German coal-fired power rises above 50% in first-half 2013 generation mix

London (Platts)--10Jul2013/755 am EDT/1155 GMT


Coal-fired power plants contributed 52% of Germany's first-half electricity demand as output from natural gas-fired power plants and wind turbines fell, research organization Fraunhofer Institute (ISE) said.

Coal plants increased production by about 5% to 130.3 TWh in the first six months of 2013 as output from gas-fired power plants fell 17% to 21.9 TWh, said ISE, which collated data from Germany's statistical office and the EEX transparency platform.

Wind turbine output fell 10% to 22.4 TWh, while solar output was unchanged at 14.3 TWh. Hydro output rose 3% to 9.2 TWh, with nuclear output up 1.8% to 46 TWh.

Demand data for H1 2013 is not yet available, but has been estimated to have dropped from around 254 TWh in the 2012 period. First-quarter power demand dropped 1% year-on-year, energy industry group BDEW said in April.

Overall, the share of coal-fired power in the first half rose 3 percentage points to 52%, based on available data and assuming a 1% decline in demand.

Germany's nine nuclear power plants contributed 18% to total demand, while combined wind, solar and hydro output added 18%.

Gas-fired power's share dropped to 9% with even the most modern CCGT plants now seriously under-utilized. The plants are needed for security of supply during winter months.

In 2012, coal-fired power plants generated 45% of total electricity, followed by renewables with a 22% share, nuclear at 16%, and gas at 11%.

CHEAP CARBON EXTENDS COAL'S DOMINANCE IN GERMAN POWER MIX

The crash in EUA carbon allowances, cheaper coal and firmer gas prices are the key reason for the trend, making coal-fired power generation more profitable than gas.

The gap between the clean dark and clean spark spreads, the general measure of profitability for coal and gas plants, had widened to Eur23/MWh by the end of June, based on year-ahead contracts for power, coal, gas and carbon emissions, Platts data showed.

Industry sources have said EUA carbon allowances would need to rise above Eur40/mt to allow a profitable switch to gas from coal.

Coal prices have dropped by around a third over the past two years, hitting a three-year-low at $85/mt on June 24, according to Platts data.

Carbon prices, which set a record low earlier this year, continue to trade just above Eur4/mt, compared with levels around Eur20/mt in 2011.

Gas prices have remained firm with TTF year-ahead gas at around Eur27/MWh, little changed from July 2011, Platts data showed. Germany uses domestic lignite coal and hard-coal, mainly imported, for power generation.

Lignite-fired power plants, which generated more than a quarter of the nation's electricity in 2012, have benefited most from the lower carbon prices, with lignite plants more carbon intensive than coal plants, industry sources said.

Lignite capacity is 20 GW with at least 3 GW of more efficient plants added since 2011, running like nuclear as baseload plants around the clock.

Older coal-fired power plants are increasingly becoming the price-setting "marginal" plants, market sources said.

Germany is adding more efficient coal-fired power plants in 2013 as a number of legacy fossil-fuel projects finally come online.

Trianel's 750 MW coal-fired plant at Luenen is already in operation and on track to be commissioned in the third quarter. Two more projects, Steag's 725 MW Walsum 10 unit and EnBW's 912 MW RDK 8 are on track to start generating power during testing in coming weeks.

Overall, power generators plan to add 5.3 GW of new built coal-fired power plant capacity this year, data from the federal grid agency showed.

--Andreas Franke, andreas.franke@platts.com

--Edited by Dan Lalor, daniel.lalor@platts.com