Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the resulting sanctions and supply limitations have a major impact on the energy supply in Germany and the rest of Europe. Due to the curtailment of natural gas deliveries as well as the outage of many French nuclear power plants and last summer’s drought, the power supply situation is tense.
50Hertz and the other German transmission system operators (TSOs) Amprion, TenneT and TransnetBW play a key role in ensuring Germany’s reliable and secure power supply. On this website, we provide you with information about the current situation and how you can help to relieve the grid.
Since Russia’s unlawful attack on Ukraine, the energy supply in Germany and the rest of Europe is facing major challenges. Although Russia has greatly reduced the delivery of gas to Germany, the effects on the heat supply and generation of electricity could be compensated by supplies from other countries. The warm first half of the winter and the economical behaviour of industrial and private consumers also helped to achieve this.
Furthermore, due to technical issues and maintenance work, not all French nuclear power plants are operational. The lack of rain during the summer meant that there was not enough water in the French rivers and that no cooling water could be introduced because of the high temperatures. Additionally, less than the usual amount of coal could be shipped to southern Germany due to low water levels, for example in the river Rhine. This conflict situation led to high tension on the European electricity markets, high prices and the risk of a shortfall.
As ordered by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK), 50Hertz and the other German transmission system operators Amprion, TenneT and TransnetBW carried out special analyses of the supply and grid situation for the winter of 2022/2023, so-called ‘stress tests’, between mid July 2022 and early September 2022.
The objective of the analyses was to verify whether the entire German electricity demand can be covered (current balance) and whether the grid security (transmission adequacy) is ensured during each hour of the coming winter. The so called stress tests looked at three different scenarios with increasingly critical premises (scenarios +, ++ and +++). The special analyses concluded that in all three scenarios, the supply situation will be tense this winter and that it will not always be possible to completely cover the required demand on the European electricity market. In the two critical scenarios (++ and +++), the analyses also showed shortfalls in Germany during a few hours. Even the grid security could be put to the test in case of longer periods of cold temperatures. For all three scenarios, the analyses showed that the available domestic and foreign redispatch potentials might not suffice to manage grid congestion at all times.
Based on these analyses, it was estimated that if it is unavoidable to maintain grid stability, controlled, brief and regional interruptions in the power supply could - as a last resort - be possible in certain regions of Germany during the winter of 2022/2023. As a rule, these controlled disconnections are announced and are non-discriminatory, meaning that no one is advantaged or disadvantaged. The power interruptions could therefore potentially affect companies and private households; they depend on how much electricity needs to be saved in the respective regions of the distribution system operators. In case of longer power interruptions, these disconnections would ‘rotate’, so that the burden can be shared amongst many and no one has to be without electricity any longer than necessary.In order to reduce the risk of power interruptions, the Federal Government and the TSOs implemented a set of measures to increase the power generation and electricity transmission capacity. These include:
These measures as well as the mild winter temperatures resulted in a situation that was much less stressed.
Many terms are currently circulating in the media when discussing possible power interruptions. However, not all of them are easy to understand and often even incorrect. This can cause confusion. We will explain the differences here.
Load shedding: what does it mean? Controlled load shedding refers to a deliberate power interruption that is limited to a certain region and time. Electricity consumers are temporarily taken off the grid to save electricity and restore the balance between generation and consumption. This balance, characterised by a stable frequency of 50 hertz, is the basic prerequisite for the overall smooth functioning of the power grid. This balance can be at risk when not enough electricity can be generated in Germany and the rest of Europe to cover the electricity demand. However, disturbances can occur if not enough line capacities are available to transport the electricity. In case of such grid congestion, conventional, i.e. including power plants using natural gas, need to help out to compensate for the electricity that is ‘stuck in the bottleneck’, so to speak. In case of a gas shortage, this too can become problematic and controlled load shedding may become necessary in the regions on the other side of the bottleneck when other, very extensive measures do not suffice either.
In both cases, the temporary disconnections are made without discrimination. The transmission system operators instruct the distribution system operators (DSOs) in the respective regions to save a certain amount of electricity for a very brief time. The DSOs carry out this instruction independently in their own regions and cut off individual streets, residential areas, municipalities or larger companies from the power supply until the total volume they were instructed to save is reached. In general, all households or companies in the grid area in question can be affected. In order to minimise encumbrances, the disconnections can be rotated depending on the duration of the power shortage, i.e. certain groups of consumers are supplied again, while others are cut off. In the scope of the second special analysis, the transmission system operators put forward the recommendation to make load reduction potentials in the industry usable for system stability purposes. In the past months, such a process was developed and aligned.
Large industrial consumers are now able, after appropriate registration for the process, to voluntarily make load reduction potentials available to avoid possible controlled load shedding or minimise its effects, e.g. damage to production lines and production waste. By participating in the process, large industrial consumers have the advantage that they can better anticipate imminent disconnections and adjust or plan their processes accordingly. In the event of a power shortage, this reduces the risk of controlled load shedding due to insufficient electricity production.
What is a blackout?A blackout is a cross-regional, uncontrolled collapse of the electricity transmission grid. There can be many causes for a blackout, ranging from a sudden outage of several large generating units or damage to lines or substations as a result of natural catastrophes to criminal attacks on the IT infrastructure. A blackout is very unlikely; there has never been a large-scale, uncontrolled power outage in large parts of the European interconnected electricity system.
Saving gas and electricity is the order of the day. This is in the interest of all consumers, not only because of the very high market prices, but also to relieve the overall strain on the power grid. All private households and companies can contribute. Many measures can easily be integrated in everyday life that do not affect personal comfort. This concerns both heating and the use of electricity. The German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) published a number of tips that can be implemented immediately and are not connected to extra costs. These range from cooking efficiently to how to ventilate your home.
Energy saving tips: the top 20 tips to save energy | Save what you can (only in German)
The use of electric fan heaters or radiators to heat rooms is not recommended, as this is both expensive and inefficient. These appliances use a lot of electricity, leading to higher costs. Moreover, there is a risk that the local electricity distribution system is overloaded when many households use such appliances at the same time, which can cause power outages in certain areas.More tips and recommendations on what to do in the event of power outages and how to prepare for them can be found on the Website of the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK).