the calculation behind the visualizations seems quite simple. In reality, the power market is, of course, more complex; for instance, the ramping ability of gas turbines could mean that they are used instead of old coal plants.

But in the end, the purpose of the website is probably a political message: nearly twice as much electricity would be generated from hard coal along with a third more from lignite if there were no Energiewende.

Here, we see how different the debate is within Germany. The question abroad is generally, “How much less coal power would there be without the nuclear phaseout?” The Germans don’t ask this question because the switch to renewables (the Energiewende) would not have happened without the antinuclear movement. In other words, without the nuclear phaseout, there would be no renewables either.

Reprinted with permission.

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