Wintery temperatures cushion corona effect on power consumption
In comparison with the average consumption of the years before the pandemic (2017-19) shows that corona and the ensuing measures still have an impact on the domestic electricity consumption. If the current data are compared with those of the first lockdown, it becomes evident that the influence of the corona measures on the energy demand in Austria has decreased in the second and also third lockdown. Mid-February the electricity consumption ranges at a slightly lower level with minus 2 percent and 1,361 GWh with regard to the average value of the years 2017 to 2019 (1,393 GWh). This shows that the cold temperatures of the recent weeks are the main influencing factor on the development of the energy demand.
Energy consumption in Europe since the beginning of 2020
A comparison of various European countries currently shows a similar picture of stabilization or temperature-related development of energy consumption on a slightly lower level than the previous periods. Despite the continuing lockdown in Germany, the country‘s energy consumption in calendar week six corresponds exactly to the average consumption of the years before the corona pandemic. However, there are exceptions also in this context: mid-February Spain brought up the rear with minus seven percent, while the Czech Republic and Hungary ranged eight percent above the comparative value of the years 2017 to 2019.
Seasonal decrease of production from renewables is normal
The overall production of electricity from renewable energy sources, in particular from run-of-river power plants and photovoltaic systems, usually decreases when the cold season approaches. It is thus impossible to cover the energy demand merely with renewables since the consumption usually goes up during the cold season. The diagram illustrates a clear gap between the average energy consumption and the overall production from renewable sources and stored energy. To balance the difference Austria has to resort to electricity imports and conventional electricity production.
Import / Export
Electricity import/export in Austria since the beginning of 2020
In January Austria was an electricity importing country. However, during the colder months of the year higher electricity imports are quite normal since the difference between energy consumption and production from renewables and stored energy is bigger during these periods. This difference is balanced with electricity imports and thermal power generation. In January 2021 the peak was reached on January 11 with 84 imported GWh, while the lowest import value of the month (1 GWh) could be observed at the end of January.
Electricity price in Austria: monthly average in comparison to the previous year
Following the motto “supply and demand” the electricity price increases during the cold season, just like the energy consumption. This is also reflected by the monthly average prices which in recent months reached a peak with 57.7 Euros per MWh. In comparison with the 40.7 Euros per MWh in January 2020 this means an increase of 42 percent.
Development of the electricity price in Austria: weekly spot prices in comparison to the previous year
The weekly electricity price show a similar development to the monthly average prices – although to a lesser degree. In calendar week four the weekly average price was 55.14 Euros per MWh. End of January 2020 the price was 45.46 Euros per MWh and thus almost ten Euros less. Besides the domestic energy consumption, also the energy markets of the neighboring countries can have an influence on the development of the electricity 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 in a year-on-year comparison 2011-2020
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 Jan-Dec
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.
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 86 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 January
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. Also in January 2021 an intervention was necessary already on 22 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 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).