Electricity network head says no danger of blackouts

The head of Germany’s electricity network agency Matthias Kurth accused energy companies of trying to create and exploit panic with talk of electricity blackouts in the event that nuclear power stations are shut down.

Electricity network head says no danger of blackouts
Photo: DPA

Kurth told Der Spiegel the debate over whether the lights across Germany will be kept on at all times was, “often superficial and interest-led.”

When asked whether the fear of blackouts was nonsense, he said, “It certainly has a justified basis. But the way in which the topic of security of supply is being discussed is often not helpful. We have only started to gather data on what effect the shut-down of eight nuclear power stations at the same time is having on electricity supply.”

Germany’s oldest nuclear power stations were closed down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, while all such stations will now be subjected to safety checks.

Kurth said he could not simply sit back and say everything would be fine, admitting that never before in his experience had so much reliable electricity supply been removed from the network so quickly. But he said there was no danger of a blackout.

“Our checks show that the effect of the moratorium is manageable. Although responsible and prudent action is more necessary than ever,” he said.

He was asked whether the warnings from Johannes Teyssen and Jürgen Großmann, heads of electricity generators EON and RWE respectively, that the network could collapse, were responsible.

“I think that using the fear of a blackout is less than rewarding,” he said.

“Technically and also legally, there are many possible methods of directing and steering power stations in order to prevent a collapse of the network,” he said.

One possible problem could be the greater Hamburg region this summer, he admitted. He said the Krümmel and Brünsbuttel nuclear power stations have been shut down for repairs while the Unterweser nuclear power station has been closed by the moratorium.

The Brokdorf one is set to be closed for checks between June 11 and 30, which could endanger continuity of supply.

He said there were various options such as delaying the work slated for Brokdorf, or taking on supplies from other power stations for the region. It was necessary to work out an approach now, he said.

Other, longer term measures could include the re-firing of coal powered electricity stations to stabilise the network, which he admitted would not be ideal.

The Local/hc

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German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

With Russia's invasion in Ukraine exacerbating high energy and petrol prices, Germany is set to introduce a second relief package to limit the impact on consumers.

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

The additional package of measures was announced by Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) on Sunday.

Speaking to DPA, Habeck said the wave of price increases throughout the energy sector were becoming increasingly difficult for households to bear.

“Extremely high heating costs, extremely high electricity prices, and extremely high fuel prices are putting a strain on households, and the lower the income, the more so,” he said. “The German government will therefore launch another relief package.”

The costs of heating and electricity have hit record highs in the past few months due to post-pandemic supply issues. 

This dramatic rise in prices has already prompted the government to introduce a range of measures to ease the burden on households, including abolishing the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) levy earlier than planned, offering grants to low-income households and increasing the commuter allowance. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s relief package against rising prices means for you

But since Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24th, the attack has been driving up energy prices further, Habeck explained.

He added that fears of supply shortages and speculation on the market were currently making the situation worse. 

How will the package work?

When defining the new relief measures, the Economics Ministry will use three criteria, Habeck revealed. 

Firstly, the measures must span all areas of the energy market, including heating costs, electricity and mobility. 

Heating is the area where households are under the most pressure. The ministry estimates that the gas bill for an average family in an unrenovated one-family house will rise by about €2,000 this year. 

Secondly, the package should include measures to help save energy, such as reducing car emissions or replacing gas heating systems.

Thirdly, market-based incentives should be used to ensure that people who use less energy also have lower costs. 

“The government will now put together the entire package quickly and constructively in a working process,” said Habeck.

Fuel subsidy

The three-point plan outlined by the Green Party politician are not the only relief proposals being considered by the government.

According to reports in German daily Bild, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FPD) is allegedly considering introducing a state fuel subsidy for car drivers.

The amount of the subsidy – which hasn’t yet been defined – would be deducted from a driver’s bill when paying at the petrol station. 

The operator of the petrol station would then have to submit the receipts to the tax authorities later in order to claim the money back. 

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, fuel prices have risen dramatically in Germany: diesel has gone up by around 66 cents per litre, while a litre of E10 has gone up by around 45 cents.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The everyday products getting more expensive in Germany

As well as support for consumers, the government is currently working on a credit assistance programme to assist German companies that have been hit hard by the EU sanctions against Russia.

As reported by Bild on Saturday, bridging aid is also being discussed for companies that can no longer manage the sharp rise in raw material prices.

In addition, an extension of the shorter working hours (Kurzarbeit) scheme beyond June 30th is allegedly being examined, as well as a further increase in the commuter allowance.