Due to the energy crisis, there are concerns about large-scale power cuts across Europe. How likely are power outages in Germany and how do you prepare for them?
The energy crisis is fueling concerns about widespread power outages, and the EU Commission believes emergency supply situations such as this winter’s power outage are possible. But how realistic are such scenarios for Germany? Energy expert Dominik Möst from the Technical University of Dresden currently sees no increased risk of power outages:
Federal Network Agency: Blackout cannot be ruled out, but unlikely
The Federal Network Agency sees this in a similar way, telling ZDFheute on request: “A large-scale, prolonged power outage is still highly unlikely.” For the coming winter, a current stress test has shown that “crisis situations” lasting several hours on the power grid are highly unlikely. However, such a blackout cannot be completely ignored, according to a spokesperson for the Federal Network Agency.
From Möst’s point of view, the German electrical system is well positioned. Electric capacity in Germany has not changed significantly compared to previous years.
Why could there be a blackout after all?
An extremely cold winter can be a problem. “Temperature has a significant impact on the level of demand. Electricity demand is higher because of colder, countries with higher rates of electric heating,” Möst says.
For example, in the winter of 2012 the weather was very cold and the situation was tense due to high electricity demand from France. As long as the wholesale electricity market can meet the demand as before, the risk of power outages is low.
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However, the energy expert has observed some negative trends recently. “The costs of secure network operation have increased significantly in recent years,” says Möst. In addition, electricity prices, which are currently high, have also caused shortages. The absence of many nuclear power plants in France is a risk that could complicate the supply situation in Europe. The decisive factor here is “how many nuclear power plants will be back on the market by winter”.
A power outage causes these effects
In the event of a power outage, electrically powered systems in the affected areas that are not connected to emergency generators or powered by battery power go out.
Much of the infrastructure is then paralyzed: for example, without electricity there is no internet, some telephone networks are dependent on electricity and are often overloaded in crisis situations. Payment systems, ATMs and automatic gates no longer work, supermarkets and other utilities remain closed. Outages are also particularly dangerous for people who rely on vital systems such as ventilators.
Has there been a power outage in Germany?
Power outages lasting several hours or days are rare in Germany. According to the Federal Civil Protection Agency, natural events such as the abrupt winter in the Münsterland in 2005 have caused longer interruptions in the past.
But there is always a risk of widespread power outage – albeit very small – across the EU. “There was almost a power outage at the beginning of 2021. The reason at the time was very high electricity exports from southeast Europe, which caused a power port to fail and then several lines,” says Dominik Möst. At the time, network security measures could only prevent an EU-wide power outage.
Because of this hidden danger of fainting, one should be prepared for such an event: