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Oct. 4, 2022, 6:52 a.m. EDT

Germany may have to cut electricity exports to survive this winter, says major grid operator

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By Anviksha Patel

That was Hendrik Neumann, chief technical officer of German electricity grid operator Amprion, speaking to the Financial Times on Tuesday about potentially cutting off electricity exports to other countries to avoid local shortages.

Neumann said in the interview that temporarily pausing exports of electricity for hours, rather than days, could be a “last resort” to salvage the countries embattled energy crisis, which has been in the eye of the storm since Russia cut off gas supplies.

Last year, Germany sold 17,400 gigawatts per hour more electricity than it imported, less than the 18,500 gigawatts per hour sold in 2020. Its biggest importers are Austria and France, whose energy crises could deteriorate with any switch off of German exports.

Neumann said the war in Ukraine was one of numerous “overlapping issues” contributing to Europe’s energy crisis, worsened by the shutdown of over half of France’s 56 nuclear power plants and low water levels on main rivers delaying coal shipping.

He told the FT that while Amprion ignored “political and ideological aspects”, he didn’t agree with the comments from economics minister Robert Habeck, who said in July that Germany didn’t have an electricity problem.

“If that was the case, we would not have been asked [by the government] to conduct a special analysis [on the electricity market in the winter],” he replied.

“The government needs to draw the political conclusions and take the political responsibility,” he added.

Consequently, last month the government decided to postpone the decommissioning of two out of three nuclear power plants in the country.

“All I can say is that three nuclear power plants would be better than two”, Neumann said.

Last week, Berlin doubled down on its plans to ease the country’s energy struggle. It earmarked €200 billion ($197 billion) for an energy support package, with Germany’s finance minister Olaf Scholz maintaining that despite fears the package would jilt the bond markets, he vowed the country would not follow the UK’s disastrous fiscal policy .

Scholz’s government also scrapped a gas levy on consumers, which was introduced to compensate energy suppliers’ rising import costs but came at a political price.

The policies have not been popular with other EU states, with outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Draghi saying when “faced with the common threats of our times, we cannot divide ourselves according to the space in our national budgets.”

U.K. cut off

Meanwhile in the U.K, energy regulator Ofgem sent a letter to industry experts dated Sept. 30, warning that there is a “significant risk” of gas shortages this winter and next, meaning the U.K could enter a gas supply emergency.

Grendon Thompson, head of electricity system operator regulation at Ofgem, wrote in the letter that firm load shedding of gas could occur if the U.K enters Stage 2 of the gas supply emergency. This means that utility providers will be allowed to switch off supply to customers when there is a shortage of electricity, sometimes with a price incentive.

“In the event that Great Britain reaches State 2 in this procedure, firm load shedding of gas would be applied to the largest gas users connected to the gas system,” Thompson wrote.

“This will likely be large gas-fired power stations which produce electricity to the National Electricity Transmission System.”

To summarize, if gas supply levels reach emergency levels, large gas users will be rationed, in this case, electricity producers.

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