Germany issues heat warnings as temperatures soar

Temperatures were expected to climb to nearly 40C on Thursday.

People watch the sunrise over Berlin on the Drachenberg on August 3rd.
People watch the sunrise over Berlin on the Drachenberg on August 3rd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

A purple heat warning from the German Weather Service (DWD) was in place for most of the country, except far north coastal areas, as temperatures were expected to soar towards 40C during the peak of the current heatwave.

A map of Germany showing heat warnings in purple.

A map of Germany showing heat warnings in purple on August 4th. Screenshot: German Weather Service (DWD)

According to forecasters, the highest temperatures were expected in southwest Germany, where an extreme dark purple heat warning was in place on Thursday.

In the Upper Rhine Graben (Oberrheingraben) region, meteorologists at DWD warned of an “extreme heat load”. Temperatures were expected to reach 39C locally. 

In Berlin, the mercury was set to rise to 36C, while in Cologne and Munich, temperatures of 33C were forecast.

In the far west and northwest of Germany, it was to remain somewhat cooler at 27 to 32C, according to forecasts. Experts said thunderstorms were possible in the northwest, plus a local risk of hailstones and strong winds.

It came as firefighters battled a severe forest fire in Berlin’s Grunewald near a police munitions storage site. It has affected travel in the area. 

READ ALSO: Fire breaks out in Berlin’s Grunewald after blast in munitions store

Wildfires have also been raging in parts of Brandenburg amid the hot weather this week. 

Forecasters said that although there were sweltering temperatures, Thursday would likely not be the hottest day of the year so far. The warmest day this year was in July when 40.1C was measured in Hamburg-Neuwiedenthal.

“Thursday will be hot, but it doesn’t look like we’ll break the 40C mark,” said a DWD meteorologist.

The heat record for Germany is 41.2C. It was recorded in North Rhine-Westphalia on July 25th 2019.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about staying cool in a German heatwave

On Friday, thunderstorms are due to sweep Germany from the west, DWD said.

A cold front is predicted to bring temperatures down by more than 10C overnight in western Germany, falling to around 20-25C on Friday, reported AFP.

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Why sunny weather in Germany can switch off solar panels

The more the sun shines in the southern German town of Aurach, the more likely it is that Jens Husemann's solar panels will be disconnected from the grid -- an exasperating paradox at a time when Germany is navigating an energy supply crisis.

Why sunny weather in Germany can switch off solar panels

“It’s being switched off every day,” Husemann told AFP during a recent sunny spell, saying there had been more than 120 days of forced shutdowns so far this year.

Husemann, who runs an energy conversion business near Munich, also owns a sprawling solar power system on the flat roof of a transport company in Aurach, Bavaria.

The energy generated flows into power lines run by grid operator N-Ergie, which then distributes it on the network.

But in sunny weather, the power lines are becoming overloaded — leading the grid operator to cut off supply from the solar panels.

“It’s a betrayal of the population,” said Husemann, pointing to soaring electricity prices and a continued push to install more solar panels across Germany.

Europe’s biggest economy is eyeing an ambitious switch to renewables making up 80 percent of its electricity from 2030 in a bid to go carbon neutral.

N-ergie thermal power station

The thermal power station of energy supplier N-Ergie in Nuremberg, southern Germany. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put a spanner in the works.

Moscow has cut gas supplies to Germany by 80 percent, in what is believed to be a bid to weaken the European powerhouse’s resolve in backing Ukraine.

READ ALSO: OPINION: How many massacres will it take for Germany to turn off Russian gas?

As a result, Berlin has been scrambling for alternative sources across the world to replace the shortfall.

This makes it all the more frustrating for Husemann, whose solar panels normally generate enough electricity for 50 households. With the repeated shutdowns, he suspects they will only supply half of their capacity by the end
of the year.

Grid bottlenecks

Grid operator N-Ergie, which is responsible for harvesting electricity from Husemann’s panels, admits the situation is less than ideal.

There were 257 days last year when it had to cut off supply from solar panels on parts of the grid.

“We are currently witnessing — and this is a good thing — an unprecedented boom in photovoltaic parks,” Rainer Kleedoerfer, head of N-Ergie’s development department, told AFP.

An employee of energy supplier N-ERGIE working at the company's network control centre in Nuremberg, southern Germany. 

An employee of energy supplier N-Ergie working at the company’s network control centre in Nuremberg, southern Germany.  (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

But while it takes just a couple of years to commission a solar power plant, updating the necessary infrastructure takes between five and 10 years, he said.

“The number of interventions and the amount of curtailed energy have increased continuously in recent years” as a result, according to N-Ergie spokesman Michael Enderlein.

“The likelihood is that grid bottlenecks will actually increase in the coming years,” while resolving them will take several more years, Enderlein said.

According to Carsten Koenig, managing director of the German Solar Industry Association, the problem is not unique to solar power and also affects wind energy.

READ ALSO: Reader question – Should I modernise my heating system in Germany?

Solar bottlenecks tend to be regional and temporary, he said. “Occasionally, however, we hear that especially in rural areas in Bavaria, the shutdowns are more frequent.”

2.4 million households

Koenig agrees the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.

“This will be especially true if political measures aimed at sufficiently expanding the power grid in Germany… drag on for too long,” he said.

Some 6.1 terawatt hours of electricity from renewables had to be curtailed in 2020, according to the most recent figures available.

With an average consumption of around 2,500 kilowatt hours per year in a two-person household, this would have been enough to power around 2.4 million households.

A spokesman for Germany’s Federal Network Agency said it did not share the belief that “it will not be possible to expand the network in line with demand in the coming years”.

Only some aspects of the expansion are seeing delays, the spokesman said — mainly due to slow approval procedures and a lack of specialist companies to do the work.

According to Husemann there have also been delays to the payments he is supposed to receive in return for the solar power he supplies — or cannot supply.

He said he is already owed around 35,000 euros ($35,600) for electricity produced so far this year that has never found its way into a socket.