Security of supply is very important for a highly developed industrial country like Germany. It is about more than delivering lighting and convenience. Electricity has become a fundamental precondition for our daily life. In Germany, security of supply is very reliable compared with other countries.
The German government is working to ensure that this remains the case. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) regularly publishes a report on security of supply on the electricity market. It appears at least every two years and considers Germany in the context of the European electricity market (cf. White Paper, measure 18).
Security of supply
Alongside an economic and environmentally sound energy supply, security of supply is one of the key energy policy objectives. Pursuant to Section 1 of the Energy Industry Act (EnWG), supplying the public with electricity must be guaranteed in a secure, inexpensive, consumer-friendly, efficient and environmentally sound manner on the basis of a growing share of renewable energies.
In Germany, the transmission system operators (TSOs) are responsible for secure grid operation (Section 12 EnWG). The TSOs plan and maintain the ultra-high voltage grid, organise the grid operation and coordinate electricity generation and demand.
Reliability of electricity supply is measured in terms of the average unavailability of electricity, i.e. the period of time of the year during which end users are not supplied with electricity. In Germany, the Federal Network Agency collects the unavailability data, which mostly indicate an extraordinarily high reliability level. In 2014, German inhabitants were not supplied with electricity for only 12 minutes and 17 seconds on average. This is the lowest level since recording began in 2006. The figure shows that the electricity supply is not being affected by a large share of renewable energies - which amounted to 27.8% in 2014.
Monitoring security of supply
Every two years, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy carries out a monitoring of the security of grid-based supply of electricity in accordance with Section 51 of the Energy Industry Act. In the context of the monitoring, the current supply situation and its development are examined taking account of the national and international market conditions, and the findings are published in a report. The report focuses on the question of whether and to what extent companies have taken sufficient precautions in terms of electricity generation, transmission and distribution to make sure that demand for electricity is being met at all times, both now and in the future, including in extreme situations.
The last monitoring report was published in 2014, and the next monitoring report will be submitted in 2016.
The Ministry is continually updating the monitoring procedure on the basis of new findings from science and research. An drawn up in 2015 has developed a new calculation method for the monitoring and evaluation of the security of supply, which reflects in particular the effects of cross-border electricity trading. According to the forecast, the probability that the demand for electricity in Germany will be met at any time in the year 2025 is almost 100%. Security of supply will thus be ensured at the highest level - also by international comparison.
The expertise sets new standards for the monitoring and evaluation of security of supply. The new methodology also mirrors the contribution of the integrated internal electricity market and thus gives a realistic picture of the security of supply in Germany and its neighbouring countries. It shows that we must look at security of supply from a European perspective. The expertise highlights the significance of European and regional cooperation on electricity market issues.
The method used in the past examined only the availability of power plants in Germany. This approach was not compatible with the actual internal electricity market, i.e. the large extent of cross-border electricity trading. Therefore, this method is no longer being used. In addition, the importance of supply-dependent renewable sources and thus of stochastically available generation is growing. In the European internal market, the smoothing effects of larger areas of national peak loads and the contribution of renewable energies to secure supply, and smoothing effects regarding the availability of conventional power plants can result in a smaller need for generation capacities, demand-side management and storage facilities.
The expertise also shows that the monitoring of security of supply makes sense only in an international context as Germany's power grid is linked to the grids of its neighbouring countries, electricity is traded in the European electricity market and cross-border smoothing effects make a major contribution to security of supply. Besides, cross-border electricity trading ensures security of supply at altogether lower costs.
A similar report containing an updated methodology to assess security of supply was submitted by the Pentalateral Energy Forum on 11 March. This report covers the period up to the year 2021; it also forecasts that Germany can meet its electricity demand in each hour of the year.