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Global Economy

Why Bavaria fears the lack of gas more

So far, Bavaria has obtained a particularly large proportion of its natural gas from Russia. There are geographical reasons for this: The Central European Gas Pipeline (MEGAL), which brought natural gas from the east, arrives in Waidhaus in the Upper Palatinate. Natural gas deliveries from Norway, the Netherlands and overseas, on the other hand, reach Germany in the north.

However, the Federal Network Agency assures that this geographical distance should not be to the detriment of Bavaria in the event of a crisis. According to a spokeswoman, a long-lasting Russian gas supply freeze would affect the gas supply in all federal states, not just in the south. According to the Federal Network Agency, if the emergency level of the gas emergency plan is announced, geographical criteria do not play a role in determining which gas customers are still being supplied. Rather, it is about other criteria such as covering essential needs.

Natural gas network has sufficient capacity

Matthias Jenn, Managing Director of the gas network operator bayernets, assures that the natural gas pipeline network is good enough to bring the supplies from the north to Bavaria. In recent years, the lines have been continuously expanded: "It's a European transport system, and Bavaria is right in the middle of it. We're a bit like the spider in the web."

Large quantities of natural gas can also be brought to Bavaria from the Italian port of Trieste without the construction of new pipelines – and in the future also hydrogen. Of course, only the natural gas that is available can be transported – and this is where the difficulty lies. At around 57 percent, the filling level of the natural gas storage facilities in Bavaria was slightly lower than the national average (65 percent).

Problem storage Haidach

Above all, however, there is one problem: the particularly large Haidach storage facility, which supplies Bavaria but is located on Austrian territory and belongs to the Russian Gazprom group. This memory is still largely empty. There are talks between Austria and Germany to solve the problem. All sites rate them as promising. But the necessary state treaty is still missing.

The main point of contention is who has to pay for the very expensive natural gas with which the storage facility is to be filled. Months have passed since then. In the meantime, according to bayernets Managing Director Jenn, it is questionable whether there will be enough time to bring the Haidach storage facility to the actually prescribed 90 percent filling level by November: "But ultimately every cubic meter of gas that is stored somewhere helps us for the winter half-year . It is important to start as soon as possible."

Bavaria only generates little electricity

In terms of electricity supply, Bavaria's starting position is fundamentally more difficult than in other regions of Germany. Most of the Bavarian coal-fired power plants have been shut down since the 1990s. Before the decision to phase out, two-thirds of the state's power supply was based on nuclear power. According to the current legal situation, this will be completely eliminated from January 1st.

However, the large direct current lines that are to connect Bavaria with the wind and coal-fired power plants in northern and eastern Germany are not yet complete. "The federal government's plan to replace natural gas in power generation primarily through the increased use of old coal-fired power plants is therefore not working in Bavaria," writes the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Request for stress test

Bavaria's Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger and Prime Minister Markus Söder have therefore been demanding a so-called stress test from the Federal Network Agency for months. This should prove that the power grid capacities in the coming winter are sufficient to be able to provide the electricity required in Bavaria from other federal states.

Such an analysis is now available. The electricity transmission system operators have taken into account that a large part of the nuclear power plants in France will not be available for the time being – and they paid particular attention to the low electricity generation in Bavaria. "The worst-case scenarios are always calculated there," says Ina-Isabelle Haffke from the electricity network operator Tennet. The result: "We continue to see the security of supply guaranteed."

The basis for this are also coal-fired power plants, which have now been taken out of reserve throughout Germany – and for example the 50-year-old oil-fired power plant Irsching 3 near Ingolstadt. In addition, replacement power plants that are under contract in Austria.

Power plants cannot do without natural gas

The analysis of the network operators assumes that these foreign suppliers will continue to adhere to the contracts in an emergency. And: In the hours when electricity is scarce, the Bavarian gas-fired power plants also have to run. This means that natural gas must also be available for these power plants. According to the gas emergency plan, these systemically important power plants actually have priority in the allocation of natural gas. Normally the supply should work like this.

Nevertheless, the Bavarian state government is missing proof that this is guaranteed even in the event of a complete cessation of gas supplies from Russia. And Detlef Fischer from the Association of Bavarian Energy and Water Management (VBEW) speaks of a "precarious situation" because in extreme cases Bavaria would have to import up to seven gigawatts of electricity – for example the production of seven nuclear power plants.

The VBEW agrees with the Bavarian state government's demand not to shut down the Isar 2 nuclear power plant near Landshut at the end of the year as planned, but to keep it as additional security. It is also possible without it, but Bavaria's energy supply is now "sewn to the brim".

The second stress test should provide information

Apparently, concerns are also growing in the Federal Ministry of Economics. At the weekend, the announcement came from there that a second stress test would be commissioned from the electricity transmission system operators. In the process, even tighter scenarios are to be calculated. "These include, for example, even higher price assumptions than in the first stress test, an even more serious failure of gas supplies and a greater failure of French nuclear power plants," the ministry said. As in the first stress test, the special situation in Bavaria and southern Germany should also be examined. A result is expected within the next few weeks.

One thing is clear: More power lines, more secure power plant capacity, more natural gas deliveries from overseas – all of this would contribute to greater security in the energy system, not only in Bavaria. A big task, not only for this winter, but for the years to come.

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