Lockdown reduces domestic electricity consumption by an average of minus 5 percent
One look at the diagram illustrating the domestic electricity consumption shows that it has been lower than that of last year almost all year long. While the lowest point was reached after the first lockdown in March – due to the corona crisis – with minus 15 percent, several factors colluded in calendar week 49 so that last year’s level could almost be reached with 1,311 GWh. However, one must not be confused by such spikes, since the average electricity consumption all through November ranged around minus 5 percent in comparison with the reference month last year. These figures are due to the second lockdown affecting retail businesses, hotels and industry. Also variations in temperature and public holidays may be possible explanations for the difference.
(figure: Based on operating data including effects of temperature variations and holidays)
Electricity consumption in Europe 2020, year-on-year comparison
A comparison on a European level shows that especially in France the electricity consumption has stabilized after a low in recent weeks. Mid-December the consumption even ranged four percent above that of last year. In contrast, the effects of the corona crisis and the lockdown measures are still clearly visible in Austria (minus six percent) and Italy (minus seven percent).
Normal seasonal decrease of production from renewables
The production of electricity from renewable sources, in particular run-of-river power plants usually decreases when the colder season approaches. Therefore it is no longer possible to cover the electricity demand purely with renewables, since simultaneously the consumption goes up during this time of the year. Throughout the year the production of green electricity was quite good – the streamflow of the run-of-river plants ranged up to 40 percent above the long-term average on certain days – which means that this year the electricity demand could already be covered by energy from renewables for eleven weeks.
Diagram: Coverage of electricity consumption in 2020 since the beginning of the year: share of renewables in percent/calendar week
Import / Export
Electricity imports/exports in Austria since the beginning of the year
In contrast to the seasonal decrease of the overall electricity production from renewables during the colder months of the year, the increased need of heating or lights that have to be switched on earlier and for a longer period of time mean that consumption is also higher during these months. The difference between the electricity consumption and the coverage of the demand with energy from renewables has to be balanced with imports of electricity from conventional production. However, exceptions are possible: on December 8, 16 GWh could be exported, which can be explained by the lower electricity consumption due to the public holiday in Austria.
Electricity price in Austria: monthly average in comparison to last year
The electricity price behaves similar to the consumption and normally increases when the season gets colder. The average monthly price in November was 41.2 €/MWh and thus was 4 percent below the comparative price of last year (42.7 €/MWh). Due to the lockdown in November the average electricity consumption was reduced which is reflected by the average monthly electricity price.
Electricity price development in Austria: weekly spot prices in comparison to last year
The development of the weekly electricity price shows that, on the one hand, the price reached this year’s peak in CW49 with 57.83 €/MWh and, on the other hand, it ranged clearly above that of the reference period in 2019 (45.15 €/MWh). In certain weeks various factors can contribute to cause differences. However, the monthly average in November lagged 4 percent behind that of last year’s reference value.
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.
APG’s RD costs, year-on-year comparison 2011-2020
A strong grid with sufficient capacity would considerably reduce both the need for RD measures and the costs. All over Austria transmission lines that are lacking or still under construction, like e.g. in Salzburg (cf. APG grid development plan) have cost the Austrian customers approximately 12 million Euros per month in 2019.
Redispatch costs 2017-2020 in the reference period Jan-Nov
In 2020 congestion management was necessary to a lesser extent. This was on the one hand due to the corona-related lower consumption and on the other hand to the favorable conditions in the energy sector.
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 84 percent of the RD measures in 2020 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 Jan-Nov
Currently APG resorts to the safety measure RD almost daily to ensure that electricity supply is guaranteed also when it gets tight. Climatic conditions and the introduction of the price zone between AUT and GER in October 2018 have cushioned the RD increase. One thing is clear: the energy transition is progressing, the grid expansion is lagging behind and redispatch remains 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).