Despite Lockdown: Stabilization of Electricity Consumption at Low Level
During the cold season traditionally more electricity is consumed. However, the shutdown of retail businesses clearly has an effect on electricity consumption. After the first weeks of the partial lockdown and one week (CW 47) of the strict lockdown in November the consumption is lagging 7 percent behind the consumption of the reference period in 2019. Nevertheless, given the peak of the corona crisis in May where the consumption dropped by up to 15 percent, the current situation can be described as stabilization at a lower level compared to last year.
Electricity Consumption in Europe 2020 in Comparison to 2019
A look at the European electricity consumption shows that especially France with currently minus 14 percent, and Spain with minus 11 percent in comparison to last year are clearly suffering from the effects of the corona crisis. In both countries the measures of a comprehensive strict lockdown are reflected by the electricity consumption figures, while in Germany (minus two percent) and the Czech Republic (zero percent) the pandemic is barely recognizable in the electricity consumption.
Unaltered high share of renewables in electricity supply
The electricity consumption during the first half of the year could be covered 100% by green energy for a total of seven weeks, similarly this was the case for another six weeks during the period between the beginning of July until the end of October. In addition to electricity from wind and PV facilities hydroelectric power generation accounts for a large share of the power generation. In Austria the streamflow of the Danube is decisive for a majority of the run-of-river generation, which in 2020 ranged up to 40 percent above the long-term average on certain days. Towards the end of the year the streamflow naturally decreases while at the same time electricity consumption increases (e.g. heating). Under the current conditions it is therefore difficult to cover the demand during the last quarter of the year 100% with energy from renewables.
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
Due to the corona-related low electricity consumption and the efficient energy production from renewables – run-of-the-river power plants produced up to 40% more than the long-term average on certain days – Austria was frequently and over long periods able to export electricity. Since the electricity consumption naturally increases during the colder season and since it is also normal that the electricity production from renewables decreases at the same time, more electricity has to be imported at the moment. On November 1 the imported electricity volume was 27 GWh. However, a look at October 2020 shows that with 241 GWh considerably less electricity had to be imported than in the comparison month 2019(1069 GWh).
Electricity rates in Austria: year-on-year comparison of monthly average
After the continuous increase, this year the average monthly electricity rate has for the first time been decreasing again since May and with currently approx. € 35.5 per MWh ranges 9 percent below the comparative value of October 2019 when it was € 39 per MWh.
Development of electricity rate in Austria: weekly spot price year-on-year comparison
With a price of approx. € 31.8 per MWh the weekly electricity rate in calendar week 44 ranges almost 10 euros below the rate of the comparative month in 2019 (€ 41.14 per MWh). Since the electricity rate is very “temperature-sensitive” (among other things), one of the possible explanations may be that in October 2019 it was a little bit colder than this year. Usually the price increases when it is colder.
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 2.9 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.
RD costs 2017-2020, reference period Jan-June
In April/May 2020 the need for RD measures was unusually high: low streamflows in Austria’s rivers led to high grid loads despite the lower consumption due to the corona crisis.
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 83 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 measures 2013-2020, reference period Jan-June
At present, APG uses RD measures almost daily to make sure that the electricity supply can be guaranteed even when the situation gets tight. Climatic conditions and the introduction of an electricity price zone between Austria and Germany in October 2018 have slowed down the increasing need for RD measures since 2017. Nevertheless, as long as the energy transition continues and grid development lags behind, redispatch measures will 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).