Stuttgart. On 8 July 2022, the Federal Government and the Bundesrat passed the so-called Act on the Maintenance of Substitute Power Stations (Ersatzkraftwerkebereithaltungsgesetz or EKBG). It is expected to come into force in July and provides for a ban on gas being used to generate electricity on the one hand and the increased use of coal power plants for electricity generation on the other.
In the event of a gas shortage, reserve power plants are set to be allowed a temporary return to the electricity market in the period up to 31 March 2024 in order to reduce gas consumption. Furthermore, the use of gas in the power plant sector can be restricted to the greatest possible extent by means of a statutory instrument. There are exceptions, however, for combined heat and power plants, whose heat generation cannot be substituted.
EnBW is currently working hard to prepare the coal units in the grid reserve and on the market for operation in winter. Among other things, this involves increasing the procurement and transport of coal as well as finding the extra space required for storing additional quantities of coal. The matter of securing the necessary workforce also plays an important role because long-term personnel planning has been based on the premise of the original phaseout of coal. In addition, EnBW is investing in extensive overhaul and maintenance measures to ensure the availability of the plants.
EnBW is currently operating a total of five coal units on the market at four of its own sites in Karlsruhe, Heilbronn, Stuttgart-Münster and Altbach-Deizisau. In the course of the planned phaseout of coal by 2030, EnBW had planned to register the RDK 7 coal unit for decommissioning in mid-2022 and thus remove it from market operation. Against the background of the war in Ukraine and current developments on the gas market, however, the Group has decided to continue operating RDK 7 on the market until at least the end of winter 2023/2024.
“We are playing our part by keeping our coal power plants as operational and available as possible at short notice. Electricity can thus be generated in the winter with the help of coal and the stored gas can be reserved for supplying households,” says Dr. Georg Stamatelopoulos, Board Member for Sustainable Generation Infrastructure at EnBW.
In addition, EnBW in Baden-Württemberg has five coal units within the grid reserve, which are only operated by order of the transmission grid operator TransnetBW. Since the grid reserve units can be requested at short notice to ensure system stability, EnBW always keeps them ready for operation. Within the terms of the Act on the Maintenance of Substitute Power Stations, they will not return to the market, but will remain in the grid reserve.
“Due to their age, our coal units within the grid reserve cannot go back to market operation,” explains Stamatelopoulos. “For technical reasons, it is not possible for them to be used continuously to generate electricity, but they play an important role in mitigating slumps in system stability and ensuring security of supply at all times. They are not in the team’s starting lineup, so to speak, but important to have on the substitutes’ bench.”