Close Download image Back to top

Building and operating a grid stabilization plant

To ensure grid stability and security of supply, additional generation facilities ("special grid-related equipment in accordance with Section 11 (3) EnWG") are required as part of the Energiewende. EnBW is currently constructing such a grid stability facility at its power plant site in Marbach am Neckar. Following completion of the approval process in accordance with the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) in July 2020, the plant is currently under construction. Due to delays, commissioning is targeted for 2024.

Download image

The power grid can only be stably operated if the energy generated corresponds to the energy consumed at any given moment. A change in consumption must be instantly balanced on the generation side, which is why power plants have balancing reserves and quickly controllable power plants can balance this change in consumption at short notice.

Fluctuating generation from renewable energy sources (such as photovoltaics or wind power) must also be balanced by conventional power plants, nuclear power plants or pumped-storage power plants.

1. How is the power grid kept stable?
Download image

Even if certain equipment (i.e., a system such as a switch, a power line or a transformer) fails, the power grid can still be operated in a stable manner. This is known as (n-1) security. The remaining lines/systems then take on the task of transmitting the electricity. The circuits are usually not overloaded, meaning that the failure is safely controlled – as long as no further equipment fails during this phase. That is why so-called (n-1) security must be restored as soon as possible. This is achieved by easing the load on the power grid locally through generation capacity that can be activated quickly.

In the past, power grids were rarely operated at the limits of (n-1) security because the transmission distances were significantly shorter than they are today due to power being generated close to where it was consumed. Even after the failure of equipment, (n-1) security was often still guaranteed – helped by the grid’s normally unused overload capacity in those days. Today, the grids are increasingly being operated at their technical limits. As a result, the number of interventions required to ease the pressure on the grid has increased significantly in recent years.

2. How is security of supply guaranteed?
Download image

The situation on the generation side will change significantly in the future due to the following factors:

  • The phaseout of nuclear power
  • Further expansion of renewable energy capacity increasingly leading to a generation surplus in northern Germany, which has to be redirected toward southern Germany
  • Delayed grid expansion of high-voltage lines between northern and southern Germany

These factors are having a particularly serious impact in southern Germany. Additional generation plants are therefore needed to guarantee grid stability and security of supply. However, these will not be used to compensate for the lost capacity previously provided by nuclear power plants, but will only be used for a relatively brief length of time to support the power grids in the event of problems in the transmission grid if equipment fails (see also question 2).

3. Why are so-called grid stabilization plants needed in southern Germany?
Download image

The capacity of conventional generation plants and pumped-storage plants has been factored into the calculations for new grid stabilization plants when determining the power needed. In an analysis, the Federal Network Agency concluded that an additional 1,200 megawatts (MW) of rapidly accessible generation capacity are needed in southern Germany to guarantee security of supply in the event of a fault in the grid.

4. Aren’t there already enough conventional generation plants in southern Germany to guarantee grid stability?
Download image

The current reserve power plants are used to balance any power deficiency in the power grid and support grid stability as a preventive measure, even if no equipment within the power grid has failed and the grid remains stable.

The new grid stabilization plants, meanwhile, will only be used if one or more system elements (such as a switch, a power line or a transformer) have actually failed within the transmission grid, placing the power grid in a critical condition. Grid stability will then be restored with the help of these new plants. The grid stabilization plants are also available much more quickly than the existing grid reserve, which is usually made up of older plants.

5. What is the difference between the existing reserve power plants and the new grid stabilization plants?
Download image

The grid stabilization plants will be allocated by the three transmission system operators in southern Germany in a tendering process. Of the total capacity of 1,200 MW (megawatts) needed in southern Germany, 300 MW fall within the control zone of the transmission system operator TransnetBW, which is responsible for most of Baden-Württemberg. In three other zones (also in southern Germany, but outside Baden-Württemberg), the transmission system operators have also initiated a tendering process for plants to cover the required grid reserve.

6. How are the grid stabilization plants selected?
Download image

A gas turbine is planned as a grid stabilization plant on the Marbach site, which will be fired with extra-light fuel oil (LFO). Since the maximum fuel requirement for one year can be stored directly on-site in oil tanks, the operation of the gas turbine and thus security of supply is not threatened by potential short-term supply difficulties of the fuel (as could happen with natural gas, for instance).

We expect other grid stabilization plants to use natural gas as fuel. Against this background, the use of extra-light heating oil also makes sense because security of supply in southern Germany is thus not dependent on a single primary energy source (in this case natural gas).

A grid stabilization plant in Marbach can be built and run at a comparatively low cost. Since the cost is passed on to all electricity consumers in the form of network user charges, this would also be correspondingly lower with the planned plant in Marbach.

In our view, the Marbach site thus provides the ideal conditions for guaranteeing grid stability and security of supply in Baden-Württemberg.

7. What factors favor Marbach as the plant site?
Download image

The area on which the plant will be built is roughly the size of two football fields (about 14,000 m²), while the chimney has a height of about 80 meters (by way of comparison, the tallest chimney currently on our site in Marbach is about 160 meters – Block 3).

8. How big is the plant?
Download image

Over 100 million euros.

9. How much is being invested?
Download image

The grid stabilization plant will only be started up in the event of an equipment failure within the transmission grid. In most cases, they are used secondarily to all existing power plants. As such, in our view, a very small number of operating hours can be expected.

However, the operator (in the event of being awarded the contract in the tendering process: EnBW) has no influence on the plant’s use and operating life. This is the responsibility of the transmission system operators, who decide entirely independently how the grid stabilization plant is used.

10. How often will the plant be started up?
Download image

The operative word “gas” describes the medium that drives the turbine. Steam drives a steam turbine and wind drives a wind turbine. A gas turbine, meanwhile, is driven by hot combustion gas, which is why it is known as a “gas turbine” – regardless of which fuel is used to produce the hot combustion gas.

11. Why isn’t the gas turbine called an oil turbine if it is fired with oil?
Download image

No, this gas turbine is planned as a new block at the Marbach site and will not replace any of the existing plants.

12. Is the new gas turbine intended to replace the old plants?
Download image

Back in 2013, EnBW applied for the final decommissioning of all generation plants in Marbach. Since the plants have been classified as having system relevance by the transmission system operator since 2013 (most recently in 2018), they have been subject to a decommissioning ban ever since and are started up at the request of the transmission system operator.

The operating license for some of the existing plants (MAR II gas turbine and MAR III boiler and steam turbine) expires at the end of 2023, so we must assume that these plants will be decommissioned at the end of 2023.

13. What is happening to the existing plants on the site?
Download image

The plant will be kept available for a period of ten years.

14. What is the planned operating life of the new plant in Marbach?
Download image

The emissions and in particular the gas turbine’s impact on the environment are examined as part of the immission control approval process. Approval will only be granted if operating the gas turbine has no significant impact.

15. How much emissions will the planned plant produce?
Download image

In our view, light fuel oil is more suitable as a fuel than natural gas in Baden-Württemberg. This will avoid any short-term supply bottlenecks, which could occur if natural gas were used. Furthermore, security of supply in southern Germany should not depend on a single primary energy source like natural gas. In conjunction with the large (already existing) oil storage facility in Marbach, we consider light fuel oil to be the ideal fuel for this purpose.

Since the grid stabilization plant is not expected to be used very often, the fuel will have no significant impact on the environment. Gas turbines that run on fuel oil are also subject to much lower emission limits today than they were around 20 years ago.

16. Why has light fuel oil been chosen for the fuel rather than gas?
Download image

This will be examined and evaluated in the course of the approval process. We currently do not expect there to be any significant impact on water resources.

17. Will there be any impact on water resources?
Download image

Oil will still be supplied by ship via the Neckar. Due to the low number of expected operating hours, we do not currently expect any significant increase in activity.

18. How will the oil be delivered?
Download image
  • During the construction phase:
    EnBW will endeavor to keep noise pollution to a minimum during the construction of the plant and also urge the subcontractors to do so. The noise generated by the construction work will mainly affect the industrial park in the immediate vicinity of the power plant. Traffic will access the construction site via the adjoining highway
  • During operations:
    The impact of the gas turbine power plant on surrounding areas will be examined and evaluated in detail as part of the approval process. Approval will only be granted in accordance with regulations governing emissions if the gas turbine can be operated within the permissible limits.
19. How noisy will it be?
Download image

Construction work on the plant is expected to start at the end of the second quarter of 2020.

The anticipated completion date is Q3/2024.

20. How long will the construction work last in Marbach?
Download image

There is not expected to be any disruption to the infrastructure (electricity, gas, water, sewage).

During the installation of the gas turbine, the delivery of large components (such as the transformer, generator and turbine parts) may disrupt road traffic because these are heavy goods vehicles with wide loads.

21. Can any disruption to Marbach’s infrastructure be expected during construction work?
Download image

At a citizens’ consultation meeting in November 2018, citizens were given the opportunity to talk to EnBW’s project team – asking questions, making suggestions, but also expressing concerns.

In addition, there is the opportunity to formally participate in the course of the approval process. The public review of the approval documents between 21 February 2020 and 20 March 2020 will take place at Stuttgart Regional Council and the planning office for the town of Marbach am Neckar. Anyone with a legitimate interest may officially participate in the consultation and make suggestions, raise concerns, etc.

We wanted to present the plans for the Marbach 4 power plant to you in a citizens' consultation meeting. Given the current situation, we now no longer plan to do so.

But take the opportunity to find out more

Feel free to contact the project team directly by e-mail at .

22. How can the public get involved?
Download image


Download image


No further events are currently planned.

What is a grid stability plant?

Show video
Show YouTube video?

Please note the privacy policy of YouTube.

(only available in German)