The threat of a European electricity crisis

The threat of a European electricity crisis

 Verbund, Austria's biggest electricity producer, is also feeling the effects of the drought. With respect to its river power generation, it refers to a smaller amount of water. A spokesman for the state-owned energy group told the Austria Press Agency that 14 percent less electricity is being generated today than the long-term average. This is one reason why diversifying Austrian power plants towards more photovoltaic and wind power makes sense, he added. The ongoing drought in Europe is jeopardizing the continent's power supply. The reason: Due to the drying up of rivers, nuclear power and hydro power plants die, and there is also a risk that coal-fired power plants can no longer be supplied. 

Concern is especially great in Germany, whose economy is considered to be of great importance to the economy in Austria. "It's possible that we in Germany will experience a power shortage before a gas shortage," quotes "Handelsblatt" as Alexander Weiss, head of global energy consultancy at McKinsey. The fact that Austria's bloated run-of-river and hydroelectric power generation currently contribute less to electricity coverage is also shown in data from transmission system operator APG. For example, they produced an average of about 2,400 megawatts on Monday. For comparison: As of August 15, 2021, the daily average is over 3,400 MW.

 In contrast to Austria, where the low water levels of rivers like the Danube are partially compensated by water from glaciers, the situation in Germany does not appear to be problematic. "All of these factors that might come together represent a huge burden for the power generation system," expert McKinsey Weiss said according to "Handelsblatt". Releasing the burden is not impossible. What is meant is a situation where, for example, an industrial larger pantograph must be disconnected from the grid to prevent a power outage. The shortage has resulted in more electricity being generated from gas. 

In July, Germany's gas-fired power plants generated 13 percent more electricity than July last year. For August so far 24 percent more.
Of course, the low water levels in many of Europe's rivers also jeopardize the transport industry on the waterways. German industry, for example, is already sounding the alarm. "It is only a matter of time before factories in the chemical or steel industries are closed, mineral oil and building materials do not reach their destination or transport of large and heavy volumes can no longer be carried out," Holger Loesch, deputy general manager of the German Federal Association of Industries said on Tuesday. The consequences are delivery bottlenecks, production cuts or shutdowns, and short workloads. 

According to Loesch, prolonged drought and low tide will threaten the security of supply for the industry. "The company is preparing for the worst. The already tense economic situation at the company is getting worse." Due to the enormous low water, which threatens to cause massive transport congestion, Loesch also sees "political plans to temporarily rely more on coal in light of the gas crisis thwarted". Apart from coal transportation, fuel supply also depends on transportation via waterways.” 

With regards to drought, which is thought to be a consequence of the climate crisis, scientists see no relaxation for now. Rain is expected in much of Europe over the next ten days, said Andrea Toreti of the European Drought Observatory of the EU Commission. "However, the longer-term forecast for the next three months still suggests drier-than-usual conditions." Hydrologist Fred Hattermann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) points out that the driest time of year usually begins in September.

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