Temperature Determines Electricity Consumption
End of February, a weekly electricity consumption of 1,225 GWh could be registered in Austria. In comparison with the average values of the years 2017 to 2019 – i.e. the years before the covid pandemic – this is ten percent less. The current corona measures still have a slight effect on reducing the domestic demand, however, in contrast to the first lockdown one year ago, they can be considered minor. The most important factor for the current development of the Austrian electricity consumption is the temperature. The mild weather in February and the fact that days are getting longer reduce the need for heating and the use of various lighting devices.
Electricity consumption in Europe since the beginning of 2020
A comparison with other European countries shows that at the end of February 2021 also the consumption of several other countries ranged below the average value of the years 2017 to 2019. However, there is a certain variability: while Hungary (minus 1 percent), Spain and the Czech Republic (both minus 4 percent) find themselves barely below the level before the covid pandemic, a much bigger difference can be observed in Italy (minus 11 percent) and France (minus 14 percent). Similarly to Austria, the development of the consumption cannot be exclusively ascribed to the existing corona measures in the various countries, but rather to the prevailing temperatures.
Production from Renewables Gains Momentum
In particular, production from run-of-the-river hydropower plants and photovoltaic facilities increases towards the spring and summertime. This means that in February 2021 the difference between the average electricity consumption in Austria and the electricity produced from renewables was less than at the beginning of the year for at least a few weeks. In the second week of February already 70 percent of the consumption could be covered with green energy.
Import / Export
Electricity import/export in Austria since the beginning of 2020
Despite the slightly better production from renewable sources in February, it is to date not possible to cover the entire demand with green electricity. To close the gap between demand and supply from renewables, electricity had to be imported in February – as was the case in January. However, the amount of imported electricity was already a little bit lower. The peak value was reached in mid-February with 67 GWh. In addition, Austria was able to export 11 GWh on February 11.
Electricity price in Austria: monthly average in comparison to last year
The monthly average price in February 2021 showed a clear increase by 73 percent to 50.4 euros per MWh in comparison to the reference period in 2020. Besides the influence of the electricity markets of neighboring countries the increase can be ascribed to a distinct decrease – compared to the first two months of last year – of the electricity production from wind and solar power. Thus more electricity from conventional production (e.g. gas) had to be provided and this kind of production drives up the price. In addition, the price of gas is currently higher that in last year’s reference period.
Development of the electricity price in Austria: weekly spot prices in comparison with last year
Similarly to the monthly average, an increase can also be observed regarding the weekly development of the electricity price. In the last week of February 2021 the electricity price was 46.84 euros per MWh. In calendar week eight of last year the weekly electricity price was almost exactly 20 euros less per MWh. Also in this context the reason is that in comparison with the first two months of 2020 the electricity production from wind and solar power was clearly lower this year and thus more conventional production was necessary, which automatically drives up the price.
Grid expansion & renovation will reduce energy costs in the long-term and secure power supply
Power transmission lines can become overloaded for many different reasons. This is when APG takes action: Austria’s TSO has power stations under contract which can alter their projected output if necessary. This means: they can boost or throttle their performance to avoid supply shortfalls or overloads. This cost-intensive intervention is called “redispatch measures” (RD).
The most cost-efficient and at the same time most sustainable solution to avoid supply shortfalls or capacity overloads is the expansion and enhancement of the grid infrastructure: therefore APG will invest a total of 3.1 billion Euros over the next ten years alone.
Redispatch costs for APG: year-on-year comparison 2011-2021
A strong transmission grid with sufficient capacities would reduce the need for redispatch measures and related costs considerably. However, all over Austria transmission lines are still lacking or under construction – e.g. Salzburg line (cf. APG network development plan) – which, in 2020, has generated monthly costs of approximately 11 million euros for customers.
Redispatch costs 2017-2020 regarding the reference period February
In 2020 there was less need for constriction management (CM). On the one hand, this was due to the corona-related lower consumption, and, on the other hand, to the favorable conditions in the power supply industry. In the reference period of February the redispatch costs were almost the as high as in February 2020 with approximately 13 million euros.
Structure of RD measures in 2020 to date
Electric power generation from wind or solar energy is difficult to forecast, while the generation of a thermal power station (e.g. a gas-fuelled power plant) can be controlled with the utmost precision. Besides the hydroelectric storage power plants in Western Austria, the thermal power plants in Austria’s East are indispensable to avoid supply shortfalls or capacity overloads because they can be used for RD measures.
To date approximately 74 percent of the RD measures in 2021 have been executed with thermal power stations. However, their availability is jeopardized due to the currently low market prices. Therefore APG is developing new digital products and services to complement RD measures, which are supposed to facilitate more flexibility and thus a better security of supply in the future.
Days with redispatch in the reference period February
By now, APG has to resort to emergency redispatch (RD) measures almost daily to ensure a functioning electricity supply also when it gets tight. In 2020 alone APG had to intervene on 261 days to balance fluctuations in the grid. In 2021 an intervention was necessary already on 44 days. Climatic circumstances and the introduction of the electricity price zone between AUT and GER at the end of October 2018 have cushioned the RD increase to a certain extent. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: the energy transition is progressing, grid expansion is lagging behind, and redispatch measures remain indispensable.
APG grid: strong backbone for Austria’s energy supply
Every Austrian province has its power plants and transmission grid. However, energy generation and consumption within a province do not necessarily match at any given moment: surplus & deficit keep alternating. The APG grid is the strong backbone of the system enabling the exchange of energy in both directions: it transports surplus electricity to other provinces (feed into the APG grid) or compensates deficits (withdrawal from the APG grid)
Example Lower Austria: strong dynamics & big volumes
The energy flow between the grids of APG & Lower Austria changes direction almost hourly. Often unexpectedly big electricity volumes have to be transported, e.g. when a storm front hits earlier than expected.
On Tuesday, September 1 and Saturday, September 26, so much energy was generated that a little more than 30 GWh could be fed into the APG grid. This volume equals approximately the average daily consumption of all of Lower Austria (approx. 32 GWh).