Europe narrowly missed a blackout on Friday. A sharp decrease in frequency caused the power grid to fluctuate, but the safety network in Austria took effect immediately.
As a result of the sharp drop in frequency in the European power grid on Friday, according to Wien Energie, Europe only barely missed a widespread power failure. In Austria, too, many power plants immediately supplied energy to stabilize the grid and the safety network took effect – but such fire service operations are not a viable business model in the long term, “warns Wien Energie managing director Michael Strebl.
Stronger fluctuations in electricity grids due to the expansion of renewables
“Like the fire brigade, our power plants are available around the clock and help out when there is a fire in the domestic power grid,” Strebl said in a statement on Sunday. Shortly before Christmas, parliament decided to reorganize the network reserve, thereby creating legal certainty for the time being, “however, there are many questions open to operators about long-term maintenance,” said Strebl. “We need a fair regulation, appropriate compensation and security for investments in the maintenance or the construction of new power plants. Fire service operations are not a viable business model in the long term”.
The increased expansion of renewable energies and thus the volatile generation of wind and solar power led to ever greater fluctuations in the power grids. “The number of emergency calls is increasing dramatically. Up until a few years ago, Wien Energie only had to ramp up electricity generation for short periods around 15 times, in recent years this has been the case up to 240 times a year for grid stabilization.” Gas-fired power plants are essential for security of supply. Wien Energie aims to switch to green gas in the medium term.
Electricity supplier calls for “near blackout” consequences
The Lower Austrian electricity supplier EVN has also called for consequences after the “near blackout”. “Some major customers have contacted us because sensitive machines have already felt the frequency drop,” said EVN spokesman Stefan Zach to ORF. “If the fluctuations are too high, machines switch off to protect themselves.” According to Zach, this could also happen at power plants, “and then it becomes critical”.
In Lower Austria, the Theiss power plant near Krems serves as a buffer for cases like on Friday. According to Zach, this alone would not be enough: “For security of supply, Austria is increasingly relying on nuclear and coal-fired power plants in our neighborhood.” EVN is therefore calling for new legal framework conditions for the continued operation of existing gas power plants and incentives to build new, flexible and quick-start gas turbines in Austria and, in an emergency, get by without electricity from coal and nuclear power plants in neighboring countries. According to Zach, wind, sun and water power are not suitable for increasing production in the shortest possible time, even if “the future belongs of course to natural energy”.