Coal Power Prevents Thousands of Germans from Freezing as Wind & Solar Output Plummets

swiss winter2

A couple of weeks back 90,000 South Australian families found themselves powerless and boiling in a heat wave when its 1,576 MW of wind power capacity started the day producing more than 1,000 MW, but which later collapsed suddenly to a trifling 70 MW, sending the grid into meltdown.

Meanwhile in Germany, it was a threat of freezing to death that sharpened the focus of German generators, as wind power output plummeted there, too.

However, unlike South Australians, fortunately Germans were able to tap into adequate coal-fired base-load generation to keep their lights on and their homes warm, albeit at a staggering cost.

German coal, gas plant output at 5-year high in January
London (Platts)
Andreas Franke & Alisdair Bowles
3 February 2017

* January average coal output at 17.3 GW, highest since Feb 2012

* Coal, gas ramped up to offset nuclear outages, low wind, demand gains

* Day-ahead power average at 59-month high, spot spikes to 2008-high

German coal and gas-fired power plant output in January rose to its highest in almost five years as cold weather boosted demand while below average wind and record-low winter nuclear availability reduced supply, according to power generation data compiled by think-tank Fraunhofer ISE.

The increased need to ramp up even less efficient thermal power plants helped to lift the day-ahead monthly average power price to its highest since February 2012 with spot prices spiking at their highest since 2008 at the height of the cold spell in late January, S&P Global Platts data shows. Output from coal-fired power plants was 12.9 TWh in January, up 37% on year and averaging around 17.3 GW for the whole month, a level not reached since the extended cold spell back in February 2012, the data shows.

Coal also removed lignite from the top of the power mix in January with lignite plants already running near maximum available capacity.

The increased coal burn may also have aggravated supply issues for coal transport on barges down the River Rhine with both RWE and EnBW warning of potential supply interruptions for some power plants inland and especially in southern Germany.

Very low Rhine levels still prevent barges from being fully loaded with coal, adding a premium to transport, according to sources.

Cold weather across Europe also lifted demand not just in Germany but also neighboring countries, especially France and the Alpine region.

Load in Germany itself was around 7% higher on year at 45.2 TWh, according to the Fraunhofer ‘energy charts’ data mainly based on TSO reports.

Output from gas plants also rose to its highest level since February 2012 at 5.6 TWh, up 14% on year, but with only a limited number of gas-fired plants reporting.

The Fraunhofer ISE data does not capture the full picture for gas plants with many combined heat-power plants (CHP) not accounted for in that data, but cold weather in general will see CHP plant output ramped to near maximum levels with a number of new CHP plants helping to boost overall gas-fired power output.


Wind power output in January dropped below 8 TWh, down 15% on year and averaging around 10.7 GW despite reaching a new hourly record just below 36 GW, the data shows.

Daily average wind production swung between 29.5 GW on January 4 and just 1.3 GW on January 24 when German spot power prices spiked above Eur100/MWh for the first time since 2008, the data shows.

German day-ahead baseload power prices averaged at Eur51.51/MWh this January, 74% above last January, Platts pricing data shows. Finally, nuclear output registered the biggest monthly deficit, down by over 2 TWh compared to last year with just 5.7 TWh generated, the lowest for a winter month in the modern nuclear era – amid an unprecedented winter refueling schedule for four of the remaining eight reactors due to the expiry of the nuclear fuel tax at the end of 2016.

German nuclear operators had the short refueling stops scheduled many months in advance amid generally very low power prices over recent years.

However, this January an extended spell of very cold and calm weather coincided not only with the German nuclear outages, but also reduced nuclear availability in France and Switzerland as well as continued dry weather adding pressure on hydro reserves with both Swiss and French Alpine hydro levels falling to a 20-year low.


What keeps Germans from freezing to death.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. This is a photo of lake Erie isn’t it?

  2. Jackie Rovensky says:

    Reliance on Hydro here could also be a problem, Tasmania has already experienced drought conditions which seem to have coincided with the break in the grid connection to the main land, which caused them to have to purchase diesel generators to keep their lights on.
    Here in SA they are coming up with different ideas as to where they could collect water to create a pumped hydro system. Unfortunately even if they find somewhere where they could build dam they need it to rain all year round to keep enough water available for such a scheme to operate and we have just this year had rain throughout the summer which has saved many rural communities from drought, but its anyone’s guess as to whether or not we will have another drought – the odds are that we will its just a matter when.
    Ah well some people need to dream fanciful dreams to keep them from having to face reality.

  3. Reblogged this on Wolsten and commented:
    And yet Merkel is to lecture Trump on renewables:

    I don’t suppose the BBC will point out the hypocrisy.

  4. Terry Conn says:

    All I can say is, that in general terms , thank goodness Australia has a moderate climate. No France or Poland to bail us out here.

  5. Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    You know “unreliable” energy is a con when Ideologically aggressive “green” GERMANY has spent €1 Trillion Euros, of other people’s money, on useless Wind and Solar power through the failed Energiewende program, only to undergo her biggest coal-fired power expansion in history.

    Germany has finally realised their feel-good energy failure, but sadly the people will still freeze and maybe even die until the coal-fired power stations are back, providing life-saving, cheap, reliable 24/7/365 energy for the forgotten people.

  6. Germany’s largest pumped storage is running out of water.

    Increased electrical power generation has dropped the water level to 18 metres below nominal; and there’s insufficient water in the Rhine to pump up the storage again; were there sufficient excess power available to pump the water up to the reservoir.

    The increased draw is attributed to the failure of other generators. (Ahem: wind, PV solar and other pumped storage)

    But there’s no substantial change in e.g. wind in sight, so that there would be an excess of “green energy” available to pump up the reservoir. I guess that they could use cheap nuclear power from France.

    This is shortly after they completed a multi-million Euro expansion of reservoir capacity which “entitles” them free access to the grid for a number of years

    Link to article in German:

    Direct link to video (German)

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